Best of the best: Governor’s STEM Scholars program graduates 126 top students

Students complete yearlong program highlighting New Jersey’s STEM economy while doing original research

One project was based on “Observing the Expression of Osteopontin in Tumor-Associated Macrophages.”

Another detailed the “Physical, Mental, and Socioeconomic Health of Children in the U.S. by Major Geographical Region: 2019-2020.”

And a third, entitled “MySTEMify,” detailed the efforts to support undergraduate female STEM majors with specialized research opportunities and leadership skill-building resources to increase retention rates.

If you think New Jersey isn’t producing best-of-class science, technology, engineering and math students, then you’re clearly not familiar with the Governor’s STEM Scholars program.

The Governor’s STEM Scholars is a public-private partnership between the Research & Development Council of New Jersey, the Governor’s Office, the New Jersey Department of Education, the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education and public and private research institutions based in New Jersey.

The program, which includes scholars in both college and high school (but mostly high school), recently graduated its latest class of 126 students, who went through a yearlong program that provides a 360-degree view of New Jersey’s STEM economy through conferences, lab tours and research.

Throughout the academic year, Scholars participated in four conferences to explore different aspects of New Jersey’s STEM economy, focusing on STEM in government, academia and industry.

Alise Roderer, director of the Governor’s STEM Scholars, said the future is bright.

“Over the past year, 126 of New Jersey’s most promising high school and college students have received an immersive look into the state’s diverse STEM economy,” she said. “Through conferences, field trips, internship opportunities and a collaborative research project, the Scholars developed and honed STEM skills, better preparing them for their future STEM careers.”

During the 2022-2023 programmatic year, these conferences were held at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rowan University and Stevens Institute of Technology.

Additionally, Scholars toured New Jersey STEM facilities and laboratories and engaged with STEM leaders at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and Bristol Myers Squibb. The Governor’s STEM Scholars is sponsored by BASF, Bristol Myers Squibb, Comcast, Janssen, Merck, Novartis, the PSEG Foundation, Spencer Savings Bank, Stryker and Verizon.

During the commencement ceremony and conference held at Stevens Institute of Technology, each Scholar was honored for their efforts in STEM with a diploma signed by Gov. Phil Murphy and a Joint Legislative Resolution sponsored by Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D-Clark), Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge), Sen. Andrew Zwicker (D-Hillsborough) and Assemblyman Chris Tully (D-Paramus).

The graduating Scholars heard from esteemed speakers including Tully, who serves as the chairman of the New Jersey Assembly Science, Technology, and Innovation Committee; Research & Development Council of New Jersey Chairman Kevin Campos, vice president, head of process research & development, Merck & Co; and Jianmin Qu, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at Stevens Institute of Technology.

During the commencement conference, Scholars presented yearlong research projects led by undergraduate and graduate-level Scholars, which advance the work of New Jersey’s research community.

Here are the best of the best projects:

  • Excellence in Research: The research team led by Kean University doctoral student Angela Appiah-Kubi was awarded the Excellence in Research Award for Observing the Expression of Osteopontin in Tumor-Associated Macrophages. High school team members were Emelin Almanzar, Juhi Amin, Cole DuHaime, Rachel Glantzberg, Supraj Gunda, Atharva Inamdar, Davidi Tawfiles, Megan Tseng, Vaishvik Vidavalapti and Daisy Yao.
  • Civic Award: A team of Scholars led by Rowan student Yug Yadava was awarded the Civic Award for the Physical, Mental, and Socioeconomic Health of Children in the U.S. by Major Geographical Region: 2019-2020. High school team members were Sriya Ghankot, Madeline Heng, Zoe Jenkins-Hiscox, Paola Kotori, Katherine Krishtopa, Avantika Malla, Sophia Merlino, Abhay Sankar, Grace Xia, Jeffrey Xu and Xinyi Christine Zhang.
  • Science Communicator Award: It went to MySTEMify: Supporting NJ Undergraduate Female STEM Majors with Specialized Research Opportunities and Leadership Skill-Building Resources to Increase Retention Rates, led by Rutgers student Niranjana Ananth, with high school team members Reva Amritkar, Denise Coutinho, Saanvi Goel, Suhani Gupta, Rhea Sethi, Kareena Shah, Vinesha Shaik and Advika Vuppala.