Union County students named 2023-2024 Governor’s STEM Scholars

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CHATHAM, NJ — The Governor’s STEM Scholars welcomed Mina Basaly of Elizabeth, Robert Bress of New Providence, Juan Chang of Plainfield, Emily Hickey and Lily Liu of Summit, Janeli Tenecota-Villa of Scotch Plains, Jolie Estevao of Elizabeth and Omolola Falana of Plainfield into the 2023-2024 class. Selected among nearly 1,000 applicants from across this state, these students represent some of the highest achieving students in New Jersey.

GSS is a public-private partnership between the Research & Development Council of New Jersey, the Office of the Governor, the New Jersey Department of Education, the New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education, and public and private research institutions. GSS works to sustain and strengthen New Jersey’s STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — talent pipeline by introducing the state’s STEM students to the R&D and STEM ecosystem.

New Jersey has the highest concentration of engineers and scientists per square mile in the United States, according to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. Recognizing New Jersey’s rich talent pool, GSS serves as a vital bridge for talented STEM students to connect with research and STEM professionals within the industry, academia, and government sectors. By creating this vital bridge we are building up New Jersey’s STEM network.

“New Jersey’s long-tradition of innovation, from the invention of the lightbulb to the development of the first transistor, are powered by some of the best scientists, engineers and inventors in the world,” said Anthony Cicatiello, president of the Research & Development Council of New Jersey. “Through the Governor’s STEM Scholars, we are able to support the next generation of innovators right here in the Garden State, ensuring a continued legacy of invention and discovery that will drive our economy into the future.”

Through conferences, field trips and research, scholars are able to explore professional opportunities that can jumpstart their future STEM careers. Scholars attend four conferences to explore the STEM sectors of industry, academia and government. For the 2023-2024 programmatic year, these conferences will be at Kean University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Princeton University and Rutgers University.

Additionally, scholars build relationships with diverse STEM professionals by attending field trips and fireside chats at New Jersey companies such as Bristol Myers Squibb, Kenvue, Panasonic, PSEG, Stryker and United Airlines. Scholars participate in an engineering design research project that will enhance their analytical and 21st-century skills.

GSS prides itself in selecting a class that is representative of the diversity of New Jersey. Scholars hail from 20 of New Jersey’s 21 counties. Sixty-three percent of the class identify as female and 82% as students of color. When these scholars graduate in May 2024, they will join an alumni cohort of nearly 900 scholars.

“Through the Governor’s STEM Scholars, New Jersey STEM students are able to learn from and engage with some of the state’s top STEM and R&D professionals, enhancing the students’ knowledge and understanding of career opportunities and introducing them to the STEM economy in New Jersey,” said Alise Roderer, director of the Governor’s STEM Scholars. “With this career knowledge and exposure, we are setting these high school and college students on a path to achieve excellence in jobs of the future.”

To qualify for GSS, applicants must have at least a 3.5 grade-point average, be a high school sophomore through doctorial-level student at a New Jersey-based high school or university and demonstrate a strong passion for STEM.

Mina Basaly is a college junior at Rutgers-New Brunswick. Robert Bress and Lily Liu are juniors at New Providence High School. Juan Chang and Janeli Tenecota-Villa are seniors and Omolola Falana is a junior at Union County Magnet High School. Emily Hickey is a junior at Summit High School. Jolie Estevao is a senior at Elizabeth’s Frank J. Cicarell Academy.

Read more about the 2023-2024 Governor’s STEM Scholars at www.govstemscholars.com/scholars.

Photo Courtesy of Arlene Moctesuma