Mary Gates Endowment For Students

Ben Wieland

Mary Gates Research Scholar, Winter 2024

Research Project: Epitope Mapping of T. pallidum-Specific Antibodies to aid Vaccine Development

Project Description: My research is focused on the bacterium T. pallidum – the causative agent of syphilis – and I utilize PhIP-Seq and Phage Display techniques to characterize the antibody responses to T. pallidum-directed vaccine candidates in rabbits with the aim of identifying correlates of protection (CoP’s). CoP’s in this case are linear epitopes responsible for the efficacy of a vaccine candidate and are sites on the bacterium that, when bound by a host antibody, effectuate a protective immune response.
What have you learned throughout your research project? 
Through my research I have learned everything I know about microbiology and virology, as well as several coding languages and numerous wet-lab techniques. More importantly, I have grown as a scientist and as a person. I have improved my ability to work effectively with a team, enhanced my ability to communicate ideas clearly and precisely, and my research has helped define the direction in which I want my life to go.
What piece of advice do you have for future applicants?
I would advise future applicants or people interested in research that venturing outside your comfort zone is how you learn and grow. Look for a field that interests you even if you know nothing about the research – challenge yourself!