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Undergraduate Researchers

Sania Malik

Sania Malik, Health Administration and Policy Program

“Testing Ability of Live Attenuated Tetravalent Dengue Vaccine to Develop Antibodies against All Types of Dengue Virus”

Dengue Virus (DENV) is a mosquito-borne virus that infects millions of people living in tropical or subtropical regions annually. DENV has four serotypes Dengue1, Dengue 2, Dengue 3, and Dengue 4. Each of which can cause the full spectrum of dengue illness which ranges from a mild febrile syndrome to hemorrhagic fever/shock syndrome and can even cause death. Being subsequently infected with a second DENVserotype different from that which caused a first infection can make a person severely ill. For this reason, it is very critical to develop a vaccine that will protect against all four DENV. In this Phase I clinical trial, healthy adult subjects were given an experimental live attenuated vaccine containing all four DENV to see evaluate the safety of the vaccine and to determine if they develop antibodies to each of the DENV serotypes. Replication of each of the vaccine virus strains was evaluated by titrating the DENV at frequent time-points post-vaccination. This study will evaluate the safety of the vaccine and will quantify the antibody response against all four DENV serotypes.

How did you find the research opportunity?
I met my research mentor Dr. Anna Durbin at a networking session at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. I emailed Dr. Durbin, expressing my interest in working at her research lab. After looking at my resume and interviewing me she gave me the great opportunity of interning at her lab.

How did you know this was the project you wanted to do?
I visited my home country Pakistan in 2011 and saw there was a Dengue Fever epidemic in the country. I saw so many people suffering from it, and there was no cure and no prevention from this deadly disease. That made my heart bleed, and I wanted to do something to help so many sick people. When I came back to the United States and met Dr. Durbin, I was excited to find out that she was working on making a vaccine for Dengue. That was moment when I knew that this is something I really wanted to do.

Do you get course credit for this work? Paid? How much time do you put into it?
This research is part of my internship. I don’t get paid for it, but it is totally worth it without being paid. I work for about 18-20 hours a week at the research lab.

How did you learn what you needed to know to be successful in this project?
Watching the associate researchers do their work was really helpful because I learned many techniques by just watching them.

What was the hardest part about your research?
The hardest part was to learn all the scientific terms for the research project.

Is this the first time you have applied to present at URCAD? How did you find out about applying to present your work? Are you excited?
My Research Methods class Professor Andrea Akalfogl was the first one to tell me about URCAD, and she encouraged me to really take a part in it. I am excited to present my research for the first time.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?
I would recommend every student to take a part in any kind of research they may be interested in.

What are your career goals?
After I graduate, I plan to work in Global Health and Epidemiology field. I would like to work with any NGO’s that are working in developing or under developing countries.