Reflections from a Scholar: Aliza Lopez

Still trying to fathom the experience of being surrounded by New Jersey’s most revolutionary scientists and innovators is an understatement, to say the least. As I walked into the conference room at Rowan University, I knew that this was yet another invaluable addition to my pathway as a STEM pioneer.

With a vision to break the glass ceiling in this field, I’ve always had an affinity for neuroscience, entrepreneurship, cognitive sciences, biostatistics, and educational equity. Something as simple as the mention of a technical or medical term would instantly pique my interests; it was reassuring to be in a setting of other students that cultivated the same values and areas as myself.

The idea that “age doesn’t define vision” was a primary takeaway at this conference. Though we were unified under the common interest of academic disciplines, our research skills and how we strive to apply these new fields gave everyone their unique identity. Together, the 2022 GSS Class collectively provided an organized array of skillsets.

In our STEM classes, I was able to learn from Dr. Edmund Lattime and Dr. Helga Huntley discussing cancer immunology and geophysical fluid dynamics, respectively. It’s truly fascinating to think about how the half-hour of the lectures were only a glimpse into what can be described as a multiverse of each scientific branch. Conceptually, both topics could be generally understood on the surface, though the processes occurring underneath are more complex than what could be conceived — in general, possibilities like these continue to spark my exponential curiosity into new discoveries.

By listening to the arrangement of speakers recount their experiences in their respective areas of study — each having a distinct, yet interconnected contribution in STEM — I could easily identify with their general desire to push for innovative, societal change with modern systems. Ranging from civil engineering, invention patents, and operational research in our STEM in Academia panel, the ideal formula for a gratifying, influential career doesn’t only consist of the scientific and technological aspects itself. It’s equally as important to acknowledge that diversity, passion, and concrete visions make for an expanding field and more efficient workflows. Dr. Kauser Jahan’s view on workforce representation particularly resonated with me — in a sector that depends heavily on collaboration and merging ideas to create new breakthroughs, we must recognize the need to recruit diverse talents.

Perhaps STEM doesn’t only promote new advancements in academia, which is certainly what our scholars are all capable of achieving. This limitless network is a significant supplement to the inclusion and acceptance of viewpoints, creativity, and engagement in the world.

Written by Aliza Lopez

2021-2022 Governor's STEM Scholar

Aliza Lopez is a junior at North Brunswick Township High School, pursuing the top STEM Academy pathway. As a proponent of the health sciences, she currently co-directs the 501(c)(3) organization, Medicine Encompassed. Aliza was designated the Grand Prize Winner of the 2021 T-Mobile Changemaker Challenge in Education. With her interdisciplinary research areas in biopsychology, global health, medical sociology, and neuroscience, Aliza aspires to become a neurosurgeon, or work in the intersection of health, technology, and entrepreneurship. She is currently working at a behavioral and data science laboratory at Dartmouth College to analyze various biomarkers, also having completed a project on neurogenetics and biological pathways in the past. After extensive participation in nonprofit organizations, mental health advocacy, and generational campaigns, she hopes to break the glass ceiling for student involvement and spearheading impact in these fields. In addition to the medical sectors, Aliza is interested in bridging disparities in SDGs, educational equity, gender, and sex distinctions in healthcare, biostatistical methods, and DEI efforts.