Pillay's small piece a big step

09 June 2008

Master's graduate Sirika Pillay may see her work as "a very small part of a big puzzle" but her HIV vaccine research has earned her a distinction, as well as a scholarship for her future PhD studies.

Pillay began her laboratory work in 2007, by optimising the production of two potential vaccines, and testing these vaccines on mice. One of the vaccines produced particularly impressive results, and is likely to be used in future vaccine studies at UCT.

"While the conclusions of my work are promising," notes Pillay, "HIV vaccine research has to be a collaborative effort on a large scale if we hope to achieve any success."

As a result of her work, Pillay was awarded the Commonwealth Scholarship, which is awarded to candidates who are involved in research that will benefit their home country. She will use the comprehensive scholarship for her PhD studies at Imperial College in London.

Pillay's PhD will continue her research into HIV vaccines, but she intends to shift her focus from molecular biology to the immunology aspects of the work.

"I hope to continue my research so that we, as an international community of HIV researchers, can eventually piece together an effective way to eliminate HIV for good," she says.

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