Maria Georgieva ’09

Maria stands in front of Harvard flag.


Searching for a cure

Since 2015, Maria Georgieva ’09 has served Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health as a postdoctoral research fellow in the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, studying the human bacterial pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae. “There exist several kinds of Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterial types which differ structurally. These differences effectively narrow the scope of existing anti-pneumococcal vaccines – that is, we have a hard time making vaccines that target all types, therefore the vaccines we have now are effective against only some types while other types remain unaffected. This is a problem because these non-vaccine types cause a good majority of worldwide pneumococcal disease.” Maria’s goal is to improve current vaccine strategies to make them more inclusive and effective against a broader range of Streptococcus pneumoniae types.  

Hailing from Pravets, Bulgaria, Maria earned a four-year, full-tuition international scholarship to Wesleyan and majored in biology (with minors in mathematics and neuroscience). She was attracted to Wesleyan because of the small student population and class sizes, and the high ratio of international students. When applying to graduate schools, Maria said it was her experiences conducting undergraduate research at Wesleyan that made her stand out among candidates from other schools. 

Maria earned her Ph.D. in microbiology and molecular genetics at Emory University while serving part time as a teaching assistant for a bacterial genetics graduate course and conducting research fulltime. “Throughout my Ph.D. years, I trained incoming students in practical laboratory techniques and provided other more general mentoring about navigating graduate school and its challenges.”

Maria thinks that women’s colleges provide a unique environment that 

encourages young women to dream, nurtures their talents, bolsters their visions, and provides them the confidence needed in today’s world. “It’s about the importance of young women’s growth and development in a supportive environment that nurtures and gives freedom of expression without some of the restraints inherent in two-sex interactions.”

This article ran in WESmag Spring 2019 issue.


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