Fulbright Student Pursues Better Disease Treatment 

Posted on March 05, 2024

Desy Ratansari on a mountain vista

Doctoral student Baiq Desy Ratnasari seeks cures from nature that benefit people around the world. 

Indonesia, made up of over 17,000 tropical islands, is among the richest places on Earth when it comes to biodiversity. Baiq Desy Ratnasari believes that biodiversity could hold a key to treating and curing diseases ranging from malaria to cancer. 

Ratnasari came to UNC Greensboro in August 2023 as part of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. government’s flagship international student and scholar exchange.  

She and the two other Fulbright students on campus, Omar Sufian of Libya and Mostafa Abdelmegeed of Egypt, are “leaders in their fields and disciplines,” says Maria Anastasiou, UNCG’s associate provost and senior international officer.  

“They are highly motivated, and they are deeply engaged in their communities,” she adds. “When they engage with our students and faculty in classrooms and labs, they enrich the academic discourse and research in significant ways.” 

Exploring medicinal potential of natural compounds 

Ratnasari’s goal in coming to UNCG in August 2023 was to learn from one of America’s leading researchers exploring the medicinal potential of compounds derived from nature.  

Under Nicholas Oberlies, the Patricia A. Sullivan Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at UNCG, Ratnasari is pursuing a doctorate in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Ratnasari completed her undergraduate degree at an Indonesian institution, the University of Mataram on Lombok Island, near Bali. From there, she went on to earn a master’s degree at Cardiff University in Wales and became a lecturer at a small pharmacy university on Lombok. 

Searching for solutions at home and abroad 

During her time at UNCG, Ratnasari hopes to learn more from Oberlies about his research isolating and characterizing bioactive compounds from fungi. Specifically, she’ll be exploring compounds that hold potential as anticancer agents.  

And once she returns home, she hopes to see if she can apply the principles and techniques she’s learned here to find compounds that prevent or treat malaria. She’s also interested in gaining additional skills as a teacher and lecturer, so she can teach more students when she returns to Indonesia. 

Finding support and respect from UNCG community 

From the Fulbright experience, Ratnasari says she’s appreciated opportunities to connect with others from various countries and fields. And she’s thankful for the warm welcome she has received from students and faculty members.  

Before arriving in the United States, Ratnasari was concerned for her safety as a Muslim woman who regularly wears a hijab.  

“Thankfully, all my prejudices are not true,” she says. “I was helped by many people from the first day I was here, and people here at UNCG respect me and my beliefs. I am glad to be here.”  

Students and faculty members interested in pursuing Fulbright opportunities overseas can get help with the application process and with connecting with international partners from UNCG’s International Programs Center. Learn more as the center celebrates UNCG Fulbright recipients and international visitors on March 21 from 4-6 p.m. in the Alexander Room of the Elliott University Center. 

Story by Dee Shore
Photography courtesy of Desy Ratnasari 

Fulbright Teaching Excellence and Achievement students gather at the UNCG alumni house.

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