Undergraduate Research Program

Amirah Ullah

Amirah smilingMajor: Microbiology
Mentor: Sandra Dross, PhD and Deborah Fuller, PhD, UW Department of Microbiology

Contact: ullaha@uw.edu

Current research project: The Impact of aPD-1 on CD8+ T-cell Exhaustion and the Kinetics of Exhaustion in SHIV-Infected Rhesus Macaques Receiving a Novel Combinatorial Immunotherapeutic Regimen


Amirah Ullah is a graduating senior from Texas who is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology and a minor in Philosophy. Since joining the Fuller Lab in 2019, Amirah has been working with Dr. Deborah Fuller and Dr. Sandra Dross to further analyze the impacts of a novel combinatorial immunotherapeutic regimen in SHIV-infected rhesus macaques, with a specific focus on the effects of aPD-1 on CD8+ T-cell exhaustion, as well as the overall kinetics of T-cell exhaustion. She aspires to help find a cure for HIV in order to help the millions of people affected by this virus worldwide. In her free time, she enjoys running and cycling.


Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
An effective HIV vaccine has been very hard to produce since HIV mutates rapidly once inside of a person, but a therapeutic vaccine that targets essential regions of the viral genome (called conserved elements) can help bypass this issue. When used in conjunction with other therapeutic elements such as gene editing, latency reversal, and exhaustion reversal, this conserved element vaccine could help produce an effective cure for HIV, where a person remains infected by the virus, but they can no longer transmit it and can live a relatively healthy life. This could also alleviate some of the burdens associated with the current antiretroviral drugs used, such as having to take numerous pills frequently, or having to change drug regimens that become ineffective towards the virus over time.


When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I got involved in undergraduate research during Spring quarter of 2019. Looking for labs in the Microbiology Department that seemed interesting to me, I found Dr. Deborah Fuller and some of her lab’s publications on the department website. After sending an email to her one night, she pointed me to one of the lab managers to inquire about joining the lab as an undergraduate researcher. I got involved in research to learn more about my field of study, to learn more about the research process, and inadvertently to learn more about myself. I really wanted to join a community of researchers with a strong drive for the research that they do.


What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?
I would advise students who are interested in undergraduate research not to sell themselves too short and to realize that they are capable of so much even as undergraduate students. You were accepted into the University of Washington for a reason, and you should feel confident and proud to pursue your own passion through the avenue of undergraduate research.