I’d like to begin by stating that no amount of words could ever be enough to express the honor of attending the Governor’s STEM Scholars’ STEM in Academia Conference held at the Frick Chemistry Lab at Princeton University - the highlight of my rather early STEM career thus far.
Despite such a multifaceted array of resumes and backgrounds, what seems to unite the scientific visionaries that nourish New Jersey’s soil is singular: the fact that their ingenious minds are so open and adaptable to the evolving world of possibilities around them. The keynote of the day was Dr. David MacMillan, James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry at Princeton University and 2021 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry. Dr. MacMillan shared his journey from a small Scottish village to the illustrious Princeton University, and the importance of having a balance between being committed and adaptable. Infused with simplified scientific jargon and witty humor, Dr. MacMillan uniquely documented his journey of discovering asymmetric organocatalysis, or the use of organic catalysts to make reactions “easier and faster with less energy”. This finding would lead him to win the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, sporting a kilt at the prestigious ceremony in honor of his Scottish
According to Dr. MacMillan, wearing a kilt to accept his award symbolized the importance of
individuality and never forgetting his roots. It was a reminder that our roots are what make us
unique. This idea is even more fundamental in STEM. The beauty of diversity and individuality allows for all of the unique perspectives and experiences that will continue to drive the modern world. It’s a lesson that all of us Scholars can take home and cherish, especially being reminded in Dr. MacMillan’s brilliant, tongue-in-cheek manner.
Dr. MacMillan’s speech triggered a montage of internal reflection in me. It brought back memories of being a nine-year-old who questioned everything, invested in the world of science: chemistry, electricity, computers. I went from being just a curious child to finding myself among a group of respected young STEM innovators, seated twenty feet from a Nobel Prize winner at Princeton, the very hub of revolution I’ve dreamed of stepping foot in since the beginning of time.
To say that it was an honor would be an understatement. To say that it was an experience that made the STEM-avid nine-year-old girl with a thirst for knowledge and a lack of concern for society’s expectations proud would be a more suitable description.
Written by Brianna Mosley, 2024 Scholar
Brianna Mosley is a senior in the Applied Math and Science Academy (AMSA) on the Vineland High School (VHS) campus. She has served as a Futures Committee chairperson in the Student Government Association (SGA) and as the Vice President of the National Honor Society in the VHS chapter. She has also received recognition from Vineland High School as a Summa Cum Laude recipient and a President's List recipient from Rowan College of South Jersey (RCSJ). With a passion for building and designing innovative solutions, she plans to major in electrical engineering and a minor in computer science. Taking classes in both departments at RCSJ, she also expresses her love for mathematics and science as the youngest STEM tutor on campus. Believing that any task can be accomplished with proper preparation and technique, she has also contributed to and led several engineering-based research projects such as building a school podium and investigating how artificial intelligence can be used to solve modern problems in engineering and beyond. With the goal of sparking more interest in STEM-related fields and revolutionizing how they are perceived, she also advocates prioritizing STEM education for all ages in her school publication, the Jaguar Journal.