Dr. Vijayaraghavan, or Dr. V, shares her experiences as one of Tulane’s most renowned professors

Meenakshi Vijayaraghavan, known fondly by students as Dr. V, is a bit of a big name on campus. Vijayaraghavan, a senior professor of practice in the cell and molecular biology department, has an influence that spreads far beyond the School of Science and Engineering and has left a lasting impact on her past students. As the primary teacher for CELL 1010, the intro-level course all pre-medical, biology and biochemistry students must take, she has no shortage of past students.

Taylor DeMulling | Senior Staff Photographer

“[Many students] that had already graduated from my courses come in and visit with me, either to check their schedules — sometimes they like to talk to me about it — or tell me if there is a change in their career paths,” Vijayaraghavan said. “So yeah, they always keep in touch. I’m very fortunate that way.”

Vijayaraghavan got her doctorate at the University of Madras in India, with research focusing on environmental carcinogenesis, cancer studies and pediatric nephrology. While pursuing her degree, Vijayaraghavan received a Monbusho Scholarship that led her family to relocate to Japan. There she did research, worked as a teacher and taught herself to speak Japanese — one of the five languages Vijayaraghavan is fluent in.

More recently, she was a recipient of the 2018 Suzanne and Stephen Weiss Presidential Fellows Award, which honors excellence in undergraduate professors. Vijayaraghavan started at Tulane in 2006, after her initial plans to start at Tulane in 2005 were derailed by Hurricane Katrina.

Courtesy of Meenakshi Vijayaraghavan

She has been with the University for 12 years now, introducing cell and molecular biology to enormous lecture classes of almost 200 students each. In addition to CELL 1010, Vijayaraghavan teaches Genetics and a CELL 1010-corresponding service learning. With such large classes, it can be difficult to connect with students in a lasting, individual way, but Vijayaraghavan’s ability to do so is part of what makes her such a memorable member of the Tulane community.

“I could see immediately that Dr. V is passionate about what she does,” sophomore Sloane Clay said. “She gave me every tool I need to succeed in her class, and I felt supported every step of the way.”

While students laud Vijayaraghavan’s teaching abilities, the class’ reputation sometimes precedes her. CELL 1010 is a challenging course, and she admits that the pace and coursework can be difficult but contends that this is by design.

“What I’m doing is bringing everything I can to them in an attempt to make them very, very confident and immensely prepared for the next course in cell or in biomedical engineering or in pre-med,” Vijayaraghavan said. “I want to do as much as I can in the time I have.”

Vijayaraghavan views the class as a foundation for all courses to come, and the feedback she’s gotten from students affirms this. She has even had students currently in medical school reach out to say they appreciate how hard they worked in her class because it made things much easier when they reach high-level courses.

“Dr. V. tests your grit, but she also tests your passion,” sophomore Erin Bender said. “Cell Bio with her was one of the most fulfilling learning experiences I’ve had.”

Courtesy of Meenakshi Vijayaraghavan

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