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Open Viral Load

Prospective Students

There are three main aspects to the project, HIV cell research, cryopreservation and hardware combined with software. With such a diverse range of work available, the Cryo Tech team has a place for all majors, interests, and specialties.

Mission Statement

While tremendous progress has been made in HIV diagnostics and treatment, it remains an incurable disease, in part due to viral reservoirs, or areas of the body where dormant infected cells can persist during treatment. Research into these reservoirs is a critical step to curing HIV. Unfortunately, many “reservoir cells” are hard to sample and study, especially those in the cerebrospinal fluid. These cells are difficult to extract, isolate, and preserve for research. Our team is developing a low-cost device to isolate and cryopreserve HIV reservoir cells, with the goal of helping researchers move closer to a cure for HIV. We are currently in the research phase and hope to develop a prototype over the course of the next year.

Quarter Goals

At the end of the school year, our goal is to merge all of the sub-teams and begin prototyping a possible solution. By then the team as a whole will know if large-scale cryopreservation is an actuality and begin testing in lab. The ideal timeline is that by the end of this quarter will be the merging of the research teams (HIV and Cryopreservation), and by the end of this year all of the subteams will merge and move on to the prototyping and testing process.


HIV Cell Research Team

Our goal this quarter is to research on HIV cells so as to contribute to the future goals of developing cryopreservation in relation to HIV. We plan to do as much research as we can on HIV cells, their origins, effects and analyze the research/testing techniques already being used. At the end of the quarter, our goal is to for the HIV Cell Research subteam to have enough information to be able to merge with the Cryopreservation sub-team and finalize a direction for future quarters.

Cryopreservation Team

We plan to determine the best vitrification method to preserve CSF samples and create a procedure to test this method’s viability. Vitrification is a method of cryopreservation that freezes biological samples without ice formation. This technique has a myriad of applications in the biotechnology field from revolutionizing organ transplantation and preserving oocytes. However, vitrification has not been able to be utilized to it's full potential due to it's complications. It requires the use of cryoprotectants that are toxic to biological cells in high concentrations. Another obstacle is that the toxicity of different cryoprotectants varies for different sample types. Our team’s efforts to find the ideal vitrification method will go hand in hand with hardware/software and the biological teams create a cheap and efficient way to successfully preserve cerebrospinal fluid samples for HIV research. 

Hardware and Software Team

We plan to create a microwell chip to hold the cells in the cryopreservation process and to design a system to locate and identify cells on the chip.

The Chip:

This quarter we are working on refining the design and manufacturing process of the chip. Honeycomb shaped microwells have been chosen as the optimal design for holding exactly one cell in each well. We are in the process of researching the size, material, and molding process for the chips. In the future, we will be creating a CAD design to manufacture our mold and testing the prototype molds.


This quarter we are working on optimizing and expanding the current Python program. The program uses computer image processing to identify which microwells have cells in them. The code needs to be updated to account for honeycomb (hexagon) shaped wells. There is also optimization to be done regarding user-friendliness and adjustability of parameters specific to each chip. In the future we will be conducting user testing with our software.

Team Members

  • Alyssa Chiang - Co-All-Team Lead
  • Jefferey Okwuoma - Co-All-Team Lead
  • Ify Aniefuna - HIV-Cell-Research Lead
  • Elaine Silverman - Hardware-and-Software Lead
  • Ava Aslanpour - Cryopreservation Lead
  • Audrey Eckman
  • David Yin
  • Jennifer Chan
  • Jiaqian Zhong
  • Samika Shenoy

Faculty Advisor

  • Dr. Davey Smith

Undergraduate Advisor

  • Ishan Timalsina