Walderez Dutra

Professor Walderz Dutra is VALIDATE Network Investigator and Professor of Cell Biology at the Department of Morphology, Federal University of Minas Gerais,  Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

This is a Special VALID8 for The International Day of Women and Girls in Science Day.

What do you do/what do you research?

I study the cellular immune response of individuals infected with Leishmania braziliensis or Trypanosoma cruzi, parasites that cause tegumentary leishmaniasis and Chagas disease, respectively. Our overarching goals are to understand the role of the immune response in disease progression, and to find biomarkers of disease severity, prophylactic and therapeutic targets. 

What do you tell non-scientists you do?

I say that I study the body's defense mechanisms in response to infection with parasites, to learn how we can manipulate this defense to be most beneficial to the patients.

What drew you to studying vaccines?

I work with diseases that place a huge economical, social and personal burden in the populations affected. Although there are treatments that can be applied to the infected people, they are toxic, not always effective. The best way to avoid these burdens, is to prevent these diseases and vaccines is one way to address this.

What is the most interesting thing you have learned in your job?

It is hard to single out one most interesting thing. Perhaps the understanding that the immune system has a plasticity that can be used to the benefit of the patients is a good one. From a more personal point of view, it always amazes me how the patients generously volunteer themselves for our research.

What is the most challenging part of your job or research?

The most challenging part of my job is dealing with bureaucratic matters and with the financial difficulties to fund the research.

Why are vaccines important?

As we had the opportunity to see in this pandemic, the introduction of effective vaccines saves lives. Many people still suffer from other diseases, especially neglected diseases, and the effort to develop vaccines to prevent these diseases is key.

Who are your women role models?

Professionally, I have many women who inspired me (and still do) in my career. Jenifer Blackwell, Selma Jeronimo, Lee Herzenberg are fabulous models/mentors to me. I am also very inspired by my students who are dedicated, brilliant and enthusiastic scientists. I learn from them every day. 

What advice would you give to girls and young women considering a career in science?

Science is the most exciting and best profession, in my opinion. Although not perfect, it provides so many opportunities of growth in many ways. If you love it (as I sure do), go for it and enjoy every step of the way...

Find out more

You can find more about Wal research on her VALIDATE biography page.

There are more fascinating interviews with members of our extensive network of researchers on our VALID8? page. This is an ongoing series, so check back regularly.

If you are a member and would like to take part, you can email your answers to the following questions along with a captioned picture of your day-to-day work to