I work with Dr. Kushol Gupta to study the three-dimensional structure of a protein in HIV called integrase. This protein is necessary for the virus to insert its genetic material into the human DNA. We study the interactions of different drugs with the catalytic core protein domain, because doing so will allow future drug development to have more specificity and binding strength.
Our findings show that the most important drug interaction site is located near a tryptophan amino acid on the protein side chain. Tryptophan side chain has 2 aromatic rings fused together. Thus, we believe that the drug interacts with the protein domain via p-to-p interaction.
This experience taught me a lot about being a young scientist. On the technical side, I have learned multiple lab procedures, including bacterial growth, protein purification and analysis, protein crystallization, and X-ray crystallography. On the soft side, I have become patient when results do not come out as expected. I developed a habit of questioning where things go wrong, and I was prepared to improve my results with possible solutions.
I have always believed that science is the path for me in the future. By participating in this research, I realize how scientists are working together to advance our knowledge. I feel that research is an essential experience for any undergraduate in pursuit of knowledge, and my lab truly becomes a second family for me outside of school.