Championing Women Researchers

Dr. Maria Mardalena Martini Kaisar

Dr. Maria Kaisar is from the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Atma Jaya Catholic University of Indonesia, Jakarta, Indonesia.

research background

I obtained my doctoral degree from the University of Leiden and my thesis was entitled “Tracking Helminths: from Molecular Diagnostics to Mechanisms Behind Immune Polarization.” Throughout my research career, from before my PhD to during my PhD research, I learnt how to perform extensive epidemiological field studies that have further equipped me with skills in molecular diagnostics for parasitic detection and cellular immunology. When it comes to cellular immunology specifically, I developed skills in dendritic cell and T cell assays. Currently, at my institution, I am implementing molecular diagnostics research for a broad range of infectious disease agents and setting up immunological assay-based approaches. Apart from that, I enjoy conducting fieldwork focused on improving child health. Together with a team from Atma Jaya University, I am leading a pilot investigation called the Child Gut-Oral-Lung (GOL) study. This study is being conducted in an urban setting – Jakarta.

CURRENT research activities

Performing population-based research really involves the art of doing science. At the same time, it is also our responsibility as scientists to serve our wider communities. Thus, I find research to be a never-ending learning process. Apart from that, being a scientist in a developing country is always a challenge. We are still learning to set up a cell culture laboratory with a group of researchers based at Atma Jaya. Meanwhile, I keep updating my skills in both the field of molecular diagnostics and cellular immunology. I am currently learning a digital-based PCR method to diagnose infectious disease pathogens (i.e. SARS-CoV-2 and gut parasites).

future research activities

The Child GOL Study that focuses on improving child health in a rapidly urbanizing environment era is pivotal in the sense that children are our future and therefore, ensuring their good health is imperative. As part of our research, we are trying to understand the profile of gut-oral pathogens and how the effects of detrimental environmental exposures such as pollution may affect lung health. Additionally, realizing that most vaccinations are given during childhood might play another significant role in how the developing human immune system copes with pathogens and environmental exposures. Altogether, epidemiological-diagnostic-immunological skills are crucial to understanding underlying mechanisms and ultimately providing solutions to optimize the health of children.