Public 4-Year Schools

NJIT’s State-of-the Art Life Sciences and Engineering Center is Open for Innovation

New Jersey Senator Paul A. Sarlo ’92, ’95, NJIT President Joel S. Bloom and Vincent L. DeCaprio ’72, co-vice chair, NJIT Board of Trustees, cut the ribbon at the opening of NJIT’s new Life Sciences and Engineering Center.

An array of innovation-focused New Jerseyans – scientists, student researchers, alumni, company executives and elected officials – gathered on campus today to hail the much-anticipated opening of NJIT’s new Life Sciences and Engineering Center, a $21 million state-of-the-art research facility focused on the future of health care.

“This is an exciting time in biomedical engineering,” noted Treena Livingston Arinzeh, director of NJIT’s Tissue Engineering and Applied Biomaterials Laboratory, in pointing to the recent plethora of game-changing health technologies such as gene editing, cell therapy, nanoparticle technology and regenerative medicine. “But all of these approaches require multidisciplinary teams, coming together from disparate fields.”

The new center promises to provide those crucial opportunities. The four-story facility, which houses more than 20,000 square feet of shared laboratories and meeting spaces, IT infrastructure and cutting-edge scientific instrumentation, is designed to promote collaboration in fields ranging from biomedical engineering and the biological sciences to electrical engineering and healthcare technologies.

To read more stories about NJIT, scroll down:

Learning Strategies to Encourage Girls to Embrace STEM
U.S. News & World Report Ranks NJIT No. 32 in the Nation for “Best Value”
For Savvy Undergraduate Researchers, the Sky is No Limit

Its mission is to build on NJIT’s increasingly transdisciplinary strengths in engineering and the life sciences – with a particular focus on biotechnology, biosensors and medical devices and nanotechnology – toward the development of new applications in clinical healthcare, therapeutic interventions and pharmaceutical drug development. By linking the experimental side of research with powerful computation, NJIT and its partners will feed data generated in the university’s laboratories into computer models and simulations that will, for example, be able to forecast molecular, cellular and tissue behavior for clinical applications.

“The name “Life Sciences and Engineering Center” tells you how important the marriage of those two disciplines is,” Matthew Kuriakose ’10, (above) a Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering who researches traumatic brain injury (TBI), said at the ribbon-cutting.

“I see the open lab space and get excited about potential collaborative efforts,” he added. “Some of my greatest research revelations and scientific breakthroughs were born from organic conversations with other graduate students outside of TBI. If we’re really serious about solving problems, we will need this multidisciplinary collaboration.”

NJIT President Joel Bloom, who was joined today by members of several of NJIT’s governance boards, called the facility “a critical step forward for our university.”

The new structure connects to the Otto H. York Center for Environmental Engineering and Science to form a cohesive complex that increases square footage by 57 percent and leaves room for a 47,000-square-foot expansion in the future. Additionally, a two-story atrium and presentation space provides opportunities for informal learning, gathering and teaching. The new facility also offers monumental stairs with seating, a new exterior plaza and a second-floor lounge area, giving students more options for cozy nooks in which to study, read and relax. It is part of an ongoing, $300 million capital building and renovation program that is transforming research, teaching and campus life at NJIT.

But guests such as Paul Sarlo ’92, ’95, the deputy majority leader of the New Jersey Senate, Mildred Crump, president of the Newark City Council and Gov. Chris Christie, attested to its importance to the region and the state as well.

“We don’t want our best and brightest students to leave the state and not come back,” said Christie (below), who in 2012 signed the “Building Our Future” bond act that gave rise to state-of-the-art facilities on college campuses across the state that are advancing learning and research, and critically, boosting capacity.

Of the state’s largest city, where he was born, he added, “It’s so important to make Newark a magnet for higher ed.”

Over the summer, NJIT continued to make headway on campus-wide renovation and construction projects across the campus, including two major facilities: the state-supported Makerspace at NJIT, a 9,500-square-foot facility that will bring inventors and manufacturers onto campus and provide them access to equipment to build and test prototypes of innovative products, and the 200,000-square-foot Wellness and Events Center, slated to open in November.

Bruce Bukiet, associate professor of mathematical sciences, with NJIT students Elizabeth Daudelin and Ester Calderon

Learning Strategies to Encourage Girls to Embrace STEM

New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), with funding from National Science Foundation (NSF), will be countering the myth that boys are naturally better than girls in science and math.

NJIT will lead a new project – Leadership and iSTEAM for Females in Elementary School (LiFE) – to find effective ways to showcase science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) as a collaborative, innovative, people-rich space, to increase the number of girls interested in STEM. NJIT is conducting the project with the Hillside, Morris Plains and Weehawken school districts in New Jersey.

LiFE employs integrated science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (iSTEAM) learning strategies that encourage girls to apply the tools of various disciplines in investigating and solving real-world problems. Additionally, it involves activities that leverage the expertise of the project’s corporate and government partners. The project builds on the successful Girls Rock Science Club in Hillside that introduces third- and fourth-grade girls to hands-on iSTEAM exploration activities. LiFE will replicate this model in Morris Plains and Weehawken and also develop clubs for fifth- and sixth-grade girls that involve enriched content and long-term independent projects.

Eventually, a LiFE tiered peer network will link female students from elementary school through college with female STEM professionals to help sustain a sense of community toward retaining women in STEM. The project also will develop a cost-effective template that can be replicated across the U.S. to foster broad participation by women in STEM careers.

LiFE is led by NJIT’s Bruce Bukiet, associate professor of mathematical sciences; James Lipuma, senior university lecturer in humanities and director of NJIT’s Collaborative for Leadership Education and Assessment Research.; and Nancy Steffen-Fluhr, associate professor of humanities and director of the university’s Murray Center for Women in Technology. The LiFE team is headed at Hillside by Superintendent Antoine Gayles, at Morris Plains by Superintendent Mark Maire, and at Weehawken by Director of Academic Affairs Francesca Amato.

Bukiet explains, “Proving the benefits of LiFE with our K-12 partners will provide the foundation for expanding LiFE nationally to bring problem-based iSTEAM concepts to girls of all academic levels in their elementary school years, while having a community focus with participant developed projects in a non-competitive environment and including academic, corporate and government partners to foster broader participation by women in STEM careers.”

LiFE is one of 27 projects awarded funding by NSF through its INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) program, designed to enhance U.S. leadership in STEM discovery and innovation. INCLUDES is committed to diversity and inclusion and creates paths to STEM for underrepresented populations. The program is among NSF’s “10 Big Ideas for Future NSF Investments,” research agendas that identify areas for future investment at the frontiers of science and engineering.

U.S. News & World Report Ranks NJIT No. 32 in the Nation for “Best Value”

NJIT is one of the top colleges in the nation offering the best value for students in both academic quality and cost, according to U.S News & World Report’s 2018 Best Colleges rankings.

In addition to examining the ratio of quality to price, this ranking also considers need-based financial aid. In 2016, NJIT awarded over $12 million in grants and scholarships to help defray the cost of tuition for its students.

U.S. News & World Report reviews over 1,800 colleges and universities nationally, considering criteria that include assessment by peers and guidance counselors, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving rate. NJIT continues to rank in the top 75 percent of colleges and universities nationwide, at 140, which is denoted as part of the “top tier.”

“We are pleased that NJIT again ranks in the top tier of universities in the United States. We have seen our overall score increase over last year as a result of our continuing efforts to drive student success. We are particularly proud of our inclusion among the Best Value Schools list and of our strong scores related to diversity,” explains Dr. Fadi P. Deek, NJIT provost and senior executive vice president.

NJIT continues to be a catalyst for the development of the highly needed Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) workforce as the nation will have to fill almost eight million STEM-related jobs, including 269,000 in the Garden State, by 2018. As one of the nation’s leading polytechnic universities, NJIT offers a multidisciplinary curriculum that also features architecture, design and management supported by the power of STEM.

NJIT was also recognized by U.S. News & World Report as being among the national leaders in the following:

•#68 in Top Public Schools

•#82 in Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs

•#89 in Best Colleges for Veterans

Lastly, NJIT ranks high on the diversity of National Universities.

From the insides of cells, to the streets of Newark, to experiments in the ionosphere, undergraduate researchers at NJIT are pushing boundaries.

For Savvy Undergraduate Researchers, the Sky is No Limit

Joshua Katz spent the summer researching the ionosphere, a region in the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere that stretches more than 600 miles from the planet’s surface. Soojin Kim focused deep inside the human body, testing methods to grow healthy cells to cure diabetes. Basma Abukwaik took to the streets of Newark to assess residents’ willingness to connect with health care providers over smartphones.

For NJIT students, the ideas that spark research projects are as diverse as they are. What they share is the determination to find laboratories, mentors and funding, and the imagination and skill to apply technology to daily problems, using the resources around them. Over the summer, more than 130 undergraduates, including students such as Katz, Kim and Abukwaik came back to campus to do just that. As part of the university’s Undergraduate Research and Innovation (URI) summer session, they were backed by a range of sponsors – the URI program, NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Hearst Foundation, Capital One Bank, PSEG and the James Stevenson and Family Foundation, to name a few – and worked with more than 70 NJIT faculty and research staff members.

And now budding entrepreneurs will get another shot at funding, as the Provost’s office solicits proposals for the fall round of URI grants. “Whether it’s an app you’re designing, a device you’re inventing or fundamental scientific research you’re helping to rethink, start the process by sending us your ideas,” says Atam Dhawan, vice provost for research and head of the URI program.

Eclipse Party 600 Miles High

Just before the start of his junior year, Josh Katz ’17 (above, right) received an email from a stranger, a recent Ph.D graduate from Virginia Tech who was joining NJIT that fall as an assistant research professor and hoping for a tour of the campus K2MFF Amateur Radio station. A tour, an intriguing pitch and a year later, Katz ’17, a computer science major from Fair Lawn and member of the student ham radio club, is now a key player in a groundbreaking research project conducted by Nathaniel Frissell that is raising the profile of amateur radio in space science. He signed on immediately. “Dr. Frissell was talking about a whole lot of numbers and massive data sets – how could I say no!” Katz recounts. He spent the summer testing the accuracy of predictive models of radio communications in the ionosphere, the electrified region of Earth’s upper atmosphere where signals bounce from one side of the globe to the other. But the grand finale came in September, when Katz joined an army of more than 1,000 citizen-scientists Frissell had assembled around the globe for a solar eclipse party: testing the strength and reach of their high frequency signals as one measure of the total solar eclipse’s impact on Earth’s atmosphere. He’s now given his own talks on the experiment to radio clubs around the country, hobnobbed with scientists and crunched reams of data. Research, he says, can be like searching for buried treasure no map and a lot of deadlines. “But you’re going to run around like crazy trying to find out!”

Lab Dreams

When then-freshman Soojin Kim ’20 approached Alice Eun Lee, an associate professor of biomedical engineering, about working in her lab, the outcome was far from certain. “She asked me if I had research experience. I didn’t. She then looked at my course load and asked me if I had the dedication to come to the lab on a regular basis. And that, I could promise.” For the past several months, Kim has been helping Lee’s research team develop a bioscaffold derived from the extracellular matrix – the structural molecules that support cells – of the pancreas, to serve as a niche to culture insulin-producing pancreatic stem cells. Diabetes attacks the pancreas, and so the researchers’ goal is to create a structure that will attract and nurture healthy cells. “We hope they’ll proliferate,” says Kim, who spent much of the summer stripping cells from their matrix and observing interactions between live cells and biomaterials. Her first research hurdle was creating a hydrogel containing the structural molecules. “It just wouldn’t gel at all and that was a critical part of the experiment. I tried over and over. I actually dreamed about the experiment one night and within 24 hours, it had gelled!” says Kim, who spent eight hours a day in the lab over the summer. Encouraged by her strides, she’s now applying for another research grant to continue her work. Of her future, she notes, “I want to be a doctor who collaborates in research. I do love gathering data.”

Talking Healthcare on the Streets of Newark

Binder in hand, biology major Basma Abukwaik ’17 stepped off campus this summer to hear what people outside of the world of high-tech labs think of emerging healthcare applications. More specifically, she wanted to learn whether women in Newark would be willing to use their smartphones to connect with a range of providers – from doctors, to nutritionists, to life coaches – through video-conferencing. She asked 10 questions and sometimes got surprising answers. “The bigger question is how technology can fill healthcare gaps for people who lack access for any number of reasons,” recounts Abukwaik, who is minoring in Science, Technology and Society. “One of the people I interviewed on the street was a nursing student, and when we talked about transportation being a problem for some, she said it might be better to improve transit systems so people could get to their doctors.” About half of her respondents said they would consider using a device. In the second phase of her research, Abukwaik is going to ask women to test the system on a commercially available application. Later this month, she heads to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, billed as the largest gathering for women technologists, to hear keynote speaker Melinda Gates, to network and to solicit feedback on her ideas. “This is going to be my senior year capstone project. I’m eager to meet other people in telehealth and hear their recommendations.”

The Office of Undergraduate Research and Innovation will award Phase-1 Student Seed Grants of $500 per project to pursue preliminary research or to demonstrate an initial proof-of-concept or prototypes.