Kathie A. Walters, PHD

How did you get into science?

  • In high school, science was her best subject. She took this as a cue to pursue it in college.
  • In her 3rd year of college, she discovered she loved her virology class (in comparison to other biology subjects like zoology, microbiology, etc.)
  • In her third year, she did HIV lab work and recommends us to get research experience (valuable).


What are the current projects your working on?

  • She mostly is working on influenza.
  • Study how the body responds to the virus by looking at gene expression changes before and after the virus.
  • The study consists of volunteers who go to the hospital, get influenza, correlate immune response and antibodies (?)
  • Goal: understand what is required for someone to be immune- we don’t understand what it requires for vaccines…
  • Pathogenesis, co-infections, virus and bacteria synergy- understand mechanisms of that
  • Use data to find biomarkers that would predict how long people who have the virus and who will develop serious vs not serious illness (something clinicians want to know)



  • Has grant on Francisella- bio thread, very infectious, high mortality
  • Working w Harborview Medical Center
  • The airborne version is most severe, find which cells it interacts with first



  • Sepsis: computational biomarker project, funded by the military,
  • Goal: predict who will get sepsis
  • Very heterogeneous= hard to study, no good animal model



  • Small ebola project
  • A medical worker in Sierra Leone contracted Ebola
  • Flown to the US, NIH for study
  • Were able to get samples from him every day


What are some of the most exciting moments you have seen while working on a project?

  • Really exciting moments are few and far between
  • eureka moments don’t happen that often, it’s more of a gradual building on of knowledge
  • It is exciting when you get the results you were expecting or not expecting (interesting)
  • One example was when she was in grad school, grad work with a  clinician (infectious disease doctor for hepatitis B)
  • He was working on developing the first oral drug for hepatitis B, allowing for the treatment of transplant patients
  • Was able to see the impact on the first patient treated (a moment of ‘Ok, this is why we’re doing it’- impact)
  • baby steps


How do you multitask all your projects?

  • “Sometimes I don’t”
  • Driven by deadlines, especially the milestones set for military funded projects
  • Schedule sometimes depends on the availability of reagents
  • Just have to set some things aside and work on what’s at hand


Where did you go to school?

  • She is originally from Edmonton, Canada
  • Undergraduate and Graduate School: University of Alberta (Canada)
  • Postdoc at UW – micro department
  • Then went to ISB and has been here ever since.


What advice do you have for high schoolers like us who want to pursue science in the future?

  • Try and get as many hands-on experiences as early as you can.
  • Test out research because even some people that like science don’t like research.
  • Research (academic) is a difficult track, funding, competitive.
  • Sometimes you don’t have the flexibility to work on what you want.
  • There are many different avenues of a scientist: consulting, teaching, industry
  • Feel them out, try them out.
  • A lot of writing and reading as a researcher
  • Recc: Kathie in school: as an undergrad, microbiology= major, english=minor because writing is used as a scientist
  • You have to like writing to be in science.


Other career avenues in science:

  • Consulting: biotech company
  • Regulatory affairs- liaison between research and FDA
  • Mixes science and translational – works towards getting a drug on the market for patients


What do you like about ISB?

  • ISB gives a lot of independence.
  • Good at giving you the freedom to do what you want so long as you get the funding to do it.
  • 1 advantage of academics, if you have funding, you have freedom.