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Carolyn Cohen: "I hope that my research can help inform vaccination strategies"

Carolyn, PhD student in immunology at HKU-Pasteur tells us about her experience as a researcher and how she became highly inspired by the work done in Dr Sophie Valkenburg's lab.

Can you tell us a bit about your background before joining HKUPRP?

I came to work at HKUPRP as a research assistant in Sophie Valkenburg’s lab after completing my bachelor's at the University of Manchester. I planned to treat my 1 year RA contact as a gap year, reconnecting with HK, where I was born, and my extended family who live here, but I became very excited by the work we were doing and found an amazing mentor in Sophie, and chose to apply for a PhD to be able to delve deeper into projects and make them my own. I'm now in the last few months of my PhD as an HKPF recipient.

What is your topic of research? Do you have any particular goals related to that research?

I am an immunologist and I research cellular and serological immune responses to pandemic Influenza and SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccination. I’m interested in how pre-existing immunity by previous infection or vaccination shapes the adaptive immune response (T cells and antibodies) after infection and different vaccine technologies. I hope that my research can help inform vaccination strategies to provide broad protection as pandemic viruses mutate and change.

How did you learn about HKUPRP? What made you choose this place?

I had an initial interview for my RA position with Honorary Director Prof Malik Peiris who then put me in touch with Sophie at HKUPRP. When we met, I was attracted to the international environment and varied research topics, both giving opportunities for cultural and knowledge exchanges.

What are your plans for the near future?

I plan to complete my PhD this August and am knuckling down to write my thesis under the strict supervision of my rescue dogs, Shadow and Gill.


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