Salma Sheikh-Mohamed is a PhD student in the Department of Immunology at the University of Toronto. Her research explores mucosal immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection as well as COVID-19 vaccination. For the past few months, she has also worked as a science writer for Research2Reality. We asked her about everything from her inspirations to her favourite podcasts in the hopes of giving you a better understanding of what goes on outside the lab for one of the best minds in Canadian research.
What do you like most about being a researcher?
My favourite thing about being a researcher is being able to ask questions and design experiments to answer those questions. Designing experiments combines science and creativity, and allows you to think outside of the box.
What advice would you give to young researchers?
I think the best advice I could give is to research something that you genuinely care about in terms of its real world applications. When you can see the way your work fits into the grand scheme of things, even the most tedious of experiments are worth it. No amount of work is too small when it serves as one of many building blocks of a larger picture.
What inspired you to become a researcher?
I was inspired to go into research after learning about the ways that certain viruses have evolved to evade the human immune system. I was very interested in all the ways our immune system works to combat these viruses, which is why I decided to do my graduate studies in immunology.
What do you like to do for fun?
In my free time, I enjoy listening to podcasts, going on walks and learning new baking recipes. I am currently working my way through “Dessert Person” by Claire Saffitz (over halfway through!). I also enjoy mentoring younger students and am a co-creator and facilitator for a mentorship program dedicated to helping young Somali students called “Say Somali”.
What’s your favourite cuisine?
I’m definitely biased but my favourite food is without a doubt Somali food. I also enjoy sushi and Thai food.
If you could do any profession other than your own what would it be?
If I wasn’t doing research I would probably go into psychiatry.
If you could meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?
I would love to meet the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).