Michael Williams '21 - Researching HIV Vaccine Through Duke's Azoitei Lab (Summer 2019)

Michael Williams '21 - Researching HIV Vaccine Through Duke's Azoitei Lab (Summer 2019)

Over this past summer, I decided that it was time for a change of pace with regards to research. Instead of working on epigenetic research, I decided to work on researching a putative HIV vaccine through the Azoitei lab at Duke University last summer. The work I did over the summer focused around creating a library of mutations  for DH270, an antibody that has been implicated in a potential HIV vaccine. Essentially, when a patient with HIV undergoes somatic hypermutation, DH270 can undergo a series of mutations that enable it to interfere with how the HIV protein envelope interacts with white blood cells. Thanks to the support of SPIRE, I was able to live off campus and work on creating and sequencing a library of antibodies that are critical to attacking the protein envelope complex of HIV. The work I did this summer helped expose me to how molecular biology approaches that I have learned in coursework can be leveraged in order to create antibody libraries. The thing I enjoyed the most out of this experience however was how much close guidance I got while I worked in the Azoitei lab, as there were only 3 people in the lab I got to develop close relationships with everyone there. I got a new phone over the summer, and consequently do not have the selfie I took with the people that mentored me over the summer, but I can assure you that they were all very fun people.