Jad Nasrini ’14 is helping to discover how to make astronauts more alert and aware in outer space. As a clinical research assistant at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, he works with a team developing a cognitive test battery called “Cognition” for the National Space Biomedical Research Institute. He also studies how sleep (or lack thereof) can affect people’s performance and overall health. He and his team collect information about sleep patterns and cognitive performance, and ultimately, they hope to better understand how the biological clock works.
Born and raised in Syria, Jad has traveled a long way to pursue these lofty goals, and it was a Rider faculty member who started him on this path. While he was in high school, he met a faculty member of Rider visiting Syria on a Fulbright scholarship. The faculty member encouraged him to apply to Rider, and in doing so, Nasrini received the Provost Merit Scholarship. “That made the difference between me being able to afford to come to America or not,” he says.
Though at first skeptical of staying in the States so far away from his family, he soon discovered another home at Rider. “I had such a fantastic experience. I met professors who have shaped the person I am, and the experiences I had were so impactful, and so I stayed.”
However, two years into his studies, the war in Syria erupted. The situation seriously deteriorated, and it came to a point where his family could no longer afford to assist with his expenses. Nasrini realized that he might have to drop out of school and leave the country. He turned to Rider for help. “I met with the VP of enrollment. I told him how much I loved this school and valued my education, but that my family was in financial distress.
He said, ’We’ll see what we can do.’ They then helped me to get a community outreach grant.” In addition, Nasrini’s research advisor in neuroscience, Dr. Todd Weber, recommended that he apply for the Merck Award and guided him through the very competitive process of writing a grant proposal. With his help, Nasrini received the Merck Undergraduate Science Endeavors (MUSE) scholarship, donated by Merck and awarded by the Independent College Fund of New Jersey.
Assistance from Dr. Weber and other faculty allowed him to remain at Rider, and last May, Nasrini graduated summa cum laude from Rider with baccalaureate honors as a double major in behavioral neuroscience and psychology. He hopes to return to graduate school after a few years in the field to pursue his Ph.D. and continue his important research.
He remains truly grateful for his time at Rider. “Honestly, the only reason I work in a field that I love is because of Rider. My experience there, the professional connections I made and the research I participated in made everything that I have now possible.”