High Point University

Student recognized in biological research publication

HPU senior Julia Trautman’s HIV-1 research with the university’s biology and chemistry departments and alumni was recently published in “Molecular Biology Reports.” Photo submitted

By Elise Coby

Staff Writer

Graduating senior and biology major Julia Trautman recently published her research in “Molecular Biology Reports,” an international, monthly, peer-reviewed, scientific journal on molecular and cellular biology. T

rautman conducted the research with Dr. Heather Miller, associate professor of Chemistry at HPU; Dr. Keir Fogarty, associate professor of chemistry; HPU alumna and University of Rochester Ph.D. student Molly Hulver; HPU alumnus Sebastian Roszczenko; and HPU alumna and Creighton School of Medicine student Amanda Goodwin.

The human immunodeficiency virus inspired the research. Trautman conducted this research with the hope of an eventual cure for millions of affected people worldwide.

She shared some of the details of her research.

“Tat-specific factor 1 (Tat-SF1) is a human protein,” said Trautman. “It is known to be a dependency factor for HIV-1, meaning that the protein is important for replication of the virus. With the recently published research that I was a part of, we aimed to learn more about the role Tat-SF1 protein plays with regulating HIV-1 RNA. If the protein was involved in certain hypothesized roles, it was also hypothesized that binding between the HIV-1 RNA and the Tat-SF1 protein would be detectable. That binding was the part of the project I focused on investigating.”

Trautman also discussed what it means to be a biology major at HPU. She described her journey of learning dense material and applying knowledge in different ways. 

“It is a rewarding challenge,” said Trautman. “Sometimes, it seems like there are so many little details to learn, but with studying and further explanations from professors, it starts to make more sense. Material tends to build on itself as a semester goes on, and this can also be true as you go from class to class. Information I learned about during my freshman year, such as the central dogma, has continued to be important in my classes as a senior.

Figuring out ways to review information is important, and it helped me to sometimes study with another student for clarification. Lab work is also helpful, as it is the chance to learn in a hands-on way. When something initially does not make sense and seems too complex, it feels great when you are finally able to understand it.”

When asked what making breakthroughs in research feels like, Trautman talked about the importance of patience and persistence. 

“With research, you are trying to learn something new,” said Trautman. “The results you hope to find with experiments don’t always turn up, and if they do, it usually isn’t on the first attempt. It takes time to figure out what variables will provide the information you want to learn about. When the results do come together, it is a rewarding feeling because all of that time and hard work have paid off, and new information has been learned.”

In the future, Julia hopes to continue working with topics like the HIV protein. She is also interested in researching epigenetics and genetic disorders. 

“I look forward to finding more opportunities to work in a lab,” said Trautman. “I also plan to become a genetic counselor in the future, which requires graduate school. Being in these science careers, I hope to help people through what I learn.”

Trautman discussed how her personal and academic involvement on campus has prepared her for the future.  

“I have enjoyed my time at HPU, and the wonderful community has played a substantial part in that,” Trautman said. “I have met many people and made friends through various groups. I got involved in research the summer after my freshman year because HPU offers unique opportunities, including the Summer Research Program in the Sciences, to undergraduate students.

Becoming a part of a research lab that early in my college career has given me a few years to perform a variety of experiments, give presentations to share this research as it progresses, collaborate with others on this project and have a great mentor in Dr. Miller. At HPU, I have gained many different skills and received life advice from students and professors, and these things will be the building blocks I utilize to reach my goals for the future.”

The study, titled, “Human Tat-specific factor 1 binds the HIV-1 genome and selectively transports HIV-1 RNAs,” can be accessed in volume 47, issue two of “Molecular Biology Reports.” The study’s abstract and preview are available at https://link.springer.com.