The CEIRR Network is excited to spotlight Nahara Vargas-Maldonado, an Immunology and Molecular Pathogenesis PhD Candidate in Dr. Anice Lowen's lab, part of Emory-CEIRR. Prior to starting her PhD, Vargas-Maldonado earned a BS from the University of Puerto Rico and then worked with Dr. Jacob Yount at The Ohio State University as an NIH PREP scholar. At the CEIRR Annual Network Meeting 2023 in Baltimore, MD, Vargas-Maldonado presented a poster titled "Evidence of positive selection acting on within-host influenza A virus populations following experimental human challenge." Her presentation was voted 1st place in Poster Session One by CEIRR faculty and peers! But Vargas-Maldonado didn't stop there; she also earned 1st place by networking with the most CEIRR faculty in the trading card networking game at the same meeting.
Vargas-Maldonado has "always been interested in human health," so studying the spread of influenza virus and "exploring options to limit its spread allowed me to put into action all my passions: science, creativity, service, and education." Her dissertation research covers the transmission and infection dynamics of influenza A virus (IAV). She's particularly interested in investigating how IAV transmits and how different modes of transmission change with context (hosts, viral, and environmental factors) using the guinea pig, ferret, and human challenge models. Vargas-Maldonado appreciates the CEIRR Program's collaborative research environment and “how it brings together the flu community from diverse backgrounds and areas of study to address different aspects of influenza virus infection and transmission.”
The iDPCC also asked some very challenging questions:
1. Who/what inspired you to go into science in general?
A. My father. He worked as a nurse for many years, and I enjoyed having conversations about his experiences at the hospital. I loved how he combined his knowledge and skills in health sciences to help people in our community and abroad.
2. What is one thing on your bucket list?
A. I want to visit Mexico and sing with a mariachi band.
3. What was your childhood dream job?
A. Since I was four years old, I wanted to be an obstetrician-gynecologist. It blew my mind how women’s bodies could grow and sustain a human.
4. Do you have advice for other trainees?
A. First and foremost, your life’s worth is not determined by how much you produce on the bench. There will be seasons where experiments or classes will not go as you desire but keep showing up and trying. Also, search for a mentor and a laboratory group that chooses to connect with you. Having a sound support system is crucial to your journey in graduate school.
5. What is your favorite mundane lab chore?
A. I enjoy cleaning and organizing my lab space. It allows me to think clearly.
6. Do you have any hobbies or special interests you'd like to share?
A. I enjoy watching baking shows but don’t know how to bake. I should probably add learning how to bake to my bucket list!