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National coronavirus scientist and UNC-Chapel Hill alumna Kizzmekia Corbett is going to Harvard University to join the faculty of the T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
She will be an assistant professor in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and the Shutzer Assistant Professor at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute, the university announced Tuesday.
Corbett, 35, has been a research fellow at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ Vaccine Research Center for six years, and her work was critical to the development of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
She’s earned praise and national recognition from TIME magazine, medical experts including Dr. Anthony Fauci, as well as President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. And her hometown, Hillsborough, N.C., recently named a day after her.
“Vaccines are the great equalizer when it comes to addressing health disparities, especially around infectious diseases,” Corbett said in a statement. “Harvard Chan School is at the forefront of advancing health equity, and I’m excited to join such distinguished colleagues in my pursuit of viral immunology research and vaccine development.”
In a tweet about the announcement Tuesday, Corbett, 35, said she is thrilled to be appointed to Harvard’s faculty.
“The last year has been a “whirlwind,” but through it all... I tapped into my purpose at the intersection of science *and* public health. And, at Harvard... I will “take it up a notch,” she tweeted.
At Harvard, Corbett will lead the new Coronaviruses & Other Relevant Emerging Infectious Diseases (CoreID) Lab “to study and understand the interface between hosts’ immune systems and viruses that cause respiratory disease, with the goal of informing development of novel and potentially universal vaccines,” according to Harvard.
Corbett knows first-hand the impact that a professor and professional mentor can have on someone’s life. And as a young, Black female scientist, Corbett has become the inspiration and image that she recalled never seeing as a young girl growing up in North Carolina, The News & Observer reported.
She will be the principal investigator of her lab, studying coronaviruses and other relevant emerging infectious diseases, but Corbett said on Twitter that her role is bigger than that.
“As a citizen of this world, I will continue to be vocal about health disparities,” Corbett tweeted. ”As a mentor... I hope I will inspire.”
Michelle Williams, dean of the faculty at Harvard Chan School and Angelopoulos Professor in Public Health and International Development, said Corbett is “a natural fit” at the school.
“Her success in the lab is matched only by her commitment to using science to improve people’s lives, especially for communities that have too often been left behind by advances in health care,” Williams said in a statement.
Harvard Radcliffe Institute Dean Tomiko Brown-Nagin said in a statement that Corbett is an “inspiring scientist” whose work is “helping to reshape our world and is saving lives on a vast scale.”
Corbett has used her national platform to educate and encourage those, particularly in the Black community, who are hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccine. She’s spoken virtually at churches and other community organizations to “reassure skeptics of its safety and efficacy” and will continue those outreach efforts in Boston, according the university.
Corbett’s first day will be June 14.