Born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan, Chaudhri applied to Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania when she was 17 years old. The college sent its dean of admissions to Pakistan to interview applicants, including Chaudhri for her Bachelor of Science.
She was offered a full scholarship that helped her pay the yearly $31,000 USD tuition, room and board at the college. When she graduated, Chaudhri became the first female recipient of the Williamson Medal, awarded to one member of the senior class for outstanding academic and extracurricular achievement.
Later, Chaudhri earned a PhD at the University of Pittsburgh and became a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California San Francisco.
“When I gave talks or presentations, people often commented on my accent instead of my science,” Chaudhri recalls about her experience as a graduate student.
“When I pierced my nose, something I did to celebrate being Pakistani, a senior female faculty member told me that the piercing would prevent me from getting a faculty position.”
Chaudhri joined Concordia’s Faculty of Arts and Science in 2010 where she led an active research lab fuelled by student mentorship. “But visiting speakers, invariably older white men, would ask me whose lab I was in,” she says.
“The cumulative effects of having to defend your right to be where you are can be demoralizing. The strain of having to do this all the time is one reason why women drop out of science and academia.”
The Nadia Chaudhri Wingspan Award
An advocate for emerging scholars from diverse backgrounds, Chaudhri recently launched a successful GoFundMe fundraiser for young scientists to participate in the annual Research Society on Alcoholism conference. The fund has amassed $193,000 USD to date.
“Despite all the challenges of her diagnosis and treatment, Nadia has continued to be an inspiration to so many,” says Krista Byers-Heinlein, a Department of Psychology colleague. Together, Chaudhri and Byers-Heinlein launched PsycHacks, a space for students to discuss topics such as work-life balance, mental health and career development.
“The Wingspan Award is her vision to create a lasting impact despite her terminal diagnosis — a legacy that will concretely benefit the careers of emerging scholars from diverse backgrounds who want to study behavioural neuroscience at Concordia.”
Since receiving her diagnosis, Chaudhri has taken to Twitter to chronicle her journey, including telling her six-year-old son she’s dying from cancer. Her tweets have garnered a tremendous amount of support on the social media platform, where she has more than 44,700 followers.