GLASSBORO, N.J. — On Saturday, Dec. 14, the Governor’s STEM Scholars, an innovative program developed by the Research & Development Council of New Jersey, held their “STEM in Academia Symposium” at Rowan University.
The symposium introduced 95 of New Jersey’s best and brightest STEM scholars, grades 10 through the doctoral level, to some of New Jersey’s distinguished academic professionals. This year’s diverse class of scholars, who are expected to graduate from the program in May 2020, represent 20 of the 21 counties in the State. Through this program, they are introduced to New Jersey STEM opportunities in government, academia, and industry.
Starting in the Chamberlain Student Center’s Eynon Ballroom with introductory remarks by Rowan University Provost Fellow for Research Dr. Tabbetha Dobbins, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Rowan University, where she studies the relationship between structure and dynamics in composite materials using neutron and X-ray scattering. After the introduction, the director of the Governor’s STEM Scholars program, Dr. Rebecca Lubot, moderated a panel discussion highlighting STEM careers available in academia — careers that extend beyond a traditional professorship.
Dr. Andrew Breitzman spoke about his experiences as associate professor of computer science and research at Rowan University, and Chris Wright, licensing associate in the Princeton University Office of Technology Licensing discussed his decision to leave the bench and assume the responsibility for managing technologies in engineering, computer science, and at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab. Wright meets with faculty and researchers to solicit invention disclosures, sets strategy and evaluates technologies for patentability and commercialization potential, and negotiates with industrial partners to license or spin out Princeton University intellectual property – opportunities that many scholars did not realize are available in the academic sector.
During the panel discussion, Nicole Wodzinski, a member of the Governor’s STEM Scholars Advisory Board, highlighted her work promoting women in STEM. Wodzinski is the director of Project SUPER (Science for Undergraduates: A Program for Excellence in Research) and the director of the Reilly Douglass Engineering Living-Learning Community for first-year women at Rutgers University.
Dr. Kauser Jahan, professor and head of civil and environmental engineering at Rowan University, a Fulbright scholar and a registered professional engineer, also was chosen to participate in the days’ activities in part because of her work at all levels to advance the representation of women and minorities in engineering. This year’s Governor’s STEM Scholars class is 60% women, and the program emphasizes growing the number of women in STEM.
In addition to serving as a panelist, Jahan was one of three Master Class professors who taught during the afternoon portion of the symposium. Along with the other two Master Class professors, Dr. Sagnik Basuray and Dr. Peter Galie, she explained to the scholars how their cutting-edge research fits into the larger work being done in their respective fields. Basuray – whose outreach activities are supported by a National Science Foundation Career Grant in nanobiosensing – demonstrated how his work is extremely relevant to New Jersey and is supported by the New Jersey Water Resources Research Institute.
Galie, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Rowan University, who also holds the distinction of being awarded a National Science Foundation Grant, clearly explained the seemingly counterintuitive “Law of Laplace” to the scholars and introduced them to his research on the blood-brain barrier and vascular patterning.
The Master Classes took place after the keynote speaker, Rowan University Paleontologist Dr. Kenneth J. Lacovara. Lacovara, who discovered the world’s largest dinosaur in Patagonia, talked about his start finding fossils in New Jersey. He’s also the author of the book Why Dinosaurs Matter, and he is widely known for his TED talk. His presentation led to many questions from the scholars as he engaged with the audience. At the conclusion of the symposium, scholars were given a hands-on demonstration of fossils that can be found at the Rowan University Fossil Park. Many of the scholars are looking forward to the next symposium: STEM in Business & Industry, which will be held at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. That symposium will feature a speed-networking session with thought leaders from that sector, including returning representatives from last year’s event, thought leaders from companies such as: IBM, Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Nokia Bell Labs, and Siemens.
For more information about the Governor’s STEM Scholars Program, visit their website at: http://www.govstemscholars.com/