EDI Spotlight: Jenna Merenstein



Jenna Spotlight


What is your role at BIAC and what does a typical day look like for you?

I am a Postdoctoral Associate working in the Madden Lab. A typical day for me mostly involves my favorite thing – research! I am responsible for data quality control, data management, and statistical analyses of cognitive and neuroimaging data from adults across the lifespan. Upon completing data analyses, I am responsible for writing manuscripts of our scientific findings and submitting them to peer-reviewed journals. As a postdoc, I have no teaching duties and have very few meetings to attend. The few meetings I do attend involve service activities for the Duke University Postdoc Association, the BIAC EDI committee, and my mentoring/leadership role in the Duke Cognitive Neuroscience Research Internship.

You are currently a member of BIAC’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Committee. What inspired you to get involved?

I joined the EDI committee because I represent a demographic not traditionally found in academia (first- generation, low socioeconomic background) and I am passionate about helping decrease the entry barriers for other individuals who want to pursue research opportunities. I am also committed to helping connect local NC communities with Duke academic communities to keep the community aware of our research endeavors and to help conduct community-informed research (i.e., pursuing research on topics that the community feels are important to them).

Do you have a moment or experience when the need for improving equity, diversity, and inclusion in an academic or research setting felt especially urgent or important to you personally that you could share?

Reaching this stage of my career would not have been possible without the support of good mentors. My mentors have helped me understand what is expected of me as a scientist and helped me navigate the “hidden curriculum” of academia so that I can be more a more successful scientist. By facilitating my access to this type of information, their efforts have also helped make academia a more equitable environment for me to work in. I look forward to providing this same type of mentorship to team members in my own lab one day.

What do you see as the top challenges and opportunities for BIAC (or the University) over the next year?

A potential challenge for BIAC is that the neuroimaging field continues to push the limits of MR methodology, and this makes it difficult to ensure continuity in neuroimaging data acquisition across different cohorts and datasets. This simultaneously represents one of the biggest opportunities for BIAC since they are a highly interdisciplinary center with a close relationship to GE. Therefore, some of the best and most advanced future MRI protocols may start here!

Where do you see yourself in five years?

My ultimate career goal is to become an assistant professor of psychology at an R1 (research-intensive) institution. In five years, I hope to have successfully landed a tenure-track job and be in the process of starting my own laboratory of neurocognitive aging. (Wish me luck!).

What’s something many people may not know about you?

I got married in the desert outside of Las Vegas, Nevada! My husband and I planned a big Colorado mountain wedding that was supposed to take place in July 2020, which we obviously cancelled due to the pandemic. Instead, we stuck with our original date and eloped in the Valley of Fire. It was 124 degrees outside, but it was a beautiful day nonetheless! Attached is a photo of my husband and I from our delayed honeymoon in Bonaire in the Caribbean Netherlands, December 2022.

What passions or hobbies do you have outside of Duke/Classes?

When I am not working on my research, you can catch me in the outdoors and/or hanging with my fur babies. I am an avid nature lover, sunset lover, and mountain lover. I love hiking and practicing photography on my DSLR camera. I have two dogs (Maxwell, Moose) and two cats (Atlas, Dabs). I am also a European car enthusiast and enjoy attending local cars and coffee events, including the massive one in Morrisville that takes place each month.

Any other fun facts about yourself that you might want to share with us?

I was born in Annapolis, Maryland, so naturally, I am obsessed with fresh seafood, and especially a lump blue crab cake with tons of Old Bay seasoning :)