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Kareema Roushdy ’14 Embodies Perfect Blend of Science and Art

Kareema Roushdy ’14 lives comfortably at the crossroads where science and art intersect. A biology major and studio art minor, Kareema is no stranger to seemingly divergent worlds. But the pre-dental school student believes her skill sets intersect.

When a friend told Kareema that her love for the sciences and the joy she feels when sculpting might serve her well in the dental field, she gave serious thought to becoming a dentist. “That was an important moment because I was originally pre-med, but by discovering this passion in sculpting, I knew I had to incorporate that skill into the health career I was already aiming for,” said Kareema.

Kareema’s ceramics professor, Toby Buonagurio, also sees the overlap between science and art. “They are not really opposite disciplines,” said Buonagurio. “There are many parallels. They both require focus and creativity. You’re problem-solving and they both involve technical proficiency.”

Science also invites curiosity, which Kareema has in abundance. “I love science because there are so many unanswered questions,” she said.

She is now writing up the results of her year and a half spent researching the effects of alcohol abuse on mice with varying levels of the Drd4 gene. The research was based on behavioral tests she conducted in the Behavioral Pharmacology and Neuroimaging Lab, which is directed by Peter Thanos, PhD, in the Department of Psychology.

Humans have Drd4 receptors too, she said, “but we all have different amounts. What we learned is that male mice with extremely low Drd4 levels that exhibit more exploratory behavior and less anxious behavior tend to consume greater levels of alcohol later in life.”

The research that Kareema conducted in the lab has enriched her experience as an undergraduate. “It is very important for undergraduate students to be involved hands-on in a lab,” Thanos said. “Kareema is a great example of a successful student with a promising, bright future.”

As much as she loves animal research, there is a part of Kareema that gravitates toward people, which is one reason why she is pursuing dentistry. Another reason is that she likes how dentists interact with their patients. “They’re very personable and friendly, and they make sure that their patients are comfortable,” she said.

She said she is favoring pediatric dentistry because of her exposure to children every weekend as a face painter and clown. “Those things bring me out of my comfort zone. I can be acceptably goofy when I want to,” said the self-described “science dork.”
Kareema, who recently graduated, said she plans to apply to dental school in June, hoping to attend one in the Northeast that’s within driving distance of her tightly knit family.

NeferkikiShe said that her artistic side comes from her mother, who is an interior designer, while her scientific bent can be traced to her father, who is an engineer. She is proud of her Egyptian-American lineage, and that pride has found an expression in her artwork.

Known as “Kiki” by her family, Kareema has a playful demeanor, which emerged when Buonagurio asked her to create an altered self-portrait. She interpreted herself as an ancient Egyptian pharaoh and titled the piece “Neferkiki” after the revered Egyptian queen Nefertiti. The sculpture was chosen for the show “The Clay Effect,” at the SAC Gallery.

But it was Kareema’s painted ceramic sculpture, “The Modern Egyptian Cat,” that is perhaps her crowning achievement. It was one of only 15 pieces selected for Stony Brook President Samuel L. Stanley Jr.’s Sunwood exhibit and was the sole ceramic piece. It turned out that Dr. Stanley’s wife, Dr. Ellen Li, is a cat fancier and loved the sculpture so much, she purchased it for a permanent collection.

“I was really honored to see that someone really likes my style of art,” said Kareema. “There are so many artists out there, I was shocked.”

Another side of her art is on display in the Office of the Dean of Students. Last fall, for the Homecoming event known as Creative Explosions, Kareema created a portrait of Wolfie, which she painted upside down in a little less than four minutes, using a pair of toothbrushes.

Kareema said she was fully immersed in the Stony Brook experience, and enjoyed the unique perspective of knowing the ins and outs of student life, as both a commuter assistant and resident assistant. For her first three years at the University she traveled from her home in Westbury, New York, but in her fourth year, she resided in West Apartments.

Because she knows the difficulties of being a commuter student, she mentored incoming commuter students by giving them tours, and since 2011, met with them one on one to help them adapt to the campus community.

“One thing I told them is that you can’t be afraid to ask for help and to look for resources to help yourself out,” said Kareema. “Go on the Stony Brook University website for starters. If that doesn’t work, you can always contact your RA.”

What did she love best about Stony Brook? “I really like how big it is,” she said. “I felt like I made a new friend every week. Its diversity gives you the chance to have new experiences every day, and meeting so many inspiring people has allowed me to try new things.”
For Kareema Roushdy, it all goes back to her love of people.

By Glenn Jochum; photos by John Griffin



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