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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

East Greenwich resident to graduate from URI as top microbiology student

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

Next stop: Brown Medical School

KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 13, 2005 -- Salma Faghri’s busy college career included trips abroad to study in Spain and France, as well as research projects involving tick vaccines and explosives. As she prepares to graduate on May 22 as the top microbiology student at the University of Rhode Island, she’s looking forward to the next steps on her way to becoming a doctor at Brown Medical School.

A 21-year-old East Greenwich resident, Faghri has had her sights set on becoming a doctor ever since her older sister started down the same path several years ago. “Hearing about the things she did in med school and seeing her go through the process got me excited about the challenges involved,” said Faghri.

It didn’t take long before she immersed herself in activities that would lead her to medical school. As a freshman she joined URI’s student-run Emergency Medical Services program and later became coordinator of the University’s CPR training center. She got her first laboratory research experience studying the interface between explosives and human hair.

“The project was designed to see if it is possible to identify people who might have been handling explosives by seeing how explosive residue attaches to human hair,” she explained. “So we put TNT in a jar with some hair to see if something from the vapor of the TNT adheres to the hair. I had the opportunity to help with the preliminary experiments in the research, and it made me interested in gaining more research experience.”

Faghri later worked in URI’s Cancer Prevention Research Center and Brown University’s Center for Behavioral and Preventative Medicine. Then, as a URI junior, she earned a fellowship to conduct research on the genetics of the salivary glands of ticks.

“We used the genes from the tick saliva to try and make an anti-tick vaccine, so when a tick bites you, you’ll be protected against the diseases they transmit,” said Faghri, whose sister and mother earned degrees from URI and whose father is a URI engineering professor.

Not everything Faghri did at URI was geared toward becoming a doctor, though.
“I love learning other languages and about other cultures,” she said. “Though I was born in Providence, I grew up speaking Farsi and English, I learned French in junior high and high school, and I started learning Spanish at the end of high school.”

She built on those experiences at URI, and spent the summer of 2002 studying at the University of Orleans, France, and the summer of 2004 studying in Salamanca, Spain. “Those were great experiences because I really got to use the language and practice talking to others. And I met so many great people!” she said.

On returning from France, she co-founded the French Club at URI to share her experience abroad with other students. “We have a weekly French conversation hour, and also had French movie nights, crepe parties, and international dinners,” said Faghri, who minored in French and Spanish.

After graduating from URI, Faghri will spend the summer in Bethesda, Md., interning at the National Cancer Institute conducting research on a rare skin disorder, and then she’ll enter Brown Medical School next fall.

“I’m a little nervous about med school, but also excited,” she said. “Everything is happening so fast.”