Sareena Karim ’22: Research-inspired entrepreneurship

Sareena Karim ’22, Bioengineering major

If there’s one thing that research has taught Sareena Karim, it’s to have an open mind.

Karim, whose mother has multiple sclerosis, had long targeted a career in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. She came to Lehigh as a bioengineering major with an entrepreneurship minor, and as a RARE scholar. The Rapidly Accelerated Research Experience is a four-year program that provides students from backgrounds underrepresented in STEM with experiential learning opportunities meant to accelerate their development as scientists. As a sophomore, she began working with Lesley Chow, an assistant professor of bioengineering and materials science and engineering. Karim was part of the Chow Lab team designing tissue scaffolds that promote tissue growth when she had a lightbulb moment for her haircare startup, Foli-Q.

“My sisters and I are all mixed, and we’ve always struggled to find products that actually fit us,” says Karim. “With Foli-Q, I analyze a customer’s hair, and based on that analysis, pair specific ingredients for their hair’s optimum health.”

The company is currently in beta, and Karim is planning for a formal launch after she graduates. It’s a path that never would have materialized without the research skills she developed in Chow’s lab, and what she calls “idea thinking.”

“Realizing that I want to run a business meant taking a step back from what I initially came to do, and figuring out who I am,” she says. “I’m definitely a scientist and an engineer, but I’m a creative scientist and engineer.”

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This profile is part of Resolve Magazine's Soaring Together series.

Photography by Douglas Benedict/Academic Image