Mira Hager studied tissue samples from HIV-positive patients to better understand the immune response to HIV. Her research has implications for innovations such as a more effective vaccine.
A biology major with a concentration in community and global health, Hager ’14 (Madison, Wis.) began her research with a three-week course in molecular lab techniques. With further training on the machines and protocols she would be using, Hager began examining tissue samples from the lymph nodes of affected patients.
“After imaging the tissues using a confocal microscope,” says Hager, “I used a computer program to scan through a subtype of immune cells specifically affected by HIV to evaluate the expression patterns of perforin—an effector molecule involved in killing virus-infected cells.”
“With these experiences behind me, I feel more confident making decisions about the sort of higher education/career I wish to pursue.”
Perforin plays a significant role in controlling viral infection. Better understanding the body’s own immune response may help other researchers develop an effective vaccine.
“I found out about this opportunity on Macalester’s Science and Research Office website and learned more about the program at summer research informational sessions put on by the SRO,” says Hager. At these sessions, professors, SRO staff and students who had already done research shared their knowledge and experience.
Hager encourages all Mac science students to take advantage of the many opportunities for firsthand experience. Looking ahead to graduation, Hager says, “I want to base my decision on experience rather than speculation. In addition to working in the lab, I have also shadowed a number of medical professionals through the Taylor Fellowship. With these experiences behind me, I feel more confident making decisions about the sort of higher education/career I wish to pursue.”