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Jun 25, 2013

DelVal undergraduate lands internship helping with pediatric AIDS research

Tatiana Tway

Tatiana Tway ’16, a Delaware Valley College student who is dual majoring in chemistry and large animal science, was selected for a summer 2013 internship doing research to help with understanding pediatric AIDS.

Tway competed against both undergraduate and graduate students for the internship with The Southwest National Primate Research Center (which is hosted by the Texas Biomedical Research Institute). She is one of about six students from around the country selected for the opportunity.

“I’m excited to make a contribution to the research going on at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute and to help with understanding HIV,” said Tway. “I feel honored that they’re going to let me do it… I still feel like I’m too young for this. I keep thinking ‘OK I’m going to be in the real world doing things that are going to make a difference. It’s not just ‘Can I get an ‘A’ in a course?’”

The research project is critical to the development of effective vaccines.

She started the paid eight-week internship June 17 and is helping to run tests and assisting in Dr. Marie-Claire Gauduin’s lab.

The team is looking at simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), which causes a disease in monkeys similar to AIDS, and is closely related to HIV-2.  The group is using SIV as a lab substitute to better understand HIV in humans.

According to the World Health Organization, at the end of 2011 an estimated 3.4 million children were living with HIV worldwide.

Gauduin’s laboratory is looking at the early stages of transmission of SIV. The lab is using a genetically modified version of SIV, which is tagged with a “green fluorescent protein” that allows researchers to monitor the infected cells in the monkeys. Using this tag, the team is able to see which cells initially become infected; look at the timeline of the spread of the virus from the initial site of infection to the lymphoid organs and blood; the mechanisms and routes involved in the spread of the virus; and the initial SIV-specific immune response.

Interns submit an application, recommendation letters and a statement of interest to participate. Tatiana stood out to the team because of her strong interest in understanding HIV.

“We look at students who are already studying at the master’s level and some undergraduates,” said Dr. Gauduin. “Tatiana is one of the younger ones, most are already finished  their undergraduate degrees.”

When Tway found out about the opportunity to be involved in the research she worried about asking for letters so close to the deadline.

“The faculty members were so great with recommendation letters,” said Tway. “They were happy to do it, and I don’t think that’s an experience I would’ve gotten if I had gone somewhere else.”

She is considering pursuing a career in research and said her internship should help her decide if that’s the route she wants to take.

June 27 is National HIV Testing Day. To find a local place to get tested, visit: http://hivtest.cdc.gov/