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Mideast Tragedy Claims Alumna

An NC State alumna returning home after visiting family in Tehran is among the 176 passengers and crew killed in the crash of a Ukrainian airliner.

headshot of Karami with black background.
Bahareh Karami earned a Master of Science in environmental engineering in 2012. She died Jan. 8 in a plane crash in Tehran. Photo by André O. Brown.

When she arrived at NC State in 2010 to work on a master’s degree in environmental engineering, Bahareh Karami struggled with some of the lab work.

“She initially had a tough time in grad school,” remembers her mentor, Professor Francis de los Reyes. “But she stuck to it and I was so proud of her when she graduated.

“She had a bright future ahead of her.”

That future was cut short Jan. 8 when Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 crashed shortly after takeoff in Tehran. Karami 33, was aboard the Boeing 737, traveling to her home in Newmarket, Ontario, after visiting family in her native Iran. All 176 passengers and crew members died in the crash.

De los Reyes says he often points to Karami as an example to students who are having difficulties with their studies.

“Even when it was hard, she persevered,” he says. “She was an optimistic, joyful person; always positive. She never gave up.”

Karami, who spoke four languages, earned a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering at the University of Tehran in 2009, then received an international certificate in health, safety and environmental training from the United Nations Association of Iran.

At NC State, she volunteered as a research assistant on two water treatment projects and joined the nonprofit North Carolina Section of the American Water Works Association and the North Carolina Member Association of the Water Environment Federation.

After graduation, she worked as a civil engineer at Black & Veatch in Toronto for five years, then took a job as a design technologist with the Regional Municipality of York. In her spare time, Karami volunteered with a children’s charity.

Flags at York Region facilities were lowered to half-staff to honor Karami.

‘I Was So Lucky’

In the introduction to her master’s thesis, Karami thanked her family, professors, fellow students and college staff for their support. “I was so lucky to have worked in one of the best environmental engineering labs under the supervision of one of the best lab managers,” she wrote.

Students at NC State continue to build on her research project, which examined a novel approach for inducing aerobic granulation in wastewater treatment.

De los Reyes says Karami kept in touch with him after graduation, writing to him in 2014 after viewing his TED Talk online. In 2016, she returned to Raleigh for a visit.

“We had a nice discussion,” he says. “She was accomplishing a lot and moving up in her profession. One of the joys as an adviser is to see the change in students over the years.

“We’re all devastated.”

Editor’s note: On Jan. 11 Iran announced that its military shot down Flight 752 by mistake. President Hassan Rouhani offered condolences to grieving families and promised an investigation.