Category Archives: Summer 2009

Q&A with Dr. Thumbi Ndung’u

Thumbi-Ndung'uThough he is now an Associate Professor in HIV/AIDS Research at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine, as well as the Scientific Director of the HIV Pathogenesis Programme at the Doris Duke Medical Research Institute at the University of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa, not so long ago Thumbi Ndung’u was a graduate student working with Max Essex at the Harvard AIDS Initiative.

He earned his PhD from Harvard in 2001, receiving the Haber Award in recognition of his “outstanding, original and creative thesis work that makes a fundamental contribution to our understanding of a biological problem important to public health.” After graduation he returned to Africa to work as a Research Scientist and the Laboratory Director at the Botswana–Harvard Partnership. He currently works in KwaZulu Natal, where approximately 40% of women reporting to antenatal clinics are HIV positive. His research focuses on HIV pathogenesis, host genetics, viral factors, and immune responses.

On a recent visit to Boston, Dr. Ndung’u spoke with Spotlight Editor, Martha Henry.
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A Day in the Life of a Graduate Student

Kim at work in the lab
Kim at work in the lab

By Martha Henry

The development of expertise requires sustained periods of practice. 10,000 hours is often cited as the amount of time necessary to achieve expert status. By that standard, Kim Armstrong, a graduate student in the lab of Max Essex at the Harvard AIDS Initiative, recently became an expert in HIV research. By her estimate, she has spent approximately 10,500 hours at her lab bench studying how drug resistance mutations affect the viral fitness of HIV. Continue reading

New Findings on Drug Resistance

Testing for drug resistance increases treatment costs photo by Richard Feldman
Testing for drug resistance increases treatment costs photo by Richard Feldman

The “Big Three” diseases of Africa are HIV/AIDS, malaria, and TB. To date, we haven’t developed a successful vaccine for any of them, which means that drugs are of enormous importance in controlling the epidemics. For malaria and TB, the spread of drug resistant strains has wreaked public health havoc, restricting our ability to control and eliminate the diseases. Continue reading