A Love of Research Leads to Rewarding Career
Growing up in Kolkata, India, Meenakshi Das Lala Rozenstrauch, ’11, was always interested in research, psychology and medicine. Both of her parents are physicians in India, and Meenakshi decided to apply to colleges in the United States so that she could major in psychology, a field that was stigmatized in India. She ultimately was accepted by Kent State and received several scholarships including the President’s Scholarship, Honors Scholarship, Senior Honors Thesis Fellowship Scholarship and an undergraduate research grant. “The research that was happening in Kent really excited me, and I wanted to work with the professors,” said Meenakshi.
Meenakshi has recently reengaged with Kent State as a member of the Brain Health Research Institute Advisory Board and was a part of the recent Neuroscience Symposium during which Kent State alumni were featured as speakers and presenters. She enjoyed interacting with Ph.D. students and nurses from different brain health fields. “Everyone was very interested in learning more about research careers,” she said. “It was most enjoyable to hear their stories and their experiences.”
After graduating from Loreto House in Kolkata in 2007, Meenakshi moved to Kent, Ohio, to begin her studies. She was very impressed by the admissions process. “The communication from the international admissions group was very personalized and encouraging even though I was halfway across the world,” she said. She lived on and off campus during her time at the university and served as a resident advisor (RA) for a few years.
Meenakshi thoroughly enjoyed her KSU experience and was very grateful for the scholarship support that helped make it possible. “I got a full scholarship, and that was an immense motivation to put in 110 percent for the opportunity I received in recognition of my hard work in high school,” said Meenakshi.
She enjoyed campus activities and meeting friends from every walk of life in addition to her many hours of honors college classes. “The professors were impactful, and the learning experience was beyond textbooks. The people and professors I met in my classes shaped my love for psychology and curiosity in research,” she said. She credits her best friends with helping her understand American culture and, in return, she shared her Indian culture with them.
She recalls memories of fun Sunday lunches with her best friend, Melissa Hossom Miller, ’11, who was a resident advisor in the dorm with her. Meenakshi also worked as a security guard during her sophomore year. “Part of my job was to provide a secure environment to other students, which was humorous as I was only five foot three inches tall,” she said.
“KSU has incredible professors who are willing to teach, mentor and guide you in the research field.”
Several of her professors and advisors had a significant impact on Meenakshi during her time at Kent State. “Ted McKown was my international student advisor and always took the time to answer any questions I had, from my first day at KSU when I was a lost international student,” Meenakshi said. “He’s been a constant mentor and friend beyond my years at KSU and has provided immeasurable support to many international and transfer students at KSU.”
She also has praise for Dr. Srinivasan Vijayaraghavan, who was her honors thesis principal investigator. “He believed in me to complete an honors thesis in molecular biology, which was out of my comfort zone,” she said. “He mentored and encouraged me throughout my thesis research project, providing me with invaluable constructive criticism and novel ideas.”
In her pursuit of a research career, Meenakshi spent countless hours in the lab. “The research labs were my safe place. I wanted to give up every day. But constant support from my mentors kept me going and encouraged me to seek out opportunities in research and beyond when I had no idea what I was walking into. That’s what has helped me stay strong and only look forward.”
Today, she is research regulatory and compliance program manager at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City and a research platform specialist at YuzuLab, StudyPages, which is a San Francisco-based tech startup focused on building next generation digital platforms for clinical research recruitment and engagement. Prior to her current position, she also worked at Weill Cornell Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center and at the Brain Trauma Foundation. Meenakshi and her husband Dr. Adam Rozenstrauch met in New York City and live there with their two fish – Sushi and Sashimi.
She appreciates the role her Kent State mentors have played in her career path. “We talked a lot about what it’s like in the real world - responsibilities, facing hard situations, dealing with conflicts, focusing on positivity and work life balance,” said Meenakshi. “I am fortunate I can still reach out to them when I have doubts or am unsure about certain decisions. The experiences my mentors shared with me helped me face the real world with more confidence and little worries.”
Meenakshi is looking forward to her new role as a member of the Brain Health Research Institute Advisory Board. “Every research area in which I’ve been involved, including neurology, cardiology, psychiatry and oncology, features clinical trials that require human interaction and an understanding of brain health,” Meenakshi said. “This research requires a level of understanding of a human being who is desperate to enroll in a clinical trial for a rare disease, and researchers need to understand their mental state and mental health in order to conduct a successful trial. Brain health is omnipresent in every aspect of healthcare.”
Her advice to current students is to start engaging in research early in their collegiate experience. “KSU has incredible professors who are willing to teach, mentor and guide you in the research field. Whether you want to go into industry or academic research, they are open to discussion. Recognize the resources and take the initiative to make the most of them,” she said.