Fatemeh Fazel

Role: HQP Scholar

Degree: PhD

Project: Development of mRNA vaccines for avian influenza and Marek’s disease viruses in chickens

Department: Department of Pathobiology (OVC)

What inspired you to pursue your current degree? 

As a veterinarian doctor, I was always interested in zoonotic diseases (common diseases between animals and humans). After witnessing the covid-19 pandemic and how it affected whole aspects of life to a considerable extent, I decided to be part of the next pandemic preparedness team by designing and developing next-generation vaccines against zoonotic viral viruses such as avian influenza, which can initiate a pandemic.

What about your research area excites you? 

mRNA vaccine is a novel vaccine platform, and many questions need to be addressed about it. I am excited to dive into this new generation of vaccines and discover more about their interaction with the immune system.

Also, as a result of this interaction and the protection that the mRNA vaccine causes, we can control the zoonotic viruses in animal populations and prevent their transmission to humans.

What challenges do you find in your research, and how do you try to overcome them? 

By working in a relatively new platform of vaccines, I constantly face questions and challenging situations. One of the challenges I had in my current research project was facing the shortage of materials that I needed to produce my vaccine due to the universal demand for the Covid vaccine. In addition, working with live animals in animal isolation facilities and long lab-work processes can be physically challenging.

How would you describe your research and the implications of your project? 

My research is mainly focused on finding ways to control zoonotic viruses such as avian influenza in bird/animal populations and inhibit their transmission to the human population. I believe this is one of the significant steps for preventing future pandemics.

What are three of your favourite activities outside the lab? 

Outside the lab, I mostly dance in my free time and learn new languages. I believe dance is a universal language that people use mainly to express their happiness, although some countries have specific dances for funerals. Dancing and going on long walks help me release my stress, and learning new languages activates my brain.

What is one important thing you have learned during the pandemic?

The pandemic has taught me how to live alone and be happy, productive, and healthy at the same time. From a professional point of view, the Covid pandemic highlighted the importance of zoonotic pathogens and how urgent it is to have effective pandemic preparedness plans.