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Graduate chemistry student continues summer research in Athens

Samantha Yeh
August 25, 2012

One Syracuse, N.Y. native has taken her graduate studies at SUNY Oswego to an international level.

Tamara Nsouli, a graduate student in the chemistry program, studied in Athens, Greece for the summer after being awarded the Dr. H. Alan Ewart Memorial Award.

Nsouli’s research at SUNY Oswego focused on how the Apolipoprotein E, a specific protein that transports fats in the body through the circulatory and lymphatic systems, interacts with lead. ApoE has three different forms – two of which were made and purified by SUNY Oswego collaborators in Greece. Nsouli traveled to the National Center of Scientific Research: Demokritos in Athens to create the third form and bring all three back for more research.

“Working at the institute was amazing,” Nsouli said. “I got to learn a lot of new techniques and purify a protein in the actual lab where the first two isoforms [were] made…I felt very lucky.”

Nsouli was able to finance her trip abroad in large part to the chemistry department, who awarded her one of the many scholarships SUNY Oswego offers to its graduate students.

Nsouli's research focused on creating and purifying three proteins with SUNY Oswego collaborators in Greece.

Opportunities abroad

“[The chemistry professors] all supported me and I’m so grateful for that. My supervisor, Kestutis Bendinskas, is the one who actually came up with the idea and arranged the trip for me. He contacted his collaborators in Greece and asked if they would host me so I could make the third isoform,” Nsouli said.

Nsouli was thrilled to continue her research in Greece, where she earned real world chemistry experience in a work setting amongst young professionals.

“All the people in my lab were either Ph D. candidates or [post-doctorate] students, and it was great to work and learn from people with that kind of experience,” she said. “Usually scientists just try to replicate other peoples’ work in their own lab, so I felt very lucky.”

Nsouli did more than extensive research while in Athens; she also had the opportunity to learn more about the city’s lifestyle while she stayed at an apartment her supervisor set up for her.

“The city was so much fun to explore, I felt like I had moved to the Greek version of [New York City],” she said. “Everything was an adventure. I never got bored, because there was always something new to see.”

Nsouli’s favorite experience abroad was the chance to learn about a new culture.

“[The chemistry professors] all supported me and I’m so grateful for that.”
Tamara Nsouli
Graduate Student, Chemistry

“Greek culture is really unlike any culture I have experienced. The whole city is one big family, people are so friendly and are always talking to each other and helping each other out,” she said. “Since I was there for two months, I really got to experience the history and lifestyle in Athens.”

The close-knit Greek culture mirrored Nsouli’s relationships in the chemistry program.

“The program is small so all the master’s students really get to know each other,” she said. “All the chemistry professors are amazing teachers and are really there for their students.”

Nsouli came to SUNY Oswego after completing her undergraduate degree at McGill University in Montreal. It was the class sizes that attracted her to the graduate chemistry program.

“I wanted a school where I knew all the students in my program and where I get a lot of contact with my teachers,” Nsouli said. “I love it.”

Nsouli is currently a teaching assistant in the chemistry program. She found her love of teaching as a graduate student at SUNY Oswego.

“The program allows us to experience teaching in the laboratory courses,” she said.

Nsouli hopes to earn her master’s degree in December 2012 or May 2013, depending on her research. After she completes her degree, she hopes to continue on in higher education.

“I’m applying to medical school this year, so hopefully I’ll be starting next fall. My dream job would be to work as a physician in a teaching hospital,” she said.  The graduate program has allowed me to experience teaching and because of how much I love it, I really want to incorporate it into my career.”

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