Dr. Nadia Chaudhri has passed on, but her name reckons among the most prominent voices advocating for women’s participation in the STEM field. Originally from Karachi, she continued her BSc. from Franklin and Marshall College, Pennsylvania and specialized in the field of neuroscience. There, she has to her credit winning the Willamson Medal as the first female recipient in college for her outstanding academic performance. She later earned a PhD in neuroscience from University of Pittsburg, and became a post-doctorate fellow at University of San Francisco. She joined Concordia University as a faculty member in 2010 where she contributed towards the study of brain processes and the disorders caused by drugs and alcohol abuse. She also served as a mentor for many young people aspiring to enter into the field of neuroscience research. In her dream for making systems more appreciative of the bright minds entering into the field, she set up an award for the under-represented who often are barred by the system and feel left-out.
Besides advocating for the cause of young scholars, she also took on to the social media to sensitize other women about the risk of having ovarian cancer (from which she herself suffered from) and stressed on the need for its early screenings. She often narrated her ordeal of late diagnosis as a lesson for others to not ignore any warning signs or suspicion. Many people followed her for advice, comfort or getting information on Nadia Chaudhri Wingspan Award that she advocated for. Even while she lived her final days in a palliative care unit, her spirited tweets and acts showed her compassion for others also facing their end of life. Through her actions, she gave others an inherent message of not letting despair come in the way of making their journey in this world more meaningful and beautiful.
Her life has inspired many, including a member of the parliament in Quebec, Jennifer Macarone has dedicated a Medal of the National Assembly of Quebec in her honor.
Aaron Johnson, the Chair of the Department of Psychology of Concordia University remembers Dr. Chaudhri in the following words:
“Nadia was an international leader in the study of neurobiology of substance use disorders and relapse, and her innovative research led to major discoveries in the field. However, perhaps her greatest accomplishment was working with the students in her lab and our psychology program — promoting, mentoring and supporting them. Nadia was a true scholar in every sense, and tirelessly did service for the department and the Center for Studies in Behavioural Neuroscience,”
Dr. Chaudhri strongly believed in the importance of education-inclusiveness and understood well the the systematic barriers that people from underprivileged groups suffer from. The barriers to education come in all shapes and forms, whether in Pakistan or a developed country, which fail to acknowledge, include and encourage those having a genuine potential for research, science or arts. There are so many-a-hidden talents and minds in Pakistan, like Dr. Chaudhri herself, who hold the power to enrich our knowledge systems–but the education policies that resist change based on ground realities often keep our bright children and youth barred from access. There is a story for us to learn from Dr. Chaudhri’s incredible journey as an advocate for education.
May her noble, beautiful soul rest in power.