Humans of CSI

Get Psyched With Aishwarya Udayan!

CSI Junior Finds Culture in Her Career Path

By: Olivia Frasca

Udayan is conducting research on autism at the Institute For Basic Research. Credit: Olivia Frasca

Studying psychology is a natural choice for Macaulay CSI junior Aishwarya Udayan. “The culture that I had most of my foundations in is community-based,” she says. “Helping the other person is a very natural thing.”

Udayan went to high school in Queens and knew she wanted to stay close to home when she applied to college. She lived near private universities but felt they weren’t cost-effective for her career plan.

“CUNY impacted my choice a lot. My brother was a CUNY student. The reason why I chose the College of Staten Island was because I knew I wanted to go into psychology.”

Udayan was impressed with the psychology program at CSI and the Macaulay Honors College. CSI is also the only CUNY school that offers a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. 

Udayan is currently doing independent research at the Institute For Basic Research (IBR) just outside of campus. In a behavioral pharmacology lab, her experiments focus on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). 

She runs tests and observations on mice that exhibit behaviors of ASD. Her thesis is neuroscience-based and a great start for what she wants to study after graduation. 

“You need some of neuroscience to understand the psychological parts that are happening in this model of autism,” she adds about her work at the IBR. 

Udayan is aiming for graduate school and wants to become a clinical psychologist. But she wasn’t always sure this was the right path.

She considered careers in education and computer science but realized they weren’t her calling. In her junior year of high school, she took a psychology class and it clicked. 

Udayan’s studies were also influenced by her family. “In Indian culture, we do a lot of things with our extended family. Most of my cousins and even my aunts are all in the medical field.”

The flexibility of a career in clinical psychology spoke to her. “You could be in a hospital, you could be in a school, you could be doing research, you could be teaching, and you could be at the workplace.” 

Udayan is minoring in American Sign Language (ASL) and studio art. Her minors weren’t preplanned. 

She wanted to take a language in college and chose ASL because one of her friends in high school was hard of hearing. “She started teaching me how to do the alphabet in sign language. And I was like, you know what, I know [how to sign] a-b-c-d, so I might as well just continue.” 

As for studio art, she took a painting class with her close friend. Udayan admits that art was intimidating to her, as she had more experience with craft. 

The manual labor involved in studio art is calming for Udayan. Credit: Olivia Frasca

Her first project in painting class was a challenge because she was scared of using color. “My mentality was, if I use color and I make a mistake, I can’t change it,” Udayan says. “The thing is, you could change it.”

She realized that her art classes were therapeutic. Although these classes involve a lot of manual labor, the stress she feels is temporary. “You’re engaging your mind and your body at the same time and I feel like that’s the more soothing part of it.”

Udayan lives a few blocks away from campus. She found her roommate just before graduating high school. 

Although her family lives in Long Island, Udayan tries to stay on Staten Island during the weekends. She catches up on chores, shops, and tries new food with her roommate, who is more familiar with the island.  

Udayan and her family moved from the capital of India, New Delhi, to New York City seven years ago. Living in both northern and southern regions of India throughout her childhood, she is no stranger to tropical climate.

She says that Indian street food tastes less authentic in the U.S. compared to where she grew up because it’s missing the heat of tropical climate. 

“Because there are more heat and moisture in the air [in India], the spices are more intense there,” Udayan states. “It’s a reflection of the culture. There’s a heat, so there’s a heat in our culture, too.”

Udayan knows the community-based culture she grew up in plays a guiding role in her life. She brings elements of this culture to her relationships, art, and career path in America.


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