University of Chicago Big Ideas Generator

Our Team

Elena Zinchenko

Director of Research Innovation

Arete, Office of the Vice President for Research and National Laboratories

I love research for its systematic capacity for surprise and beauty. It is also a framework for how to challenge the status quo - something that I have been engaged in my whole life.

Growing up in Northern Siberia, I tried to change the way things were done – I did it by co-founding some of the first non-profit organizations in the area. After coming to the US on a scholarship, I worked with hi-tech startups to push forward the adoption of new technologies. I went to graduate school because cognitive science is reframing some age-old philosophical views about the relation between the mind and the brain. For my doctorate, I studied abstract thinking development in children, and in my post-doctoral studies I worked on determining the brain activation signatures that support metaphoric thinking across lifespan.

The Big Ideas Generator is a novel way to support fledging research ideas that are ambitious and iconoclastic. It speaks to my intellectual passions and my impatience about making things better and more fun.

  • Adjunct Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science, Booth School of Business
  • Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Chicago
  • Ed.D. Human Development and Psychology, Harvard University

Meera Raja

Associate Director of Research Innovation

Arete, Office of Vice President for Research and for National Laboratories

Growing up in a family of scientists and mathematicians, I have always been excited by scientific inquiry. Research gives the opportunity to dream about grand ideas and possibilities, while still allowing for systematic problem solving.  At BIG, I am excited to be a part of a team that places such high value on novel ideas, while helping navigate the challenges that come with these great ambitions. 

Prior to joining the team, I was involved in both the scientific and the business consulting world.  My doctorate work in chemistry involved studying the roles and effects of metals in disease areas.  Being a scientist in the business world, I was able to bring a unique view when helping clients optimize their current vision and assess new opportunities.  These experiences have given me the skills to work through broad problems in diverse settings.

When I am not busy thinking about science, research, and problem solving, you can usually find me running or biking along the lakefront.  I also enjoy cold weather, bad jokes, and good pie. 

  • Post-Doctoral Fellow, Northwestern University 
  • Ph.D. Inorganic Chemistry, Northwestern University
  • B.S. Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign