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Megana Shivakumar

Major: Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Mentor: Dr. Paul Drain, Global Health and Medicine


Current research projects:Hepatitis B Prevalence and Risk Factors among Adults Living with HIV in South Africa


Megana is a senior in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at the University of Washington. She is interested in the risk factors that lead to the spread of infectious diseases, which led to her first research position. She was a Research Assistant at the Madison Clinic (an HIV/AIDS clinic) in Harborview Medical Center and enjoyed working with patients and in the lab. These experiences encouraged her to reach out to her current mentor to continue her interest in this topic. Megana plans to attend medical school, and continue her work in this field.


Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
My current research is looking at people with both Hepatitis B and HIV, both sexually transmitted diseases, and utilizing the statistical program R to look at the different outcomes of people that have these diseases. This data was collected in a clinic in South Africa from 2013 to 2017, and participants were enrolled into this study if they had HIV, and then were later tested to see if they had Hepatitis B as well. The primary purpose of this work is to understand the prevalence of Hepatitis B within HIV infected individuals, and identify specific factors that may lead to worse outcomes. One of the reasons I believe this work is important is because there is a specific medication, Tenofovir, that can be used to treat both Hepatitis B and HIV, so it’s important to identify factors that make having both diseases more common, in order to target this medication towards the groups that may be at higher risk.



When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I first got involved with research the summer after my freshman year at a clinic in Harborview Medical Center. I was able to connect with the manager of the clinic through another colleague and express my interest in the mission of the clinic. I loved working with patients and in the lab, and was able to gain experiences in both clinical and wet lab research.


What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?
I would encourage students to cold email professors if they are interested in the work that their lab is doing! By reaching out and expressing your enthusiasm, they are likely to work with you to find you a position in their lab, or suggest someone else who may have similar work. In addition, stay persistent! You may have to send out many emails before you get a response, but it only takes one reply to make a connection.