Dr. Okda, an Exceptional Researcher, Opens Up About Her Fascination for Influenza Research and Public Health

SpotlightOctober 18, 2023

Dr. Faten Okda is awarded first place for her poster presentation in Session Two of the CEIRR Annual Network Meeting 2023

Dr. Faten Okda, Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr. Faten Okda, Postdoctoral Fellow

The CEIRR Network proudly spotlights Faten Okda, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Richard Webby’s Lab, part of SJCEIRR. Dr. Okda was awarded 1st place in Poster Session Two at the CEIRR Annual Network Meeting 2023 in Baltimore, Maryland, where she presented a poster titled “Comparative Analysis of Influenza Virus Replication Dynamics in Tonsil Epithelial Cells: Insights from Flow Cytometry and Cytokine Analysis.”  

Dr. Okda’s motivation to study influenza comes from a “deeply rooted desire to contribute to scientific knowledge and improve public health.” Viral diseases have impacted her life, which has driven her to “unravel the mysteries of viral infections” through “control[ling] the effects” of the disease and ultimately “develop[ing] an effective vaccine.” Her award-winning poster focused on investigating replication dynamics of different influenza strains in tonsil epithelial cells, and how this impacts cytokine secretion profiles. Dr. Okda also touched on her appreciation for the collaborative and multidisciplinary nature of the CEIRR Program, which “provides a unique platform for research trainees like me from diverse backgrounds to work together towards a common goal of understanding and combating pandemic respiratory viruses.”

The iDPCC also asked Dr. Okda to answer some thought-provoking questions: 

1. Who/what inspired you to go into science in general?  

A. I was inspired by several great scientists whose work has transformed our understanding of the world. Notably, the curiosity-driven spirit of Marie Curie and the groundbreaking research of Dr. Robert Webster instilled in me a passion for science, specifically, Virology. Additionally, my parents' encouragement and guidance motivated me to pursue a career where I could contribute to medical advancements.

2. What was your childhood dream job?     

A. My childhood dream job was to become a surgeon or a scientist.

3. What are your plans following your training?     

A. Currently, I am a K99/R00 NIH/NIAID awardee. This year is the last year of K99 in Dr. Webby’s lab. I am at the step to establish my independent research laboratory at a top-tier academic institution using the R00 stage. I aspire to continue conducting research in virology, mentor the next generation of scientists, and collaborate with colleagues to advance our understanding of viral infections and their impact on public health. My dream is to have collaborative research funding with the CEIRR experts.

4. Do you have advice for other trainees?   

A. My advice to fellow trainees is to embrace curiosity, determination, and resilience. Scientific research can be challenging, but curiosity is the driving force behind new discoveries. When faced with obstacles, remember that setbacks are opportunities for growth. Keep asking questions, seeking knowledge, and persevering in the pursuit of your scientific goals.

5. What is your favorite lab technique?     

A. Among the various lab techniques I've used and loved, I have a particular fondness for fluorescence microscopy. It's like having a window into the microscopic world, where I can visualize cellular processes and interactions in real-time.

6. Do you have any hobbies or special interests you'd like to share?   

A. Outside of the lab, I enjoy spending time with my husband and my kids. Playing outdoors activities together like volleyball and fishing.