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Medical Research - HIV Interview
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30 Questions and Answers by
Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.

Question 1 of 30

Do you have an understanding of 'HIV reservoir'?

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Medical Research - HIV Interview Questions

    1.

  1. Do you have an understanding of 'HIV reservoir'?
    • When it was first shown that triple combinations of antiretroviral (ART) drugs could suppress HIV replication, there were hopes that long-term ART would eventually lead to the clearance of all HIV-infected cells from the body. However, scientists discovered that HIV persists in an inactive, latent form in certain immune system cells. They discovered that some of these cells can become active when ART is interrupted. The latent HIV that persists despite ART is described as the HIV reservoir, and it is considered the major barrier to achieving a cure. Researchers seeking to find a cure for HIV are vigorously trying to discover the cause of these latent cells becoming active after such a long time of inactivity. Share any knowledge you have regarding HIV reservoir.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I followed a case study of a patient who had been diagnosed with HIV. He participated in ART therapy faithfully for a few years and the progression of HIV appeared to slow. However, he experienced some emotional issues and stopped the ART therapy. He unfortunately experienced a rapid decline as the latent memory CD4 T cells became active again."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "When I first began to study HIV therapy, the researcher I worked with was doing a study on latent memory CD4 T cells. I was able to follow his research and study the comparisons of patients who participated in aggressive ART therapy and those who stopped the therapy and experienced the effects of those cells becoming active again."

    2.

  1. Company ABC recognizes the importance of having a healthy work/life balance. What are some things you enjoy doing in your time away from work?
    • No matter what profession a person chooses, everyone needs some time to unwind and relax. Psychologists today say that a healthy balance in life allows a person to recharge and refocus which can result in better productivity at work. The interviewer simply wants to know what you do for you. Maybe you have a favorite pass-time or hobby. This is yet another way for the interviewer to get to know you as a person.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I really enjoy working out at the gym and, I also take a kickboxing class twice weekly. After a good workout or class, I always feel like I can rest better and wake up energized and ready for the next day."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "One of my favorite pass-times is writing. After a busy day at work, I like to journal or write articles for a blog that I author. Both of these forms of writing allow me to release any feelings of frustration I may experience, especially after a stressful day or a difficult situation at work."

    3.

  1. Can you recall a time that you had a disagreement with a coworker, and if so, how was it resolved?
    • Any time you work with someone else, there is a chance of having a disagreement about something at one time or another. The interviewer knows this. It's human nature for people to have their own opinions. What is important to the interviewer in this question is whether or not you are willing to compromise and work through difficult situations with your co-workers. Being unwilling to compromise or find alternative solutions to a dispute can affect everyone on the team, even if it is indirectly. Sharing a personal experience is OK, but do not embellish it to 'be the hero.'

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I believe if we think about it, each of us could remember at least one disagreement with a friend or co-worker. Although I consider myself to be pretty easy-going, I am also very passionate about my patients and the care that they receive. I have been aware of disagreements between other co-workers, but really like to think of myself as more of a peacekeeper. I feel like professional people should be able to discuss things logically and come to an agreement that is satisfactory for everyone involved."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "I think the most common disagreement between myself and others have involved our personal feelings about how healthcare should be carried out. However, I have learned, as have most of the people that I have worked with, that while our opinions are important, plans of care are designated by strict guidelines and with the input of everyone on the care team as well as the patient. Learning to respect those guidelines and patient wishes usually resolves issues that arise"

    4.

  1. Are there any questions you would like to ask about Company ABC?
    • Although the interviewer has given you an opportunity to ask questions, be careful. Never ask salary, perks, leave, etc. Try to ask more questions about the company to show that you have an interest in making a contribution to it.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I think you have been very clear with your explanations on how Company ABC is organized and what goals you are looking to achieve. I suppose the main question for me is, do you have a project or specialty area where you think I can be an asset to Company ABC?"

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "I feel very informed by our conversation thus far. Moving forward, I'd be interested to know which of of your projects that you feel could benefit by adding a new researcher, and whether you feel my education and skills would be a good fit here."

    5.

  1. Are you familiar with the "reservoir limiting" approach to treating HIV?
    • When you are a candidate for employment and are asked about familiarity with something specific, in this case 'reservoir limiting,' the interviewer does not expect you to give a long explanation. If you are familiar, show your knowledge by talking about the main points of the subject. If you are not, you may be able to use some of the words in the question to ask a question of the interviewer.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "Although I am not well versed in the approach of reservoir limiting, I understand that there are many approaches that focus on limiting the inactive latent cells. I would love to hear more about reservoir limiting."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "Yes, I am familiar with this approach. The idea behind the reservoir limiting is that using ART (or other interventions) as soon as possible after the acquisition of HIV infection may help to limit the size of the HIV reservoir which means there will be fewer, if any, inactive latent cells that could risk becoming active later."

    6.

  1. Have you ever been involved with attempts to secure funding for HIV research
    • Most of the funding of medical research by private voluntary health organizations comes from individuals, but some comes from grants to those organizations (and so might be counted as foundation or government funding as well as spending by the private voluntary health organization). If you have been involved in helping to write grant applications or soliciting private organizations to become a part of research funding, this could be considered an asset. Share any experience you may have.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I used to work for a company that operated mostly from money received from federal grants. When I worked there, I was an under-study to the head grant-writer. I have hoped to find placement with a company where I can do research but also offer my services in securing funding to further our research efforts."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "Yes, I have assisted with attempts to secure private funding for breast cancer research. I have found that the more specifically focused a research project is, the more easily private funding is secured."

    7.

  1. Have you ever considered getting a specialty certification, a higher degree, or transitioning to a new career path?
    • There are people who choose a career and later return to school. Some have the objective to get a higher degree in the same field or to change careers altogether. This question gives the interviewer an opportunity to know you and what your future plans may be. In turn, your answer allows the interviewer the chance to see where you may fit within Company ABC now and in the future. If you have thoughts of continuing your education, don't be afraid to share that with the interviewer. Just remember to point out why you feel you would be an asset to Company ABC now.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I have considered going back to college a few times, but at this point in my life, research is my passion. I feel I am already in an industry that is important and growing. I feel like, if I were to take any additional classes, I would want them to be something that would add value to the education and experience I have now."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "I love research and am comfortable where I am, at this point in my career. I have considered in years to come, when I am older, I may transition slightly into the realm of education within medical research. That way I can still do research and have some input, but I could also educate those who are coming into the field after me. For now, though, I am very happy with what I am doing and really look forward to seeing where you think I will be the greatest asset at Company ABC."

    8.

  1. Many research studies aim to recruit patients to participate in trials focused on depleting the HIV reservoir. Are you familiar with any such trials?
    • HIV medicines reduce the amount of HIV in the body (the viral load) by preventing the virus from multiplying. A latent HIV reservoir is a group of immune cells in the body that are infected with HIV but are not actively producing new HIV. Many studies have shown that starting ART as soon as possible after HIV infection occurs greatly limits the size of the HIV reservoir that is formed. Because of this finding, researchers are now hopeful that there may be a way to deplete the HIV reservoir completely which would mean there would be no latent cells; no latent cells means no new growth of infection. If you have knowledge of these trials, share it. If you do not, express an interest in learning.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I have studied some about the effects of early ART on the HIV reservoir. These trials sounds like an exciting next step in finding a cure. I would love to hear more and be a part of the study if there is an open opportunity."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "I have heard about some of these trials but have not yet had a chance to follow any of them personally. With what I do know about how the HIV reservoir is created and the chances of latent cells becoming active again, I would be interested in delving deeper into the subject of reservoir depletion and assist with one of these trials."

    9.

  1. If you could choose a research area other than HIV research, what would your next preference be?
    • Sharing your interests with the interviewer will give him a chance to offer you opportunities in a different area if an immediate position in HIV research is not available. Also, having broader interests implies to the interviewer that you want to learn. Share your interests and why they are appealing to you.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I love HIV research, but I also have an interest in chromosomal abnormalities. If I were to choose a second option of study, I believe I would like to focus on something related to these disorders."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "I understand that Company ABC has several areas of research. While HIV research has been my first choice, I am not opposed to 'spreading my wings' and learning to navigate through another area. If I were to have a second choice, I believe I would choose stem cell research. I believe there is so much more to learn about the benefits of stem cell use and would love to have a chance to be a part of that."

    10.

  1. It is often said that researchers are 'married to their work.' Why do you think this may be so?
    • While not everyone who works in research is constantly on the go, many do work long hours. Although this could easily be said of people who work in different career fields, the interviewer wants to know why you think this is a trait of some researchers. If you understand the 'married to your work' phrase from personal experience, explain why.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I definitely understand how some people can say that. For me, if I am focused on a task, I don't like to stop working until I complete it. Research is like a never-ending task. I am especially likely to work longer hours if I have discovered something that shows promise or progress."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "I think people can say that about any number of professions. Careers that require individual attention, like research, are often labeled as 'the spouse' or the employee is said to be 'married to his work.'"

    11.

  1. What do you feel is one of the most challenging obstacles to HIV research?
    • There are many challenges involved with HIV research. The interviewer is asking your opinion. So, don't feel like you have to give an elaborate, 'medically correct' answer. What are your thoughts?

      "I think one of the most challenging things with regard to HIV research is that, in order to determine that treatment is effective, patients must be followed for long periods of time. It is challenging because once patients begin to feel better, they don't want to have to see physicians all the time."

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I think one of the most challenging things with regard to HIV research is that, in order to determine that treatment is effective, patients must be followed for long periods of time. It is challenging because once patients begin to feel better, they don't want to have to see physicians all the time."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "One of the things that is very challenging or frustrating to me is when babies born to HIV+ mothers are not given their medications as prescribed. I believe we would be able to track the effects of treatments and prognosis more efficiently if these children were given their medications from birth, as they should, and possibly find a way to stop the progression of the disease."

    12.

  1. Company ABC has researchers who work within a team and others who work independently before collaborating with the team. Would you prefer to work within a group or on an individual project?
    • Because research projects may have people working on different things at the same time, there are often groups that work together while another researcher works independently. Then at certain points, everyone shares information/findings. This is one opportunity for you to say your preference without seeming overbearing. Share why you prefer one option over the other.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I tend to be a quiet, focus-driven person. Because of that, I have found that I enjoy independent projects. Nevertheless, I would not decline any offer with Company ABC, as I am very excited to see what opportunities are available here."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "I love working within a team. I always feel like when we can work together and share ideas it challenges us each to grow and learn."

    13.

  1. Are you familiar with the CCR5-32 mutation and its possible role in preventing or curing HIV?
    • CCR5-32 mutation is a rare genetic mutation that affects whether the receptor CCR5 is present in cells. CCR5 is the receptor used by HIV to gain entry into target cells. People who inherit the CCR5-32 mutation from one parent have reduced levels of the CCR5 receptor on their cells. People who inherit the CCR5?32 mutation from both parents completely lack the CCR5 receptor. In the case of Anthony Brown, also known as 'the Berlin patient,' Mr. Brown had life-threatening cancer and went through a very risk stem cell transplant procedure. The donor of the cells was known as a CCR5-32 homozygote (both of his parents lacked the CCR5 receptor). In Brown's case, his newly transplanted immune system lacks CCR5 receptors and is resistant to most strains of HIV. Knowledge of this receptor and the mutation has given HIV researchers increased hope of finding a way to cure HIV. Share any knowledge you have and don't forget, it's OK to ask questions.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I did a research paper on the Berlin patient and have tried to follow studies involving CCR5-32 mutation. I remember when HIV first became a big topic among healthcare professionals. In the beginning, we felt so discouraged, as if a cure was so far off. Although we still haven't found the cure, advances in medicine have brought us so much closer. I am waiting for the day that I will be able to witness patients who are cured completely."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "I am very new to the field of HIV research, and have not yet learned about CCR5?32 mutation. Since the word mutation is used, I am curious to know if this is related to cell mutation that could get us a little closer to finding a cure?"

    14.

  1. What made you choose to participate in HIV research?
    • The interviewer knows there are many areas of research. This question is an opportunity for him to get to know you. For instance, if you know someone who has HIV and want to help find the cure, share that. There is no right or wrong answer to this question.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "For me, HIV research is a personal challenge. I used to work with pediatric patients and one of the most difficult things for me was seeing babies who were born to HIV+ mothers. When I realized how many people are affected, I wanted to become part of the effort to find a cure."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "I spent some time working in an HIV clinic. Although the care we provided was great, I wanted to do something that made me feel like I was contributing to finding a cure. I love the feeling of finding something new that gets us closer to a cure."

    15.

  1. While the term "functional cure" has been widely used, do you know why many researchers now prefer to say that patients are in remission rather than experiencing a functional cure?
    • There are rare examples of individuals who have been able to stop ART and maintain undetectable or low levels of HIV viral load for extended periods of time. A term that has been applied to these cases is 'functional cure', intended to mean that HIV is still present in the body but not causing harm. However, in some of these cases HIV viral load has rebounded to high levels after a long period of being undetectable. Share your understanding of why researchers prefer to say that these patients are in remission rather than cured.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "When someone is in remission, it is understood that there is always a chance of a 'rebound' or 'recurrence' of a disease. Some people have stopped ART and been able to maintain undetectable or low levels of HIV viral load. However, because there is always a chance that the viral load may rebound, many researchers feel the term 'remission' is more appropriate."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "One reason researchers prefer to use the term remission is that it is difficult to know for sure whether even very low levels of HIV might eventually damage the immune system and cause illness."

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