Consider the Lab Notebook

Stack of Lab Notebooks

“Good science requires good record keeping.”¹

The laboratory notebook has changed little over hundreds of years. Part journal, part scrapbook, it is a record of both what a researcher thinks and what she does. It documents her day-to-day hypotheses, experiments, observations, analyses, and conclusions. Think of Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches of a flying machine or Darwin’s detailed field notes from his voyage on the Beagle. In today’s modern laboratories, researchers use the same kind of bound paper notebook to document their work.

The 1876 notebook of Alexander Graham Bell, who patented the first practical telephone.

The 1876 notebook of Alexander Graham Bell, who patented the first practical telephone.

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Using Social Science to Inform and Improve Clinical Trials: Q&A with Dr. Virginia Bond

Dr. Virginia Bond and members of the Zambart social science team

Dr. Virginia “Ginny” Bond is a Social Anthropologist and Associate Professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Based in Zambia, she heads the social science unit at Zambart. She is the lead social scientist for PopART (Population Effects of Antiretroviral Therapy to Reduce HIV Transmission) a large community-randomized trial being carried out in 21 communities in South Africa and Zambia. The trial is designed to evaluate the impact of a universal test-and-treat intervention on population-level HIV incidence. Similar to HAI’s Botswana Combination Prevention Project, the goal of PopART is to dramatically reduce the number of new HIV infections.

Martha Henry, Executive Director of HAI, spoke over Skype with Dr. Bond in Zambia.

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A Better Test for Zika

Max Essex and Wei-Kung Wang

Wei-Kung Wang’s Work on Flaviviruses

Timing is everything. Dr. Wei-Kung Wang returned to Harvard in early March, just as the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika outbreak to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

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Q&A with Susan Butler Plum: Enabling Young Lawyers to Work with the Poor

Susan Butler Plum and Dr. Joseph Makhema

Susan Butler Plum is the founding director of the Skadden Fellowship Foundation, which every year awards two-year grants to 25 public-interest attorneys. She also serves on a number of boards, including HAI’s International Advisory Council. She recently spoke by phone with Martha Henry, HAI’s Executive Director.

When people ask what your job is, how do you reply?

I say that I’m the founder and director of a foundation that makes grants for young lawyers to work with the poor. Most of our applications come from the best law schools in America. Probably 45 to 50 applications a year come from the top of the class at Harvard Law School. Continue reading

Confronting Discrimination from Mokubilo to Jackson

Marni von Wilpert and friends in Mokubilo, Botswana

Marni von Wilpert’s Uncommon Path

After graduating from Berkeley in 2005, Marni von Wilpert left California to serve as a social worker in the Peace Corps. She was sent to Mokubilo, a rural village in eastern Botswana. There, she provided services for babies born with HIV and children who had lost one or both parents to AIDS. She also helped with education, treatment, and care for HIV-positive adults.

“I witnessed a lot of discrimination in my village,” said von Wilpert. “Kids were kicked out of the one primary school in the village and told they couldn’t come back because they were showing signs of HIV infection. A lot of women were divorced by their husbands because women were often the ones to test first since they’re the ones to get pregnant. There was only so much I could do as a social worker. I became convinced that legal assistance could make a meaningful difference in the lives of people who faced discrimination. From my village in Botswana, I applied to law school.”

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HIV-Exposure and Infant Mortality in Botswana


The AIDS epidemic has had a devastating impact on child survival in sub-Saharan Africa. In Botswana, under-five mortality almost doubled from 1990 to 2000. Since then, remarkable progress has been made to prevent pregnant HIV-positive mothers from passing the virus to their infants, either in utero or through breastfeeding. Yet in a study published this July in BMC Pediatrics, Harvard AIDS Initiative (HAI) researchers found that HIV-exposed or infected children in Botswana account for more than half of deaths in children younger than two. Continue reading

Three Words to Describe Ric Marlink?

young ric sitting on desk

For almost 30 years, Dr. Richard Marlink helped shape the work of the Harvard AIDS Initiative (HAI). As he leaves to create and lead the Rutgers Global Health Institute, we—his colleagues at HAI— created a short video to express our appreciation of his work and gratitude for his friendship.

The Future of Nigeria’s Response to HIV: Q&A with Dr. Oluwatobi Victor Popoola

Young women in Abuja, Nigeria.

By Belinda O’Donnell

From June to August, I was a peer collaborator for the Mandela Washington Fellows, based at Howard University in Washington D.C. There I met the remarkable Dr. Victor Popoola, an HIV clinician and 2016 Fellow.

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The Life and Times of Vin McCarthy

Vincent P. McCarthy

You don’t get much more Boston than Vincent P. McCarthy. Vin grew up in Boston’s Brighton neighborhood in the 1940s and 50s. All four of his grandparents were Irish immigrants. After graduating from Boston College in 1962 and Harvard Law School in 1965, he joined Hale and Dorr, a prominent Boston law firm. “For a peasant, I’ve had a very good life,” jokes McCarthy.

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Aldatu Licenses Technology from Harvard

elongated aldatu

One Step Closer to Affordable HIV DrugResistance Test

Harvard recently entered into a licensing agreement with Aldatu Biosciences for exclusive use of the PANDAA technology. Using PANDAA, Aldatu, a biotech start-up based at LabCentral in Cambridge, is developing a rapid HIV drug-resistance test for patients failing first-line antiretroviral therapy (ART).

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