2024 Class of Scholars Join Professionals in Government at Annual Conference
On Saturday, October 21, 2023, the Governor’s STEM Scholars welcomed its tenth class to the STEM in Government Conference. As a program of the Research & Development Council of New Jersey, The Governor’s STEM Scholars provides high-achieving high school and college students with a 360° view of New Jersey’s STEM economy.
Scholars attended the day-long event at the Richard Weeks Hall of Engineering at Rutgers University in Piscataway where they learned about STEM career opportunities in state and federal government. Scholars were welcomed by Rutgers’ Dean of Engineering Alberto M. Cuitiño, Ph.D.
The Scholars learned about STEM careers in the government sector from panelists Michael Geraghty, the Director of Cybersecurity and Chief Information Security Officer for the State of New Jersey; Samuel Joisil, STEM Program Manager at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Armaments Center at Picatinny Arsenal; Capt. Jean O’Brien, U.S. Navy, Retired; and Nick Procopio, Ph.D., Director of the Division of Science and Research at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The panelists discussed the opportunities and challenges to working in research and STEM careers within the governmental sector and provided real-world advice to support the students as they embark on their own STEM journeys. 2024 Scholar Claire Jiang was moved by Dr. Procopio’s advice that “if you stop looking for opportunities, they’ll stop being there.” Read more of Claire’s reflections from the day here.
Dr. Kathleen Scotto, Ph.D., Vice Chancellor for Research and Research Training and Vice Dean of Graduate Studies, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, and Research & Development Council of New Jersey Board Member discussed the importance of building strong relationships with mentors to support your STEM career. Dr. Scotto discussed the importance of finding mentors that support different aspects of your life and career, as not all mentors can support you in all your needs. This sentiment was expressed in 2024 Scholar Hayden Schechter’s reflections from the conference. You can read them here.
New Jersey State Senator and physicist Andrew Zwicker, Ph.D. spoke with Scholars about the role that legislators play in crafting laws that are based in scientific research. He shared examples of legislation that he has crafted that are evidence-based, discussed the importance of coalition building in building consensus, and encouraged the students to take political action to enact the changes that they would like to see in the world.
The final panel of the day included current and former Eagleton Science and Politics Fellow, a program by the Eagleton Institute of Politics and Rutgers – New Brunswick, which places Ph.D.-level scientists and engineers in New Jersey legislative and executive branch offices. Panelists included Shin-Yi Lin, Ph.D., Program Manager, New Jersey Department of Human Services; Andrew McAllister, Ph.D., Assistant Director for Member Development and Technology, New Jersey Assembly Majority Office; Ian McLaughlin, Ph.D., Vice President of Government Affairs, BioNJ; and Indrani Pal, Ph.D. at the NJ Board of Public Utilities. The panelists discussed the behind-the-scenes works to develop and implement policy at a state level.
Dr. Karla Esquilín-Lebron, Research Advisor for the Governor’s STEM Scholars and Microbiology Teaching Instructor at Rutgers University discussed research basics and provided an overview of the research project.
The Rutgers University School of Engineering provided Scholars with tours of labs and facilities throughout Weeks Hall. Scholars learned about the ten majors within the Engineering School and saw demonstrations from a number of Rutgers professionals.
All the Scholars will come back together in January for the STEM in Academia conference held at Princeton University.