SUNY Oswego senior biochemistry major and May 2023 graduate Fathima Raviya Careem recently presented her research on tuberculosis at this year’s World Congress on Undergraduate Research (WorldCUR) in the U.K. She is the first SUNY Oswego student to do so.

WorldCUR is an interdisciplinary conference for undergraduate students from all over the world. This year, there were over 35 countries represented with more than 650 delegates. This was Careem’s first presentation at a professional conference of this size. 

I had no idea that the University of Warwick was such a highly regarded institution for STEM research until I was dropped off there for the conference," explained Careem. "During the conference, I was able to network with a diverse group of individuals, including many students from Europe. This experience provided me with valuable insight into both European and non-European perspectives on undergraduate research."

Careem’s research, titled "Understanding the structural basis of small molecule inhibitors of M. tuberculosis DosS," studied how synthesized inhibitors prevent tuberculosis, also known as TB, from entering a dormant state, where the disease is no longer treatable. She also presented her findings at Quest in Oswego this year. 

When asked why she chose to study this topic, Careem shared the impact this disease has had on her home country of Sri Lanka, as well as other Asian and African countries, even as it is less prevalent in the United States. She is hoping to make a difference in communities around the world. 

“I’m from Sri Lanka,” Careem explained. “We get TB vaccines when we’re kids. It’s something that I’ve grown up around, it’s very prevalent and something we should all care about.”

Earning research experience

Prior to this experience, Careem was also selected for University of Minnesota’s Summer Lando/National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF REU) program in her junior year. The program allowed her to conduct research during the summer 2022 semester, and present her findings at their Summer Undergraduate Research Expo. Out of applicants from across the world, she was one of only 14 to be selected. Careem says this opened up many opportunities for her.

“​This experience was funded by the University of Minnesota and the National Science Foundation. Whenever I include it on my resume, recruiters are immediately interested," said Careem. "They often ask me to elaborate on my experience, and it's clear that they are impressed by it. It's been a valuable addition to my resume and has opened up opportunities." 

Careem says she owes both of these opportunities to her mentor, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Kestas Bendinskas. Careem has worked in Bendinskas’ lab since her freshman year.

“I’ve done a lot of research, worked on a lot of projects, I’ve worked summer and winter breaks with him,” Careem said. “Dr. Kestas has been instrumental in securing funding for these opportunities, and it's because he gave me a chance to start working in his lab that I've been able to achieve all that I have."

She would also like to thank the university and its RISE (Research and Individualized Student Experiences) and EXCEL (Experimental Courses and Engaged Learning) offices at SUNY Oswego for supporting her research.