When I was working on my Ph.D., I developed a computer algorithm to look for rapid changes in populations' DNA. Our DNA changes constantly over generations, but if certain changes spread through a population more quickly than others, they are probably the beneficial results of natural selection. This is the protection we give ourselves to survive.
You get these moments of thrill. There you are, at 3:00 in the morning, and you know something about how we evolved that nobody else in the world knows. It's a thrill of discovery. You make this breakthrough, and you find something. It's this wonderful, wonderful scavenger hunt when you got to the end. It's just so great to be a scientist.
I am deeply immersed in my medical work, and it can get very intense, but I believe that the connection and devotion is key. You can not work on diseases as devastating and deadly as Lassa and Ebola without complete trust and respect for the individuals with whom you work. My lab and colleagues are just extraordinary, and we are a family.
My family fled Iran in October 1978 as a result of the coming revolution when I was two years old. In the early days, my entire family lived together in a very crowded house, where I shared a room with my sister, cousin, and grandmother, and we would all listen to my grandmother tell stories before bedtime.
I don't really love to perform in music. Some people like it more, but it's not my thing so much, but just the writing, when you get the lyric, and the lyric just goes just the right way, or you find the right bridge that takes you to the solo, and those moments are tremendous, and it's difficult to portray.
My sister taught me addition and subtraction and multiplication and division, so by the time I got to school, I knew it all, and when we'd do the times tables, I was just focused on doing it faster than anybody else. I already had the information, so it just got me to focus on excellence.
It's just difficult to see that people want to be like the actors and the performers and the politicians who are - who they see all the time, but the people that are probably having the most fun are the writers and the directors and the producers and the scientists, right, the people in the back that are getting to do the creative process.
Especially working in infectious disease, it's very interesting because these infectious diseases, these agents, they evolve over time. So it's very much an arms race and understanding how each changes to protect itself and to continue. And so it's very much this puzzle-solving but with this great urgency and importance in what you find.
Over the years, we settled into American life and embraced it fully. But having come from a different culture, I didn't know the boundaries of American culture. Which is that, as a girl, you didn't play football or soccer at lunch with the boys, and to be cool, you didn't get into math Olympiad.
See, Ebola, like all threats to humanity, it's fueled by mistrust and distraction and division. When we build barriers amongst ourselves, and we fight amongst ourselves, the virus thrives. But unlike all threats to humanity, Ebola is one where we're actually all the same. We're all in this fight together.