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Careers in Academia Take Center Stage at Governor’s STEM Scholars Conference

On Saturday, December 10th, the Governor’s STEM Scholars headed to Rowan University in

Glassboro, to learn about careers in academia during the Governor’s STEM Scholars’ second conference of the year. During the day-long event, the 128 Scholars gained career and research knowledge from cross-sector professors from universities around the Garden State.

The morning kicked off with a panel of STEM professionals from academia who hold different roles within different disciplines in higher education. The panel included Kauser Jahan, Ph.D., P.E., Professor and Head of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rowan University; David Salas de la Cruz, Ph.D., EIT, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Chemistry Graduate Program at Rutgers University - Camden; and Chris Wright, Licensing Associate within the Office of Technology Licensing at Princeton University. The panel focused on the panelist’s personal narratives – how they decided on their STEM careers, the paths they took, and the opportunities to be a STEM professional in academia in New Jersey.  


Throughout the day, Scholars attended STEM classes. During these college-like classes, Scholars received an overview of different STEM areas and got a glimpse into the type of research students are engaging in at the higher education-level in New Jersey. In the first session, Scholars learned from Beth Christensen, Ph.D., Professor and Founding Chair of the Department of Environmental Science at Rowan University, who discussed field research as a part of a STEM career; Dr. Jahan focused on the work of the engineering department at

Rowan and her research into algae; Martin Job, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biomedical Sciences at Rowan University discussed how addiction affects the brain. The second session of STEM classes included lessons from Karla Esquilin-Lebrón, Ph.D., Teaching Instructor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology at Rutgers University, and Wen Zhang, Ph.D., P.E., BCEE, Associate Professor with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Chemical and Materials Engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology.


Keynoting the event, was world-renowned paleontologist, Kenneth Lacovara, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Earth & Environment and founding Director of the Jean and Ric Edelman Fossil Park of Rowan University. Dr. Lacovara discovered the giant plant-eating dinosaur Dreadnoughtus during a dig in Argentina. Dr. Lacovera inspired the Scholars to take risks and live in the uncomfortable in their academic and industry careers.

The Scholars completed the day with a campus tour of Rowan University-one of three designated public research universities in the state. The Scholars will come back together again later this winter to discuss STEM in Industry at our February conference.

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