Researchers throughout the world aim to produce work deemed worthy of publication in Nature, the international weekly journal of science. For many, it can take a lifetime to realize this goal.
It took Aubrey Bryan less than a year.
Her research was part of the paper “Neutralizing human antibodies prevent Zika virus replication and fetal disease in mice,” which appeared in the December 15 issue of Nature.
“I feel proud that I could contribute to such an exciting paper,” said Bryan, Class of 2016. “In the grand scheme of things, the work I did was a small but important part of a big project.”
Shortly after graduating from Suffolk, Bryan landed a job as a research associate for Integral Molecular in Philadelphia. The company serves research clients and labs around the globe.
“We’re featured in a number of publications,” said Bryan. “However, this paper in Nature is our biggest yet, and I feel very fortunate to be a part of it.”
Zika antibody mapping
Bryan’s research for the paper involved her “mapping” Zika antibodies. “This means to run an experiment that determines where antibodies, which are very specific defensive agents the body produces in response to a threat, bind to the surface of the virus or other invader,” she said.
The focus of the paper is on a particular antibody called ZIKV-117. It prevents the Zika virus from infecting mice and protects pregnant mice and their fetuses from the effect of the virus. This protection occurs both when the mice are given the antibody as a preventive measure and as a treatment after infection.
“Antibodies have the potential to be incredible therapeutics because they are harnessing the body’s natural defenses against a threat,” said Bryan. “The data I collected on ZIKV-117 helped us to understand the antibody’s specificity to Zika and its efficacy as a therapeutic.”
Gained research experience as student
Bryan said that her experience studying biology at Suffolk, including working as a research assistant for biology Professor Celeste Peterson, helped prepare her for what she does today.
“Science is all about not having the answers, and Professor Peterson made me very comfortable with that,” said Bryan. “She had a wonderful and patient attitude and taught me how to analyze data and understand the results in a broader way.”
Peterson praised Bryan for being a highly motivated student who showed a lot of promise in the lab.
“Aubrey excelled at interpreting the data and seeing how it fit into the larger picture,” said Peterson.
“Nature is the top scientific journal in the field. I’m really proud of Aubrey’s accomplishment and how her training at Suffolk served her well,” she said.