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Governor’s STEM Scholars Visit Princeton University to Learn About STEM in Academia

The 2024 class of Governor’s STEM Scholars gathered together on a snowy Saturday in January at the Frick Chemistry Laboratory at Princeton University to learn about career opportunities in academia. As the second of four conferences, the event allowed Scholars to connect with faculty and staff from higher education institutions from across New Jersey. 

The day kicked off with an address by Paul Chirik, Ph.D., the Chair of the Department of Chemistry at Princeton University. The Department of Chemistry sponsored the event and Dr. Chirik not only welcomed the Scholars to the university, but provided an engaging overview of his work and that of the department. 

A panel of esteemed professionals from academia then took center stage. The panel included Tobias Gerhard, BSPharm, PhD, FISPE, a professor of Pharmacy and Epidemiology and the Director of both the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research and the Center for Pharmacoepidemiology and Treatment Science at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS); Ethan A. Halm, MD, MPH, MBA, the Henry Rutgers Chair in Population Health Innovation and Vice Chancellor for Population Health at RBHS and Deputy Chief Population Health Officer at RWJ Barnabas Health; Kauser Jahan, Ph.D., P.E., a professor and Department Head of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Rowan University; Desmond Lun, Ph.D., a professor of Computer Science at Rutgers University - Camden; Lauren Madden, Ph.D., a professor of Elementary Science Education and the Coordinator of Environmental Sustainability Education Minor within the Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education at the College of New Jersey; and Chris Wright, a Technology Licensing Associate 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.  

Next up, Scholars Zoomed in with Ariel Alexovich, a Sustainable Development Officer within the Department of Economic and Social Affairs at the United Nations to discuss the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Scholars will use these goals as a guidepost in developing their research projects throughout the programmatic year.  

As many of our high school Scholars list Princeton University as one of their top choices for higher education, they were then provided with an admissions session to learn how to put their best foot forward in the application process. 

After lunch, Scholars each attended two separate 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 Dr. Jerelle Joseph, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Princeton University; Dr. Kauser Jahan; or Dr. Andrew Zwicker, Head of Strategic Partnerships & Public Engagement at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. For session two, Scholars chose to learn from Dr. Kelsey Hatzell, Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton University; Dr. Erin Stache, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Princeton; or to participate in a lab demonstration from Princeton’s Women in Chemistry. 

The conference concluded with a keynote address from 2021 Nobel Laureate David MacMillan, Ph.D. Dr. MacMillan received his Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in the development of asymmetric organocatalysis. During the keynote, Scholars learned of Dr. MacMillan’s personal and professional journey and his groundbreaking work. He was gracious enough to bring his Nobel medal to share with the Scholars. 


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