In Reena Glaser’s first year at Princeton, she developed a unique system for picking courses: She went through the course catalogue and took courses in every department that was a mystery to her. “I realized freshman year was my year to explore,” she says. “I would recommend that to anyone coming here.”
After three years, Glaser is now more focused, but the exploration has never really stopped. She is still combining her interest in neuroscience
with her love for the performing arts, and the journey has taken her to some very unexpected places. “I’m so happy where I am now,” she says, “and it’s not where I expected to be.”
Glaser was not a dilettante in the arts when she arrived at Princeton. She competed in tap, ballet, jazz and lyrical dance in high school, devoting about 13 hours a week to dance, and she taught as well. She also played euphonium, a mini-tuba.
At Princeton, she continued with her dance and music, becoming a member of TapCats, a tap dance company, and founding a brass ensemble in freshman year that regularly plays at campus events and in service venues such as nursing homes. She also decided on a lark to try out for theater. That slight detour took her on a whole new journey.
Glaser became a member of Triangle Club, Princeton’s oldest musical theater group, and she became a cast member, membership chair and historian. She tried her hand at directing in “Vagina Monologues,” which was sponsored by the Women's Center
, and Elton John’s musical “Aida,” performed by Princeton’s Black Arts Company: Drama.
She was not a dilettante in the sciences, either. In high school, she worked in a research lab and was a semi-finalist for several years in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology and the Intel Science Talent Search, two of the most prestigious science and math competitions in the country.
At Princeton, she has nurtured the science side of her brain with research in language acquisition and memory effects. Specifically, she is studying a phenomenon called retrieval-induced forgetting, which means that to acquire a certain language skill, you need to suppress another. For example, a person trying to learn an irregular noun or verb has to suppress the regular form of that noun or verb. “The phenomenon has been shown across lots of things, but never in how you learn a language,” she says. If the effect occurs as she postulates, she will then extend her senior thesis research into the neuroscientific mechanisms behind this effect, observing how this phenomenon plays out in the brain.
Her eclectic interests have led her to major in psychology, while pursuing certificates in theater
, neuroscience, and gender and sexuality studies
. Where does she expect these seemingly disparate interests to lead her? Ultimately, Glaser says she would like to pursue healthcare consulting, a profession she believes will allow her to have an impact in the healthcare sector while combining her scientific, entrepreneurial and social interests.