Katrina was awarded for her final year project at St Catherine’s College Oxford which focussed on understanding how immunity can influence the population structure of polymorphisms in an antigen derived from the malaria parasite. The conscientious project was aimed at identifying polymorphic protein regions of a pathogen resulting from strong immune selection, and demonstrated Katrina’s highly motivated approach to her work. The project was challenging and risky due to the breadth of skills required, from biological to mathematical and computational.
Katrina was highly successful and identified two regions that exist as non-overlapping combinations with linkage disequilibrium, which are not due to structural constraints within the protein. She initiated and wrote a computer programme to deal with the task of performing population based sequence analyses.
Katrina’s project has provided the first proof of principle for immune selection theory and has opened a new way of searching for epitopes under strong immune selection which could have huge implications on the identification of candidates for vaccine design.