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Harvard School of Public Health Prof. Receives Award for Vaccine Research Education

The Harvard School of Public Health is located in Boston.
The Harvard School of Public Health is located in Boston. By Megan M. Ross
By Jeremiah C. Curran and Paz E. Meyers, Crimson Staff Writers

Kizzmekia S. Corbett, an assistant professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the Harvard School of Public Health, was awarded the 2022 Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science from the American Association for the Advancement of Science earlier this month.

The AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science recognizes early-career scientists and engineers who “demonstrate excellence in their contribution to public engagement with science activities,” according to its website. Corbett was awarded the honor for her work on public education surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine, particularly for people of color.

Emily T. “Rese” Cloyd, director of the AAAS Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology, emphasized the importance of Corbett’s efforts to engage the public in her research.

“Dr. Corbett sees her research and public engagement as inextricably linked — recognizing that dialogue with people about their questions and concerns is essential to transforming a vaccine on the shelf into a vaccination in someone's arm, where it can protect them and their community from Covid-19,” Cloyd wrote in an email.

Corbett joined the School of Public Health faculty last June after completing her postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health Vaccine Research Center, where she led the Coronavirus Vaccines and Immunopathogenesis team, and focused on developing the mRNA vaccine technology behind the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine.

In addition to her contributions to the development of the Covid-19 vaccine, Corbett also focused her efforts on public engagement to answer questions about the vaccine for people of color, who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

Corbett worked to encourage vaccination through both traditional news and social media, including an Instagram takeover of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s account, as well as town halls and public events.

Cloyd said the organization’s recognition of Corbett can serve as an example for how other scientists can make their work more accessible to the public.

“There are many areas of science that touch upon timely social issues - where dialogue between the scientific community and broader civic society is essential to addressing challenges like climate change, the spread of diseases like COVID-19, and the development and use of artificial intelligence,” Cloyd wrote. “By highlighting the work of Dr. Corbett, AAAS is providing a model for how other scientists can also engage with the public in conversations about these important topics.”

—Staff writer Paz E. Meyers can be reached at paz.meyers@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Jeremiah C. Curran can be reached at jeremiah.curran@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @jerryccurran.

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