Conducting research with Dr. Deng investigating the thermodynamics and free energy landscape of HIV-1 integrase multimerization induced by allosteric inhibitor has been challenging and enlightening. Challenges conducting this research included adjustments in plans – due to some changes, I ended up contributing to this HIV-1 integrase research despite initially conducting research on Dr. Deng’s cancer research. Furthermore, with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, it had initially seemed as though research would be stunted or significantly slowed down. Indeed, online communication between myself and Dr. Deng was hindered due to these trying times that we are all experiencing. However, we continued to communicate and exchange data and calculations virtually. Despite the many setbacks and moments of uncertainty, we were able to finalize this project for submission.
The key finding of this project using molecular dynamics simulation was that aberrant multimerization of HIV-1 integrase is caused by hydrophobic collapse. The process that led to these results was very difficult and required strong communication between myself and Dr. Deng and between his collaborators. Communication and keeping up the pace were very difficult, especially due to the unreliable and sometimes inconsistent nature of virtual communication (email), but I am glad that we were still able to collaborate and finalize this project. During my time conducting research this past academic year, I learned the importance of straightforward communication. Personally, it was difficult for me to balance respecting the needs and situation of my professor (an extremely busy work/research schedule with the added pressure of the pandemic and quarantine) and advocating for myself when I had questions and concerns about the course of research. By overcoming these uncertainties, I was able to communicate more clearly. Overall, I am grateful for the technical research and collaboration skills I have honed during this period, and I am glad that we were able to finalize this project against all odds.