“Sometimes you don’t know where life is going to take you until you go there and you find out that actually there was no better place that you could have chosen for your success” It was at UBC’s Okanagan campus where Sepideh Pakpour found her success and a supportive community – a place to explore her passion and feel at home.
Originally from Tehran, Pakpour had completed her Master’s at McGill University and was working as a research assistant when she became interested in furthering her passion and academic life. Pakpour’s research focused on why there were so many health problems related to exposure to indoor spaces.
After reviewing her options, Pakpour choose UBC’s Okanagan campus because she saw there were so many renowned professors and scientists on campus. For Pakpour, one particular supervisor stood out – Dr. John Klironomos. “I was so very lucky to have the opportunity to work with him. It’s rare to find a professor who is super knowledgeable and super modest where you feel that he is not only your true mentor but also your colleague and friend. His character and personality are golden. I feel so happy to have had an opportunity to work in his lab alongside other internationally famous professors.”
Pakpour’s research is ground breaking. Humans are confined to indoors for 90% of their time. When it comes to children it goes up to 99%. Her research at UBC's Okanagan campus was part of a national study to find out the root causes of modern allergies in children. It specifically focused on how the infrastructure of houses, furnishings or cleaning products or the activities we do within our homes can all affect the bacteria, fungal or animal communities within our homes. Having a better understanding of indoor microbial diversity will eventually bring more awareness into the role of the environment as a determinant of health, particularly in relation to non-infectious diseases in which inflammatory mediators are believed to be important.
Pakpour’s ground breaking research did not go unnoticed. Pakpour will continue her research as a postdoctoral fellow at Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard starting in January, 2016, where she will complete a two year study. Funded by FQRNT Fellowship and Broad Institute, Pakpour’s goal is simple – to find the relationship between indoor environments and an occupant’s health by examining indoor quality indicators. What she hopes to find is how we are exposed to these organisms or compounds and what health issues they relate to. For example, is there a correlation between Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and our living environment? That would be just one example that she would like to explore.
“My main passion is to be a successful scientist and make a meaningful impact on communities both locally and globally. I have great passion to ask more scientific questions and to broaden my research. Questions like: How does climate change affect our indoor spaces? How can we have more sustainable, stronger, and healthier indoor environments for future generations?"
Pakpour says students are lucky to be here at UBC's Okanagan campus. Her words for incoming students. "In any new journey you will find excitements, as well as, problems. Never give up. Rather, step out and ask yourself how can I make it better? This is your new home. Have a voice. It’s a two-way street. If you work hand-in-hand with your passion and existing supports at UBC Okanagan, you will be successful. How can you not be?"
To read Sepideh Pakpour’s full Alumni profile, click here.