Jamie Kang, a graduating Biology major, found HIV research in South Africa to be inspiring and challenging in unexpected ways.
From left: Luke Koblan (another MISTI intern), Professor Lynn Morris of the NICD, and Jamie Kang.

An uncommon context

In the HIV research section at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), Jamie took on everything from troubleshooting a cloning procedure to RNA extraction and protein isolation. “I helped start a research project in order to enhance the efficacy of the RV144 vaccine,” she explains.

The setting was integral to the experience, and one of Jamie’s biggest lessons was that the impact of infectious disease varies widely depending on where the disease has taken hold. “I realized that social and political problems are relative to context,” she says.

Learning through constraint

“The immersion into Africa’s scientific environment allowed me to become a more conscientious person who views problems from a multitude of perspectives.” There were other practical lessons. Science in South Africa was more resource-constrained, Jamie says, so she learned to be more thoughtful in approaching research – a welcome challenge.

Beyond the science, Jamie was impressed by the lab’s ethos. “I really admired how Professor Lynn Morris valued international collaborations on research projects,” she remembers.

She says eventually the project will lead to a publication, but it’s already clear that the impact on her and her career has been substantial.  She explains, “I am more interested in the study of infectious diseases following this internship, and I hope to promote awareness of HIV research wherever I go.”

  • Africa
  • Internship
  • Bio/Chem