Welcome to the Jackson Lab at the University of South Carolina Aiken.
We focus on the molecular biology of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and how these functions can be used as targets for anti-viral strategies. Our primary goal is to inhibit HIV replication by targeting a number of important viral gene functions, including viral transcription and infectivity. Our projects range from those that aim to inhibit viral gene functions to others that take advantage of viral gene functions as a way to induce death of the HIV-positive cell.
Current areas of study include
- Inhibition of HIV gene function using siRNAs
- Inhibition of apoptosis is HIV-positive cells
- Generation and testing of retroviral vectors as gene delivery vehicles
Students interested in joining the lab can expect to be immersed in a range of biological areas including immunology, molecular/cellular biology, and virology.
Our laboratory projects involve the use of small RNAs to inhibit the expression of various HIV genes. These inhibitory RNAs fall into two categories: catalytic RNA (ribozymes) and siRNAs (small interfering RNAs). Students entering the laboratory are given a project that involves one of these reagents. In almost all cases, students are initially given a cloning project that is intended to teach basic molecular biology techniques, such as gel electrophoresis, Polymerase Chain Reaction, cloning procedures, and DNA manipulation. Students who are successful at this stage can move to more advanced projects that involve testing of their reagent. Because there is so much to learn (concepts, techniques, etc.), students interested in working in the lab are required to do so over at least a two-semester period. In this regard, the most successful (and productive) students have worked in the lab for more than two semesters.
Although independent research projects can be demanding at times, there are a number of rewards. By far the greatest reward is the experience you gain as you begin your career as a scientist. Progressing through your project gives you an opportunity to present your research in either oral or poster format at local, state, and perhaps, national meetings and conferences. Independent research is an impressive resume' item to show that you have relevant experience for the work force, and it will provide you with the undergraduate research experience that you will NEED if you plan to apply to graduate or professional schools.
Course credit for your independent research can be obtained by enrolling in a number of biology courses: ABIO 199, 299, and 399. ABIO 499 is Senior Research and is required to complete the BS Biology degree. To enroll in any of these courses, you must complete an Independent Study Contract.
Of course, the work you put into your project will, for the most part, dictate what you get out of the experience! With this in mind, here is what is expected of you:
- You will be expected to spend 10 hours per week working on your project. During these times you will be expected to work on your primary experiement, as well as any other activities necessary to the outcome of your experiments (e.g., reagent preparation, cell culture, etc.)
- If you are enrolled in Senior Research (ABIO 499) will be required to complete a mini-grant application that will be due the first few weeks of each semester. This is a three-page summary of your primary experiement that will be submitted to the USCA Department of Biology and Geology. Successful applications will receive a small stipend to help cover the supply costs.
- At the end of each semester, you will be expected to complete a research paper that summarizes your results.
- You will be expected to participate in weekly laboratory meetings. In general, our lab meetings are held on Friday afternoons throughout each semester. During this time, we will discuss everyone's progress and review activities for the upcoming week. At least twice per semester, you will be expected to present your experimental results during the meeting in a formal manner (PowerPoint presentation). This allows all members of the group to understand everyone's project, ask questions, and brainstorm solutions to problems encountered. This exercise is also excellent practice for later presentations, particularly the Senior Seminar presentation to peers and the Biology and Geology faculty at the end of the senior semester.