Fatemeh completed a master’s degree in 2023 with Dr. Shayan Sharif in the Pathobiology Department. Her work aimed to enhance immunity against avian influenza virus (AIV) in chickens, a disease with devastating impacts for both agri-food systems and human health. Today, she is conducting PhD research under the guidance of Dr. Sharif, with a focus on investigating immune-based strategies, particularly novel vaccine platforms, aimed at halting the transmission of AIV among vulnerable chicken population.
As a child, Fatemah watched as her mother joined the “Doctors Without Borders” community to help Afghan refugees coming to Iran. She was able to help panicked and displaced communities’ access essential physical and psychological medical care. At the young age of ten, Fatemah often joined her mother at the health center, where she would help write patient names and bring them to their doctor. She recounts this time as one of the biggest motivators for her research and career goals. In college, Fatemah pursued her desire to help and improve health outcomes by volunteering with a health center where Afghan refugees could learn about basic health care knowledge and parenting skills. These refugees were also given the opportunity to participate in programs to increase their proficiency with technology and be trained for semi high-tech jobs. In this position she helped women refugees transform their lives, improve their relationship with their children, and find success in their jobs.
Fatemeh witnessed the devastating consequences on the poultry industry from the 2016 and 2017 AIV outbreaks in Iran. This experience, coupled with her interest in infectious diseases, motivated her to pursue research in this field. Her current research project is focused on design and development of a mRNA vaccine for Avian Influenza Virus. This research will not only help reduce virus transmission but will also help reduce emergence of more virulent strains that could have devastating effects on Ontario’s poultry industry and the public health because this virus is considered as a potential pandemic threat.
Fatemah was drawn to the University of Guelph’ Pathobiology Department because of Dr. Shayan Sharif’s work on AIV vaccines. She was particularly interested in AFI’s vibrant research atmosphere, academic supports and their vision of securing access to safe and healthy food for growing populations. Her main goal is to become drive innovation in the field of viral immunology and AIV and to design and develop an efficient vaccine based on the most recent vaccine technology for this complex virus which will protect the poultry industry as an important branch of the agricultural sector.