By Selene Kinder, Communication Specialist, College of Science and Mathematics
Republished from CSMFresno.com
While most children at 9-years old were playing with their toys, Anindita Rajasekaren and her family gathered around the computer to check their green card status. Year after year, they were disappointed by their unchanging residency status.
In school, Anindita learned to balance her Indian roots and American culture. She admits the cultural and language differences were extremely difficult. The sacrifices her family had made to come to America motivated Anindita to focus on her studies. From an early age, her goal was to become a physician. Her hard work and dedication in school paid off as she was accepted to the Smittcamp Family Honors College and received the President’s Honors Scholarship at Fresno State.
At Fresno State, she majored in biology with a minor in philosophy. In her freshman year, she was accepted to join Dr. David Lent’s lab to research Alzheimer’s disease. Within three semesters she was given the opportunity to co-lead her own project examining the disease protein in fruit flies and its effect on spatial memory degeneration. She presented her research with her lab partner at the Central California Research Symposium and the Summer Graduate Fair Symposium at UCLA.
Dr. David Lent comments, “The project Anindita has significantly contributed to is our Alzheimer’s disease research project. Anindita has devoted a tremendous amount of time developing her research, which will aid in the discovery of improved treatment options for Alzheimer’s.”
She had a desire to give back to her community and volunteered at multiple locations, including Kaiser Permanente, Dr. Boyd Johnson Family Medicine, Dr. Stan Feil Ophthalmologist, and Dr. Alex Lechtman Plastic Surgeon.
“Anindita dedicated a significant amount of time towards the pursuit of her education. But if I were only to discuss her as a research student in my lab, I’d be providing an insight into a fraction of what Anindita dedicates her time to in the course of a week. Not only does she spend time furthering her education, but she also spends time volunteering in clinics and hospital to give back to the community,” says Dr. David Lent.
Throughout her undergraduate career, Anindita has made many friends and mentors from different cultures and backgrounds. Her curiosity for life led her to Dr. Gary Gilroy, the Director of Bands at Fresno State. Although her major was in science, she was accepted to be first chair flute in the highest musical ensemble as well as a board member for the band leadership team. During her time in a band, she introduced Dr. Gilroy to Indian music. The style of music was unfamiliar to Dr. Gilroy; however, he loved it and decided to incorporate it in his new composition of a new marching band field show titled, “Mumbai Utsava.”
As Anindita’s 21st birthday approached, she realized that she would not receive her visa through her family’s application. She met with an immigration lawyer and prepared for an F-1 Student Visa. Unfortunately, more than 50% of medical schools in America do not accept students without a residency status. Despite the bleak odds, Anindita did not give up.
Dr. Saeed Attar, one of Anindita’s mentor’s comments, “Although Anindita has lived with her family in the U.S since she was in 4th grade, she has not been able to enjoy the benefits of being a legal resident or citizen due to circumstances that have been completely out of her control. Thus, what may seem to be a handicap for some people, has not stopped her from having big dreams and setting goals to reach them.”
During her junior year, she applied to SUNY-Upstate Medical University, which only guarantees acceptance of 15-20 select students per year. She was overjoyed when she was called for an interview. During her interview, she discovered she was the first Fresno State student to be considered for the program. Shortly after her interview, she received an acceptance letter from the university that pre-qualified her for the program regardless of her legal status.
Anindita received her F-1 Student Visa and will attend medical school in New York at Upstate Medical University. She hopes to make a significant impact on finding solutions for diseases like Alzheimer’s.