Editor’s Note: Despite the necessary adjustment to virtual instruction for part of this semester, more than 6,000 talented Fresno State students will earn their degrees in May and move on to become the next generation of leaders in the Central Valley and beyond. While every hardworking graduate deserves to be recognized, for the rest of the semester we will be sharing the inspiring stories of graduates like this one who have achieved at the highest levels or have overcome remarkable challenges. As University President Joseph I. Castro previously announced, the University looks forward to celebrating all of its deserving graduates at an in-person ceremony at a later date when it is deemed safe to do so.
While many 9-year-old children play 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 unchanged residency status.
In school, Rajasekaren, who is from Visalia, learned to balance her Indian roots and American culture. She admits the cultural and language differences were extremely difficult. The sacrifices her family made to come to America motivated her to focus on her studies. From an early age, Rajasekaren’s goal was to become a physician. Her hard work and dedication in school paid off when she was accepted to the Smittcamp Family Honors College at Fresno State and received the President’s Scholarship. Now, Rajasekaren will graduate and head to medical school.
Majoring in biology with a minor in philosophy, Rajasekaren joined Dr. David Lent’s lab during her freshman year 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. Rajasekaren presented her research with her lab partner at the Central California Research Symposium and the Summer Graduate Fair Symposium at UCLA.
“Anindita has devoted a tremendous amount of time developing her research, which will aid in the discovery of improved treatment options for Alzheimer’s,” Lent said.
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.
Throughout her undergraduate career, Rajasekaren 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 band, she introduced Gilroy to Indian music. The style of music was unfamiliar to Gilroy, but he loved it and decided to incorporate it in his new composition of a new marching band field show titled, “Mumbai Utsava.”
As Rajasekaren’s 21st birthday approached, she realized that she would not receive a green card through her family’s application. She met with an immigration lawyer and prepared for an F-1 student visa. More than 50% of medical schools in America do not accept students without a residency status, she said. Despite the bleak odds, Rajasekaren did not give up.
“Although Anindita has lived with her family in the U.S since she was in fourth 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,” said Dr. Saeed Attar, director of the Smittcamp Family Honors Program. “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 Upstate Medical University in New York, which only accepts 15 to 20 students per year. She was overjoyed when she was called for an interview. During the 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, which prequalified her for the program regardless of her legal status.
Rajasekaren received her student visa and will attend Upstate Medical University. She hopes to make a significant impact on finding solutions for diseases like Alzheimer’s.