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Every year, hundreds of high school and college students throughout the Garden State apply for the honor to be a Governor’s STEM Scholar. Slots are limited and the competition is steep.

For 2019, three Highlanders have been chosen to wear the mantle: Ricardo Garcia, Yasmine Ghattas and Kevin Pemberthy. They and the other scholars are spending this academic year attending STEM conferences and field trips, participating in team-based research projects, and learning from and networking with New Jersey STEM professionals, state policymakers, academic institutions and research organizations.

The Governor’s STEM Scholars program was established in 2013 as a public-private partnership between the Governor’s Office, Research & Development Council of New Jersey, New Jersey Department of Education and Secretary of Higher Education.

Let’s meet the scholars from NJIT.

Ricardo Garcia ’19

Newark College of Engineering

Hometown: Stroudsburg, Pa.

Major: Biomedical engineering

Career Pursuit: Using his neurology research experience to continue his education and work in the biomedical industry

Activities at NJIT: Chemistry tutor, research assistant, New Jersey Innovation Institute project assistant

What does being named a Governor’s STEM Scholar mean to you? 

Being a non-New Jersey native, I am truly honored. I have had such a rewarding experience within the state of New Jersey, and this has shown that I am not only welcomed, but an honored member of the state. STEM has always been a major factor in my life, and this program has given me the opportunity to further explore my passion and meet the brightest young minds in New Jersey. 

What are you involved in as a Governor’s STEM Scholar? 

I am continuing my research into therapeutic treatments for traumatic brain injury. Luckily, I do not have to tackle this alone, since I get to collaborate with an amazing team of students that are just as impassioned and dedicated as I am. The program also allows us to learn about the various job positions that are available to us, and expand our STEM knowledge through seminars and conferences with leading professionals in our field.

How do you think this experience is benefiting you professionally? 

Being a Governor’s STEM Scholar is an honor that so few have received. This will allow me to stand out among my peers. We have also had the opportunity to meet with so many amazing professionals that can open doors for us into their respective fields.

Ricardo Garcia

Yasmine Ghattas ’20

College of Science and Liberal Arts, Albert Dorman Honors College

Hometown: Irvine, Calif.

Major: Biology and chemistry

Career Pursuit: Obtaining both medical and doctoral degrees and focusing on neuroscience and neurodegeneration

Activities at NJIT: Researcher, tutor, Doman ambassador, peer-learning assistant

What does being named a Governor’s STEM Scholar mean to you?

It’s a great honor to be leading a group of talented high school students in a research project and showing them the opportunities in the STEM field. 

What are you involved in as a Governor’s STEM Scholar? 

I lead my group of high school students in a continuation of one of my research projects that aims to understand the feedback control of social behavior in electric fish. My students are involved in the mathematical computation and analysis of the data I have collected, and are learning how to read academic journals and write abstracts.

How do you think this experience is benefiting you professionally? 

Professionally, it has given me an opportunity to be a leader, which is extremely beneficial in the long run, because there’s a unique skill set that a STEM leader requires. Obtaining and practicing it is of the essence in this field.

Yasmine Ghattas

Kevin Pemberthy ’19

Newark College of Engineering

Hometown: Elizabeth, N.J.

Major: Electrical engineering

Career Pursuit: Continuing his academic career to obtain a master’s degree with a concentration in intelligent systems

What does being named a Governor’s STEM Scholar mean to you?

It is a privilege to be named a Governor’s STEM Scholar. It is a great feeling to be given the opportunity to mentor extremely talented high school students, and rewarding to see the development and success of these students.

What are you involved in as a Governor’s STEM Scholar?

I am leading a team of four high school students, while conducting research for Dr. Hieu Nguyen. We are focusing on controlling color properties of III-nitride nanowire light-emitting diodes for microdisplays through design, characterization and fabrication.

How do you think this experience is benefiting you professionally? 

My experience has increased my network by allowing me to meet and connect with various industry leaders. Also, I have been exposed to many areas of electrical engineering through the program, which has helped me determine which fields I would like to work in after graduation.

Kevin Pemberthy