Meet Saranya Madan
Degree: BS Psychology ’21
Research Interests: Neural circuits, and brain plasticity
Extracurricular activities: Drexel University Emergency Medical Services (EMS); Drexel American Red Cross; Peer Mentor for Drexel Autism Support Program; Phi Delta Epsilon International Medical Fraternity; Psi Chi International Honor Society in Psychology; STAR Scholars Program; Undergraduate Researcher at Garcia Lab; Clinical ER Volunteer Internship
Awards: Dean's List; Drexel University Honors Program; Scholarship to Gain EMT Certification through the Drexel College of Medicine
Which element of your Drexel experience do you identify with most, and why?
Drexel has given me so many opportunities that I am beyond grateful for. The one experience I identify with the most, though, is being a Drexel student in the city. I love Philadelphia! Coming from the suburbs in Jersey, I was a little nervous to be all by myself at a school in the middle of the city, but Drexel made me feel so welcomed and safe. It was the perfect balance to push me to become more independent and confident in this busy city, while still providing me with the safety net and reassurance of a close-knit campus community. I love the fact that there is always something going on, new people to meet and a pool of networking opportunities. This experience has really helped me explore my interests and grow as an individual.
What led you to choose your major?
I am very interested in neuropsychology and how the biological wiring of the brain can or cannot be responsible for a psychological outcome, as well as in the correlation between mental and physical health. I decided to pick psychology as my major and neuroscience as my minor while staying on the pre-medicine track. Alongside my interest in the body and brain functionality, I have always been curious to know more about developmental disorders, which encouraged me to become a peer mentor for a student with autism through the Drexel Autism Support Program, as well as to get involved in neuroscience research.
Being involved in these convinced me that I made the right decision in choosing psychology as my major. My involvement in Drexel EMS as an EMT, along with hospital volunteering and all my science classes, reassured me that pre-medicine is the right track. Alongside my experiences, I have great advisers and faculty mentors who encourage me every day to follow my dreams. My end goal is to be a doctor, but along the way, I want to help individuals with mental disabilities, poor health or any form of acute or critical distress.
What motivates you?
I am a very goal-oriented individual. I have big dreams and am not afraid to work for them. However, what really motivates me is not just focusing on where I want to be, but also reflecting on how far I’ve come. When I’m stressed, I like to think of everything I have done so far — whether that’s been my role in society or my self-growth. I ground myself first, then reflect on why I have the goals that I do and remind myself of good they will bring. I focus my attention not on being successful, but rather self-efficient. I am hungry for knowledge and new experiences and strive for excellence. All the lessons I’m about to learn by overcoming challenges, the people I’m about to meet and the opportunities I’m going to grab in my journey to achieve my goals — all of these motivate me. Finally, my ability to give back to the community, help individuals around me and motivate others like me, further motivates me. My ambition at Drexel, really can’t wait!
Tell us about any research experiences you’ve had as a Drexel student.
I got involved in research through Drexel’s STAR Scholars program. I worked on a combined project with Dr. Lenhart and Dr. Garcia: I used Drosophila as a model system to address the role of hedgehog signaling in glia-neuron interactions at the larval stages, and then compared it to the mouse model studied in Dr. Garcia’s lab. At the end of the program, I had the opportunity to present my research poster at Drexel’s summer showcase. It was a very proud feeling.
I followed my love for neuroscience by continuing research beyond the STAR program and joining the Garcia lab. There, I work with PhD candidate Steve Hill, helping him projects studying the Central Nervous System in healthy and injured states with a particular focus on the role of astrocytes. Additionally, through Drexel’s RSI volunteer internship program, I help collect data in the ER to contribute to ongoing research efforts to identify and track the care for patient populations who are at high risk of Sepsis.
What advice do you have for a high school student looking for an undergraduate program?
One piece of advice I would give to a high school student choosing a school is to look at the college experience as a whole. While looking for a strong academic program in your area of interest is a good thing to consider, don’t limit yourself to just that. Interests change, and it’s alright to not know what you want to do coming into college. Undergrad is a lot more than just academics, so get involved, explore, make friends and have fun!
When deciding your school, be comfortable with the city where you will live, because the little things like weather, access to easy transportation and other resources really adds up. You will be dedicating the next few years of your life to your undergraduate program, so chose a place that will keep you happy. I really like Drexel because I like being busy and on my feet all the time. But this isn’t for everyone. The fast pace of the quarter system is hard to keep up with, and all the exciting events around the city can sometimes be a distraction. So, it is important to stay focused and know the balance between work and fun.