By Mariah Cox | Bond LSC
Karen Segovia wanted to work with animals the moment her childhood dog fell sick. With few veterinarians near the rural town in Perú where she grew up, she felt powerless to help, and that inspired her to eventually go to veterinary school.
But it was her preparation for her dissertation to meet the degree requirements at San Marcos National University veterinary school that refined Segovia’s focus on something smaller. Already interested in virology, her research narrowed in viruses and avian flu. A connection with a colleague led her to wild bird reservoirs to study samples for various avian viruses.
“I was going to the coast to sample wild bird feces on the beach and then we isolated several viruses in the south from wild birds,” Segovia said.
Segovia’s career path has taken a turn since then toward research with the realization that it has a bigger impact on the health of the animal population. After becoming a veterinarian, she had the opportunity to continue her education at the University of Georgia and continue doing research on avian viruses.
From there, she began a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Athens, Georgia. Most avian influenza research is centralized in the United States in Athens, Georgia, because of the states’ large poultry industry. With influenza research only being conducted in a select number of places throughout the U.S., Segovia was on the lookout for her next step.
“I was finishing my postdoc at the USDA and I was looking to broaden my horizon to increase my knowledge and skills working with influenza viruses” Segovia said. “Upon researching, I discovered that Dr. Wan was leading projects that were analyzing several host factors that can help us understand the mechanisms shaping the ecology of influenza viruses in different populations by using new innovative techniques”
Now Segovia is a senior research associate and lab manager in Henry Wan’s lab at Bond LSC. Her research focuses on detecting and characterizing avian viruses directly from clinical samples by the use of a different approach.
For Segovia, she sees her research as not only a benefit to the economy and public health but to a bigger picture.
“As a vet student, I went to poultry and swine farms often, you can clearly see how many losses it has when there is a disease present,” Segovia said. “It’s not just the economy, but people rely on livestock farms for their jobs and income. Research on influenza has a very big impact.”
Segovia’s work studying influenza has also allowed her to give back to her country.
“In the past, my country didn’t do much research, but last year I got contacted by my university to participate in a grant application sponsored by the World Bank,” Segovia said. “My home university received a grant and they needed two new graduated Ph.D. researchers and I was one of them. My university received a significant amount of money for three years and employed more people to help with research.”
In the future, Segovia plans to continue to help her home country with research efforts through collaborations and suggestions.
As for now, Segovia is focused on establishing herself here in Bond LSC, learning new techniques and discovering more about avian influenza.