MHS Math Teacher’s Daughters Work to Develop Coronavirus Vaccine

Mrs. Valdez has a surprising connection to the global race for a vaccine.

Maia Glazer, H&W Page Director

There is immense national and international tension over when and who will finalize the first Covid-19 vaccine. In the United States, this pressure has been magnified by the presidential race. In a New York Times article by Katie Thomas and Jesse Drucker, they claim the first half of 2021 to be the “best-guess” for when the vaccine will be available to the American public, according to scientists and federal health officials. Right now, only 10 vaccines have reached the final stages of testing in the U.S., with US Biotech firm Moderna among the most promising. 

Mamaroneck High School has a surprising connection to the development of this prized vaccine: Mrs. Valdez, who has been teaching AB and BC Calculus at MHS since 2001. Her daughters Erika and Isabella, who’ve graduated from MHS in 2008 and 2018 respectively, are both involved with work related to the vaccine and the pandemic overall.  

Erika is working for GE Healthcare in upstate New York. GE Healthcare is a leading world-wide medical technology and digital solutions innovator. As a biomedical engineer, her work concerns the medical equipment crucial to the treatment of Coronavirus, such as ventilators, infusion pumps, and patient monitors among others. 

Just as Erika is involved with the treatment of Covid, Isabella is involved with the prevention, i.e., vaccine development. Isabella is studying chemical engineering at Cornell University. Through a CO-OP program at the University, she is working with SiO2 Material Science Company (a privately-owned U.S. advanced materials science corporation) based in Auburn, Alabama. First announced in early June, SiO2 signed a $143 million agreement with the federal government. As stated on the SiO2 website, they are responsible for “accelerating capacity scale-up of advanced primary packaging platforms for COVID-19 Vaccines and Therapeutics.” In other words, they are creating the vials that will hold the Covid vaccines. The vials are made of a combination of both glass and plastic materials; they have glass-like properties yet don’t break as easily as glass would due to a plastic outer layer. Isabella’s division is primarily involved in testing in order to improve the product. 

Mrs. Valdez stated, “Both of my daughters give the Mamaroneck High School Science Department credit for their love of science. My younger daughter, Isabella, has told me that it was Mr. Seck who inspired her to want to study chemical engineering.”

Erika and Isabella are prime examples of how students of MHS go on to accomplish great things. They have gone on to make differences in the world with issues that are as pressing and vital as the COVID vaccine and treatment. As the race for the vaccine climaxes, it is inspiring and comforting to know that MHS alumni are of those contributing to the prevention of COVID deaths and the pioneering of the essential vaccine.