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Student Highlights: Michelle Zhu (COL. ‘21)

Michelle Zhu is a senior majoring in Biology of Global Health and minoring in computer science on the pre-med track. She is currently pursuing an accelerated Masters of Science in Global Health at Georgetown University.

Experience in Research:

After taking the Biology of Global Health Gateway course and the Gender, Environment and Sustainability (STIA) course, Michelle grew fond of global health and international development. Although her undergraduate studies centered on the Biological Sciences, she found herself increasingly drawn to health patterns and policies, as well as the social, political, and economic dimensions of health in a global context. These interests soon led Michelle to  health policy research. 

Michelle works at the HIV Policy Lab at the O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, where she focuses on analyzing documents that track HIV-related laws and policies in different countries around the world. The lab’s website,, provides insight into the adoption of policies in four areas of focus: clinical and treatment, testing and prevention, structural, and health systems. These key policies are based on international guidelines and serve as a public resource to facilitate HIV/AIDS research.


While working at the HIV Policy Lab, Michelle attained a better understanding of not only advancements in HIV treatment, but also of discrimination that hinders effective responses to HIV/AIDS.  The lessons learned from responses to HIV/AIDS are important to the management of other public health threats, so Michelle feels well equipped to evaluate current events, government responses, and social aspects related to different diseases — including COVID-19. She was also familiarized with the global structures and organizations involved in tracking and facilitating HIV/AIDS responses, as well as international standards of HIV/AIDS treatment and care. This knowledge has been valuable to her since her professional aspirations are in both global health and medicine. Michelle’s experience with the HIV Policy Lab has enabled her to solidify her interest in disease control, the area of global health she hopes to explore further in the future.