Karima Zahiri

Karima Zahiri ’20 will be graduating this May with a B.S. in Animal Science. She is the first, first-generation college graduate from her Korean-Moroccan family and her family could not be more proud. Karima was an outstanding student in high school, receiving five scholarships including the John and Abigail Adams scholarship, the Holt & Bugbee Foundation Scholarship, and the Tewksbury Class of 1986 Through the Years Memorial Scholarship.
As with many college students, Karima learned more about herself throughout her college career. Karima knew she wanted a career that would be beneficial for herself, her family, and the public. Spring semester of her freshman year, she attended a majors fair and was introduced to the VASCI department and could not wait to be a part of the animal science major.

Karima was drawn to UMass Amherst by its world-renowned research facilities, campus diversity, and commitment to sustainability. She found her place in the Asian American Student Association (AASA). At the beginning of her sophomore year Karima became Treasurer and Assistant Activities coordinator for one of the largest cultural residential student organizations on campus. Having played competitive volleyball throughout high school, it was no surprise that she made consistent runs to the “TopGun” intramural volleyball finals. But being a regular athlete comes with the risk of injury. Sustaining a concussion in her final semester of academics, Karima took recovery seriously and has been able to stay on track for her academics.

The summer before Karima’s junior year, she became an assistant for the Albertson Fish Lab, Karlstrom Fish Lab, and biology department. Her main responsibilities included taking care of the fish rooms and the cichlids and zebra fish. Every weekday during the summer of 2018, she recorded water system readings and any abnormal fish behavior. This research assistantship provided Karima with experience working in a Biosafety Level 2 Laboratory.

As with most Animal Science majors, Karima’s passion for her subject comes from a love for animals. She became a regular volunteer at the Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem, Massachusetts one of New England’s largest no-kill animal shelters where she was responsible for caring for dogs and cats. Animals arriving at the shelter occasionally have contagious diseases including coccidian, giardia and others which required that Karima wear protective personal equipment while caring for these animals and providing them with an enriched environment.

Karima’s love for laboratory research blossomed during her experience with the Canine Tumor Project. The Canine Tumor Project is part of research program being conducted by Kathleen Arcaro, Ph.D. The main objective of the project is to develop a bank of canine tumors and cell lines for research in the treatment and prevention of mammary cancer. Karima has been actively involved in all aspects of this project including outreach to veterinary hospitals/clinics to request donated tumors, processing tumor samples, and establishing a canine mammary cell line. She is presently working with VASCI junior, Grace McBrien to update the project’s website.

While working on the Canine Tumor Project Karima was also enrolled in research Animal Management and Fundamentals in Veterinary and Biomedical Laboratory techniques. These courses gave her exposure to laboratory work with animals. She fell in love with the idea of handling animals while conducting research. Going forward it is Karima’s goal to become a Laboratory Animal Technologist.