For biochemistry major Moudi Hubeishy ’14, working on an HIV research project is a chance to think beyond textbooks to solve real-world problems. His collaboration with Dr. Stephen Tajc, assistant professor of chemistry, is one of many examples of hands-on learning at Nazareth. Here’s the lowdown on Moudi’s life in the lab:
How did you get involved in research?
I was loving organic chemistry with Dr. Tajc so much that I told him I wished I could get more experience. He asked me, “Would you like to help me work on the synthesis of an HIV inhibitor that could become a quick HIV test?” I said, “When can we start?”
What is your research focused on?
My research is on designing a medical device that will allow for rapid, accurate detection of HIV-1. We have taken a drug that has been shown to bind to a glycoprotein on HIV-1 that cannot be used in the human body. The drug’s original purpose was to act as a small molecule inhibitor of HIV-1, however it is excreted out of the body before it can be absorbed. Our goal is to attach a synthetic linker to this drug molecule in hopes of chemically attaching it to a silicon chip.
How do you explain it to friends/parents?
My roommate asks jokingly every morning as we eat breakfast, “So did you cure HIV yet?” My friends may not understand exactly what I am doing, but they get the idea.
Are you doing real research or are you just rinsing out the test tubes?
I am doing the very same work Dr. Tajc did while he was doing his post-doctorate at Johns Hopkins.
What do you get out of the research?
Research teaches you how to think. In class, there is a right answer to most problems. In research, however, you may be doing everything right, but things will still go wrong. That’s where the creative intuition comes in. That’s something most classes seriously lack: that time when you and your professor stand there with no possible explanation for what happened, and you both work together to figure it out.
How is your experience at Naz different from friends who went to other colleges?
At most big universities where this kind of research is being conducted, the work is done by graduate students and post-docs. At Naz you can start as early as your sophomore year, like I did.
Why did this project intrigue you?
We are taking basic and advanced skills we learn in the classroom and applying them to a huge, real-world problem. Every time I hear about HIV on the news now, I get to think to myself, “I am taking one huge step to one day stop the spread of this horrible disease.”