Category Archives: Literature Review

Deconstructing the Written Comprehensive Exam

We've all felt like this at some point leading up to comprehensive exams. Photo from Flickr user Jixar, used under CC license.
We’ve all felt like this at some point leading up to comprehensive exams. Photo from Flickr user Jixar, used under CC license.

This article appeared in its original form at Gradhacker.org on March 22, 2013.

The dreaded written comprehensive exam. Many graduate students will have to pass some form of comprehensive exam at some point in their program. This can often include putting together a multi-page grant-style project proposal. Putting one of these together for the first time can be a daunting process if you are unprepared. But have no fear, there are ways to make crafting a solid document far less painful and even somewhat enjoyable.

Now at this point I have to mention that this advice will be most relevant for students preparing an exam on their own projects in the style of an NIH grant. However, this basic approach can apply to putting together any large proposal for your project. Continue reading

Designer immunity, vectored immunoprophylaxis and the future of medicine

Antibody Molecule
Antibody Molecule (Photo credit: sc63)

 

One of my very favorite aspects of being a scientist is being right on the cutting edge of modern research. I have the pleasure of working in an environment where new discoveries are made daily that span from the mundane to the revelatory. Today I want to take the time to write about a recent paper that for me came to my attention that falls solidly in the revelatory category.

 

 

This 2012 Nature paper by Balazs et al is a great example of modern virology in combination with immunology is being used in novel ways to combat different health issues. Read on to see how this group used a viral vector to give mice protective immunity against HIV infection. Continue reading

In through the backdoor: How controlled viral replication can be immunologically advantageous

When a B cell encounters its triggering antige...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It may surprise many of you to know that some vaccines currently being used are actually composed of a living virus that actively replicates in your body in order to generate immunity. I’ve written about one of these live vaccines before on this site: the oral polio vaccine (OPV). These are effective vaccines that mount a long-term adaptive immunity to the pathogen in question.  This is done by immune cells that break down the virus and present small parts known as antigens to immature immune cells, which then mature in response to the antigen and are then capable of mounting an immune response to this same challenge in the future.

A recent paper to come out has shown one way that these live but attenuated viruses can be capable of generating such an effective immune response in vivo. Read on to see a potentially novel mechanism in generating an adaptive immune response to cytopathic viruses. Continue reading

New Training for the New Science

There has been a growing concern among scientists on how to train the next generation of researchers. This last month I came into contact with an article by Ferric C. Fang and Arturo Casadevall in Microbe magazine titled Reforming Science as well as the editorial Next-generation training in Nature. As a young researcher just beginning what I hope will be a lifelong career in the sciences this article hits on so many areas that need to be addressed. Three points in this article stood out to me and I wanted to address them from the perspective of someone who is just starting out and looking for training opportunities that will prepare me to work in the modern scientific field. These areas are the broadening of the scope of knowledge of new PhD trainees, a realignment of the culture to support quality of work over quantity, as well as the call to generate more flexible career pathways for young scientists in order to prevent attrition from the sciences. Continue reading

Mining host functions in search of novel treatments: APOBEC3G and retroviruses

English: Diagram of the HIV virus.
Diagram of  HIV virus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hello Readers! My apologies for the unexpected hiatus as preliminary exams and the end of the semester have occupied the bulk of my time recently. I thought I would make the most of the situation and post the written portion that I’ve recently completed as it is an interesting subject I was unaware of until recently. Studies in this area may lead to future treatments for retroviral infections such as human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV-1), the infectious agent responsible for acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) by showing exactly how the host protein APOBEC3G exerts an antiviral effect against this virus in the cell. Continue reading