Elisabeth Kan

Major: Biological Sciences
Minor: Emergency Health Services


Title: Elucidating the Structure of the HIV-1 5′ Leader Through a Paramagnetically Tagged Reporter Protein

Describe your project:
The project I am working on uses metal bound complexes in nuclear magnetic resonance to study how HIV’s viral material is structured. Understanding the underlying structure will in turn provide us with crucial information about the assembly and function of HIV in the host cell.

Who is your mentor(s) for your project?
Dr. Michael F. Summers Chemistry & Biochemistry Department. I found this mentor through other undergraduate researchers who spoke very highly of Dr. Summers and the research conducted in his lab. I chose Dr. Summers because I was very interested in retrovirus research from a Genetics course I took my sophomore year.

How did you become interested in this project?
I work very closely under the mentorship of post-doc, Dr. Jonathan Catazaro and two other undergraduate students, Faith Davis and Claudia Walker. I became interested in this project through my mentor as he was working on novel ways to use NMR with larger RNA constructs.

What has been the hardest part about your research/What was the most unexpected thing about being a researcher?
The hardest part about our research is trying to reproduce our data. There are so many unexpected variables to our project and since we are working with larger RNA constructs, it’s hard to pinpoint what may have gone wrong with our experiments. Although it has been challenging, I really enjoy trying to problem solve and come up with new solutions whenever our data is inconclusive.

What has been the most rewarding part?
The most rewarding part about the research we are doing is being able to take part in problem solving and developing solutions to our inconclusive results. I really enjoy being able to try out different experimental conditions and every so often seeing that it works!

How will you disseminate your research? Next week I will be giving an oral presentation at ABRCMS which is the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students. I also plan on presenting at URCAD in the spring.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?If you’re considering getting involved in research, make sure that you rotate in the PI’s laboratory and get to know the students working in the lab. They make a big difference in your lab experience and it is important to find a place that has a nurturing educational environment.

What are your career goals?
I aspire to be a physician who specializes in internal medicine or pediatrics.


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