Ashita Gurnani '10
Center of Excellence on Brain Aging, NYU Medical Center
Ashita Gurnani had always been close to her grandfather, so when little things about his behavior and memory began to change, she was the first one to notice. She located a neuropsychologist — one of the few in their hometown of Mumbai, India — who determined that her grandfather was developing Alzheimer’s Disease.
That was the moment Gurnani decided she wanted to study neuroscience and began her journey to The College of Wooster.
“Neuroscience is not offered at the undergraduate level in India,” says Gurnani, who also knew she wanted a small, liberal arts college. “At that time, neuroscience was not a major at Wooster [it is now], so I had to self-design a major in my sophomore year. The I.S. program was very appealing, because I knew I would be able to steer the major in the direction I wanted to go.”
Gurnani took advantage of multiple research opportunities both on and off Wooster’s campus. She spent part of one summer working in the behavioral neuroscience department at Northwestern University and another in the lab of Wooster alumna Linda Saif at Ohio State’s campus in Wooster. She published an article with Saif as co-author and presented her own research at the Midwestern Psychological Association conference. For her I.S., Gurnani investigated the acute and chronic effects of caffeine on Alzheimer’s related behavior and pathology.
The day before she graduated, Gurnani received a response to an inquiry she had made to the Center of Excellence in Brain Aging at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. Two interviews later, she was working as a project assistant at the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center with Dr. Steven Ferris, and the Pearl Barlow Memory Center with Dr. James Galvin, two of the nation’s top Alzheimer’s researchers.
Her main responsibility is performing memory tests on individuals with Alzheimer’s who are involved in a longitudinal study, as well as on patients as part of the diagnostic process. She also helps recruit new subjects for the study and assists with NIH grant reporting.
This fall, Gurnani will begin applying to graduate schools to pursue her Ph.D. in clinical neurospsychology. As a clinical neuropsychologist, her detailed examinations of the various domains of a patient’s memory, from language to short term to long term, will provide the foundation for a neurologist’s diagnosis.
“I.S. was very empowering for me,” Gurnani says. “When I came to Wooster, I hadn’t really led anything before, but now I feel capable of taking on projects by myself. It really built my confidence. You feel like you can face anything, because Wooster prepared you so well.”