several thousands of dollars and can be modified in the field. ASICs, on the other hand, can
cost well up into the millions of dollars and cannot be modified after they are built.
Faculty adviser Sarah Harris, assistant professor of engineering, said the team went far
beyond the expectations of the original project goals.
“They were expected to design, build and test one time-of-flight system using an FPGA.
This team designed four systems, compared the designs, and published a peer-reviewed
article on their findings,” Harris said.
Joerg-Micha Jahn from Southwest Research Institute had nothing but praise for the students.
“They researched the project well, developed implementations, and tested their work
thoroughly,” Jahn said. “They did so on time, on budget and very independently, needing
little guidance…They were really on target throughout the project.”
It was the first time that Hsiong, Lee and King had attended and presented their work at
a technical conference.
In addition to the conference, the students expanded their horizons by visiting the Great
Wall, chatting with the locals—with the help of Hsiong’s Mandarin Chinese—and eating
some interesting food.
Five additional authors of the paper were Steve Huntzicker ’09, Chen Lim ’08, Jason
Wang ’09, Harris and Jahn.
Kevin King ’10, Austin Lee ’10 and
Whitney Hsiong ’09 presented their
work at the International Conference on
Researching a Cure for AIDS
Electronic Measurement & Instruments
in Beijing, China.
Chemistry/biology major Vikram Sai Shivaji ’10 worked closely with chemistry and biology
Associate Professor Karl Haushalter to research the characteristics of APOBEC3G, a hu-
man protein that is known to interfere with the replication of HIV and other retroviruses.
APOBEC3G is “pretty advanced and only found in humans and primates,” says Shivaji. The
protein induces countless deoxyuridine hypermutations and the viral genome is unable to
cope with the continual mutation.
However, the genomes of many retroviruses, including HIV, contain a gene known as
viral infectivity factor (Vif) that codes for a protein that can deactivate APOBEC3G. It is
hypothesized that viruses evolved Vif in order to counter APOBEC3G.
“It’s a kind of chess game: the viruses first
appear and infected primates, the primates evolved
APOBEC3G to hypermutate the viruses, and then
“I LEARNED A LOT BUT REALIZED
the viruses evolved Vif to deactivate APOBEC3G,”
explained Shivaji. THAT ONE QUESTION ALWAYS
Shivaji used a yeast in vitro system to synthesize
the ABOBEC3G protein. His goal was to make and LEADS TO FIVE OTHER QUESTIONS.”
study the recombinant protein and many mutants
in order to better understand the active site of the protein. Shivaji is considering attending
medical school and found the work both fascinating and demanding.
“It was very fun research, but hard work. APOBEC3G is a really difficult protein to
work with,” he said. “I learned a lot but realized that one question always leads to five other
Lyndsay Gravis is the editorial assistant for College Relations. Elaine Regus is a freelance writer based in
San Dimas, Calif.
FALL/WINTER 2009 Harvey Mudd College 19
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