Using the metaphor of a puzzle, neuroscientist Divya Sagar, PhD '15, observes that researchers like herself have "all these pieces" of information about the brain. "It's just a matter of connecting the dots and putting them in the right place." Fortunately, Dr. Sagar has become an adept puzzle-solver when it comes to the human brain. Sagar, who received her doctoral degree in neuroscience from the College of Medicine's Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Professional Studies, also has a keen interest in immunology. For her doctoral thesis, she focused on multiple sclerosis and its animal model, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis.
Why did you choose to study neuroscience at Drexel?
I chose to study neuroscience at Drexel University for a number of reasons. The wide-ranging faculty research interests and strong department funding made me feel confident that I would find a research project that best fits my personal interests and careers goals.
Philadelphia is a vibrant city, home to passionate sports fans, tasty food, and a lively night life. It is also very affordable and its central location to NYC, Baltimore, and Washington DC makes it easy to visit friends and family.
During my interview process, I was very impressed with the Drexel graduate students I met with. The students had multiple publications, were articulate in describing their projects, and had only good things to say about the program. My interaction with these students convinced me that Drexel's program put an emphasis on training quality scientists.
What do you like best about the neuroscience program?
Drexel's neuroscience graduate program is constantly evolving to best serve its students. The faculty greatly value student feedback regarding all aspects of graduate training and use the feedback to improve the graduate student experience and training. Furthermore, faculty members are always willing to assist students with their coursework and research. This unique collaborative atmosphere is one of the best aspects of the neuroscience program.
What kind of research and/or community service have you done through Drexel and why do you think it's important?
My research project explores how disease/injury-related challenges, such as exposure to neurotoxicants or mechanical trauma, affect neuron function. This research aims to elucidate the mechanisms underpinning neurological ailments that plague millions of people ranging from military veterans to athletes.
My activities since starting at Drexel also extend beyond the laboratory. I have served on the Graduate Student Association where I work with students and faculty to enhance the Drexel graduate student experience, and I am a counselor for the annual Drexel neuroscience summer camp for high school students. More recently, I have teamed up with students and scientists from other Philadelphia institutions to organize an event called Pint of Science, a festival that aims to deliver interesting and relevant cutting-edge science talks in an accessible format to the public. The festival takes place over three days simultaneously in multiple places around the world. I feel it is important to actively participate in University and community activities so we can use what we have learned to improve the lives of others.
What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation, I wish to continue research at the Department of Defense, where I can use what I have learned at Drexel to help veterans and active duty soldiers suffering from the neurological wounds of combat. I also hope to find opportunities to use my experiences and expertise to improve science policy and biomedical research funding.
Anand was also profiled in the Summer/Fall 2014 issue of the College of Medicine's Alumni Magazine, in an article called "Science Influences Everything." [PDF]