Putting Her Mind To It - Alexandria Zakrzewski '08

Putting Her Mind To It

Ali Zakrzewski '08 at the office
You might call alumna Alexandria (Ali) Zakrzewski '08 a real brainiac. She is passionate about understanding the structure and function of the human brain. That passion has launched her on a career path that will allow her to make meaningful contributions to the field of psychology through scientific research.

After graduating from Saint Mary’s, Zakrzewski decided to go into psychology research to prepare herself for graduate school studies in cognitive psychology. She will be attending University at Buffalo, part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system, in the fall to begin her doctorate work.

Now, Zakrzewski works as a research assistant at Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute with the Albert Einstein Healthcare Network in Philadelphia, Pa. She works on two longitudinal studies that look at functional outcomes in patients with traumatic brain injury.

For both projects, Zakrzewski conducts interviews and neuropsychological testing with patients while they are in the hospital and annual follow-up interviews one year after their discharge. She has also helped to construct a shared database that allows the Moss research staff to share results with collaborators in Denmark. Not bad for an alumna just two years out of college.

How did Zakrzewski learn the ins and outs of psychological research? Her coursework at Saint Mary’s had something to do with it. “I learned through coursework that required hands-on experience,” says Zakrzewski, who double-majored in psychology and philosophy. Instead of just reading about how to conduct a study, she was able to carry them out in courses like Research Methods with Professor Karen Chambers, independent research she conducted under the direction of Professor Catherine Pittman, and her senior seminar with Professor Becky Stoddart.

Zakrzewski was also awarded a Student Independent Study and Research (SISTAR) Grant along with her research partner, psychology professor Tom Parisi. It was Parisi who inspired Zakrzewski’s love of neuropsychology. “He helped me better understand and define what it was that I wanted to know about the field of psychology and its relationship with neuroscience and philosophy of the mind,” says Zakrzewski.

Her experiences in the lab taught Zakrzewski the skills she needed to approach her research with confidence. Data collection, data entry, and data analysis are no small task when it comes to brain research. Zakrzewski’s work is making a difference in the field of cognitive psychology, contributing to scientists’ constantly evolving understanding of the brain.