Nick Procopio, Ph.D., Director of the Division of Science and Research, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection speaks during the STEM in Government panel at the Governor's STEM Scholars' first conference of the 2023-2024 year. He is joined by Samuel Joisil, STEM Program Manager, U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Armaments Center, Picatinny Arsenal, Capt. Jean O’Brien, U.S. Navy, Retired, and Michael Geraghty, Director of Cybersecurity and Chief Information Security Officer, State of New Jersey on the panel.
Communication is often regarded as a humanities topic and is usually separated from the logical thinking of science. However, at the first Governor’s STEM Scholar Conference held at the Richard Weeks Hall of Engineering at Rutgers University, Scholars were shown the importance of developing soft skills for their future careers in STEM.
In the first set of panelists, Scholars listened to Michael Geraghty, Samuel Joisil, Captain Jean O’Brien, and Nicholas Procopio, Ph.D. speak about their STEM careers in relation to the government. One particular panelist that left a deep impression on me was Dr. Procopio’s advice in regards to soft skills. He emphasized the importance of taking opportunities, being bold, and having thick skin. In finding opportunities, he stated that “if you stop looking for opportunities, they’ll stop being there.” As high schoolers looking for internships, research facilities, and other experiences in the STEM field to further our futures, Dr. Procopio’s advice resonated with a lot of the Scholars. He showed that even though you may get turned down, keep looking because you will eventually find something. Dr. Procopio further described what distinguishes someone with an administrative role, essentially explaining what it takes to “move up the ladder”. Although everyone has some leadership tendencies, only people who recognize instances in which they can become prominent leaders and can effectively communicate take on leadership roles.
Dr. Procopio makes the connection between communication and leadership and once again, relates it back to the STEM field. I find that this applies to many other aspects of life, not just a job. Finding areas of leadership in classrooms, clubs, and even in this very program are all openings to connect people with one another, formulate cohesive teams, and collaborate to create unique ideas. Being able to demonstrate effective leadership, but also being able to bring together a community of scientists is truly a special talent.
These new perspectives on communication and leadership reminded me of the significance of being a multifaceted person. Whether you major in science or history, it is without a doubt that social skills will be utilized and even used to differentiate yourself from others in the same field as you. This conference demonstrated the rising need for STEM majors to step forward as not only scientists, but as leaders.
Written by Claire Jiang, 2023-2024 Scholar Claire Jiang is a sophomore in the Academy for Medical Science Technology at the Bergen County Academies. As a dedicated advocate for the communities in the area, Claire has completed over 100 volunteer hours with the Junior Medical Program at Mount Sinai Morningside. In this program, she has supported numerous patients and staff members at the hospital by implementing employee wellness initiatives and building meaningful relationships. She also has participated in the Research Scholars Program created by Harvard Student Agencies and Learn with Leaders to produce a paper investigating the impacts of fruits on Rheumatoid Arthritis. Claire's interest in arthritis persists as she is currently involved in cellular biology research at BCA with a focus on Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. In the future, Claire hopes to become a leader in her community through her work in the medical field by advocating for others and creating impactful change. Outside of STEM related subjects, Claire is also an avid member of the Model UN community at BCA, having chaired at the Junior Academy Model UN Conference and winning awards at conferences. She is also a current student at the Manhattan School of Music Precollege and majoring in classical piano.