Adithi Jayaraman '24 Wins Keasbey Scholarship

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The psychology major is interested in the human brain and translational research.

Adithi Jayaraman '24 poses in front of a striped curtain
Adithi Jayaraman ’24 says the dean’s area in Baker-Berry Library is probably her favorite spot on campus. (Photo by Katie Lenhart)

Adithi Jayaraman ’24 has been awarded a 2024 Keasbey Scholarship to pursue a master of philosophy degree in cognitive neuroscience at Cambridge University. 

Jayaraman is one of two candidates accepted this year for graduate study in the United Kingdom by the Philadelphia-based Keasbey Memorial Foundation, which was founded in the 1950s by Marguerite Keasbey in honor of her parents. 

Students are selected on a rotating basis from 12 American colleges and universities in the Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states, including Dartmouth, Harvard, Swarthmore, Middlebury, Bowdoin, and Yale. The foundation pays a scholarship for a recipient’s tuition, fees, and living expenses for up to two years of study. 

The most recent Dartmouth student to be awarded the scholarship was Nicholas Norwitz ’18. 

Jayaraman will study psychology and cognitive neuroscience in a year-long program at Cambridge, which will put her on the road to a doctorate. Her ambition is to become a clinical psychologist, researching the neuroscience of mental illness, with a focus on policy and advocacy.

A psychology major and anthropology minor from New Jersey, Jayaraman “models both academic excellence and a true sense of service to others: She is courageous, reflective, and eager to continue driving change in mental health work. We are thrilled that she has received the Keasbey this year,” says Christie Harner, assistant dean of the faculty for fellowship advising.

Jayaraman sat for two Zoom calls with representatives from the Keasbey foundation: the first a group introduction with the other candidates, and the second an individual interview. Both happened to coincide with a family trip in December to see her maternal grandparents in Chennai in southern India.

While there, she experienced both a cyclone, which cut off power to thousands, and a bout of food poisoning that almost sent her to the hospital. The interviews began at 2 a.m. local time. Her older sister put makeup on her so she didn’t look as ill as she felt, and found a formal shirt for her to wear because Jayaraman had forgotten to bring one.

“Just let me get through it,” she told herself, resigning herself to a rejection. Instead, she learned in December that she was one of the two finalists.

“Adithi is a phenomenal student. But what really made her stand out was her willingness to tackle tough issues and topics in a thoughtful, honest, and empathetic way,” says Margaret Funnell, Guarini ’97, the director of Undergraduate Advising and Research and an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, who taught Jayaraman in the classroom.

The brain’s intricate mechanisms have fascinated Jayaraman since she was young. “I always knew I wanted to study the brain,” she says. An MRI image of a brain functions as her computer’s screen saver. She has also relished her study of anthropology, which meshes with her interest in “understanding humans and how we behave.”

She is interested in the relatively recent field of translational research, which seeks to translate basic research findings into concrete practices that benefit humans.

Given the stigma of mental illness and the continuing challenges in treating various psychiatric disorders, “we want to make sure we’re classifying diseases in the best way for the best treatment,” Jamarayan adds.

She takes particular pleasure in reading functional MRI imaging, which measures the activity of the brain as it performs a function or looks at a specific image. “It’s such a cool machine. That’s why I love the brain; it underlies our thoughts, emotions and behaviors.” 

When Jayaraman is not studying or working, she watches Netflix (Fleabag is a favorite), listens to music—ABBA, the Beatles, Queen—and observes the people around her. “And sometimes you just need to pause and not do anything,” she says.

While it is important to understand the brain and its functions, and there is so much more to learn, Jamarayan says, “We will never understand the brain fully, and I don’t think we’re supposed to. Some parts are meant to remain uncharted. The brain is a beautiful mystery that doesn’t need to be touched.”

 More information about the Keasbey and other awards are available through the Fellowship Advising Office.