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5 NJIT Students Selected as 2018 Governor's STEM Scholars

5 NJIT Students Selected as 2018 Governor's STEM Scholars

Written by: Julie Jacobs,

Five NJIT students —  Ivan Mitevski, Kiera Nissen, Omar Qari, Priya Rajbabu and Michael Vitti — have been named 2018 Governor’s STEM Scholars, an honor that is providing them with unique opportunities to learn from and network with New Jersey STEM professionals, research organizations, academic institutions and state policymakers. They join their fellow scholars from universities, high schools and academies throughout New Jersey in attending STEM conferences and field trips, and in participating in a team-based research project.

Established in 2013, the Governor’s STEM Scholars program is a public-private partnership between the Governor’s Office, Research & Development Council of New Jersey, New Jersey Department of Education and Secretary of Higher Education. Its ultimate goal is to further develop the state’s pipeline of STEM talent while promoting economic development. Students are chosen as scholars based on their proven leadership qualities and demonstrated interest in STEM.

The scholars from NJIT are a diverse group pursuing a range of majors and careers. Here, we learn a bit about them.

Ivan Mitevski ’18

Newark College of Engineering, College of Science and Liberal Arts, Albert Dorman Honors College

Hometown: Lake Hiawatha, N.J.

Major: Dual applied mathematics and electrical engineering

Career Pursuit: A Ph.D. in applied mathematics with the end goal to work in artificial intelligence and its use in quantitative trading

Activities at NJIT: Co-founder and project director of the NJIT Solar Car Project, treasurer of the NJIT student chapter of IEEE, research in the mathematics and electrical engineering departments

What does being a Governor’s STEM Scholar mean to you? It is recognition of academic excellence in the State of New Jersey. 

What are you involved in as a Governor’s STEM Scholar? I am attending conferences organized by the program, and I am leading a team of five high school students working on a “micromouse” robot. 

How do you think this experience is benefiting you professionally? Networking is definitely the best takeaway from being part of this organization. I have met many people from different disciplines who have shared their career trajectory, and that has expanded my views on my future career. 

2018 Governor's STEM Scholar Ivan Mitevski

Kiera Nissen ’18

Newark College of Engineering, Albert Dorman Honors College

Hometown: Wall, N.J.

Major: Civil engineering

Career Pursuit: A Ph.D. in environmental engineering and becoming a research professor

Activities at NJIT: Vice president of programming for the Residence Hall Association, vice president of fundraising and events for the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, head counselor for the Honors College freshman retreat

What does being a Governor’s STEM Scholar mean to you? It means a lot that I was selected for this prestigious position. I was selected from candidates from all over the sate. 

What are you involved in as a Governor’s STEM Scholar? I will be working with a team of high school students to create a robot that will hopefully be able to detect breaks in pipes and can be used to help isolate where lead is getting into water. 

How do you think this experience is benefiting you professionally? I think it is giving me opportunities to network with individuals and learn more about a subject I do not know exceptionally well — robotics. 

2018 Governor's STEM Scholar Kiera Nissen

Omar Qari ’18

College of Science and Liberal Arts, Albert Dorman Honors College

Hometown: Somerset, N.J.

Major: Biology

Career Pursuit: Attending medical school where I intend to incorporate my interest in research with medical practice

Activities at NJIT: Freshman class representative, secretary and vice president of the Albert Dorman Honors Student Council, secretary for the NJIT Pre-Health Society (helped create the Healthy Heroes health education initiative for Newark elementary students), NJIT Undergraduate Research and Innovation provost summer research fellow, research assistant in biology lab  

What does being a Governor’s STEM Scholar mean to you? I am extremely grateful and inspired by the mentorship I have received from established scientists. The program has also taught me about STEM’s interdisciplinary nature through observing my fellow scholars’ diverse interests. Many of this year’s scholars have accomplished such amazing things and it makes me all the more honored to be a part of this.

What are you involved in as a Governor’s STEM Scholar? I am tasked with leading a yearlong research project with a talented team of high school students. With the valuable help of NJIT Physics Professor Cristiano Dias, my project investigates potential ways to slow the development of Alzheimer’s disease at a molecular level. We hope our research will further our understanding on ways to improve drug development for Alzheimer’s patients.

How do you think this experience is benefiting you professionally? I’ve had the chance to learn about New Jersey’s STEM sectors directly from our state’s leading engineers, policymakers, professors and scientists. It’s given me insight on how to effectively tackle problems that may seem daunting initially. Also, the experience I’ve gained by leading a team on my own research project will prove to be valuable for me.

2018 Governor's STEM Scholar Omar Qari

Priya Rajbabu ’19

Ying Wu College of Computing, Albert Dorman Honors College

Hometown: Raritan, N.J.

Major: Computer science with a minor in business 

Career Pursuit: A master’s in computer science with a specialization in data science and working as a data analyst in the financial industry

Activities at NJIT: Vice president for Women in Computing Society, vice president for the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, layout editor for the Honors College newsletter 

What does being a Governor’s STEM Scholar mean to you? I am really proud to be a Governor's STEM Scholar. Being accepted into the program provides students like me an opportunity to not only work on a research project respective to our field of study, but to also teach and share our knowledge with the high school students in the program. It is also really inspiring to be surrounded by so much talent at the research conferences. 

What are you involved in as a Governor’s STEM Scholar? I lead a team of five other members in a research project I proposed. We are utilizing a dataset from a survey on drug consumption conducted by the State of New York. The goal is to focus on the youth population and identify correlations in the dataset to help us understand trends or patterns in their drug consumption habits. 

How do you think this experience is benefiting you professionally? Being a Governor's STEM Scholar is a recognition that allows me to stand out in a group of people. Recruiters are often intrigued by the program and ask me more about it, which provides me an opportunity to talk about the research project I work on with my group. In addition, I plan on attending graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in computer science, so this experience will help me stand out during the application process. 

2018 Governor's STEM Scholar Priya Rajbabu

Michael Vitti ’20

Newark College of Engineering, Albert Dorman Honors College

Hometown: Annandale, N.J.

Major: Biomedical engineering  

Career Pursuit: Medicine

Activities at NJIT: Lieutenant governor of the Metro Division of Circle K International, STEM mentor at Camden Street School

What does being a Governor’s STEM Scholar mean to you? I have discovered my interest in engineering by continuously challenging myself, by pushing the boundaries of my values, beliefs and capabilities to shape the person I am today. Being a Governor’s STEM Scholar is an opportunity for me not only to perpetually foster these passions I have in STEM, but to also grow as a human being.

What are you involved in as a Governor’s STEM Scholar? My current project for the program involves using quantum mechanics to model microtubules' drug resistance to taxol, a drug used in chemotherapy to bind to the β tubulin subunit of heterodimers to stabilize microtubules, ultimately preventing cancer cells from continuously multiplying. Once this model is accurately refined, my team and I can observe how the attachment of taxol affects energy propagation within these microtubules. 

How do you think this experience is benefiting you professionally? I am building myself support systems, and constructing relationships with the high school students whom I guide in research and lifelong connections with erudite mentors. I have always cherished the state I grew up in, and by becoming actively involved with this program I hope to evolve as a mature, friendly, powerful and knowledgeable human being, prepared to bolster our STEM economy.

2018 Governor's STEM Scholar Michael Vitti