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2021 Fellow

Fatima Hussain

PhD Institution
Postdoctoral institution and lab

Kwon Lab, Ragon Institute, Harvard Medical School

Alm Lab, MIT

Fatima is a microbial ecologist with a background in environmental engineering. During her PhD with Martin Polz at MIT, she studied the evolutionary dynamics of marine bacteria and their viral predators (phages). She found that bacteria can quickly evolve resistance to phages in the wild through the rapid transfer of mobile genetic elements between bacteria. Her work sheds light on bacterial evolution in the wild and highlights the importance of studying microorganisms in their natural ecologies.

As a Schmidt Science Fellow, Fatima aims to pivot from environmental microbiology to human immunology as she studies the community of microbes living in the vagina. The composition of a person’s vaginal microbiome can impact their susceptibility to preterm birth, bacterial vaginosis, and HIV infection. Working with Doug Kwon at the Ragon Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital and Eric Alm at MIT, Fatima aims to study the ecological, immunological, and evolutionary drivers of vaginal microbiome diversity. Her goal is to use insights from her research to develop low-cost microbial therapeutics to support vaginal health globally.