Feature Stories

Diya Abdeljabbar - Chemical Engineering

Diya Abdeljabbar

Diya Abdeljabbar, a recent NJIT graduate, will pursue a PhD in the fall at Princeton University, where he won a full scholarship to study chemical engineering.

Diya excelled as a chemical engineering major at NJIT. He graduated in May with a 3.89 grade point average. He was a scholar in the Albert Dorman Honors College and belonged to the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), which honored him in the spring for having the highest GPA. He did important research at NJIT and, with help from the Career Development Office, held coveted internships at both Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

NJIT gave him many chances to learn and succeed, and Diya capitalized on all of them.

“If not for the great education I received here I would never have gotten into Princeton,” says Diya. “All the credit goes to NJIT, which gave me so many opportunities to learn.”

Diya is the kind of student that NJIT takes pride in educating. He comes from a modest economic background. His parents immigrated to America from Ar-Ram, a suburb of Jerusalem, when Diya was a baby. The couple settled in working-class Union City, N.J., and Diya attended the public high school there -- Union Hill. His father, who went to technical school, worked as a sheet-metal contractor and welder. His mother stayed home to raise the children. He has an older brother, who works as a pharmacist, and a younger sister who recently graduated -- first in her class -- from Union Hill High School.

Diya’s parents left the Middle East so that they could have better lives and their children could be educated in America. And like many immigrant families, they struggled at first with language barriers and cultural differences. But they worked hard to establish a foothold in America. Diya’s father, Maher, worked 12 hour days, six days a week. He saved enough money to buy the sheet metal company from the man he worked for. And he insisted that his children work equally hard in school and excel.

Diya inherited his father’s work ethic. Since seventh grade, Diya hasn’t had a free summer; he spent them in classrooms and laboratories. When he was in high school, he took summer classes at the university’s Center for Pre-College Programs. Those classes gave him a solid foundation in math and science and later helped him win a host of scholarships -- eleven in all -- to attend NJIT.

Even as a student at NJIT, Diya spent his summers doing research. As a McNair scholar, he researched bio-materials that could help patients with damaged bone tissue. The research called upon a mastery of both chemical engineering and biomedical engineering. He also participated in the BioMEMS Summer Institute, where he used the university's ISO 4 clean room to design MEMS (micro electro-mechanical system) devices. The devices can be used for bio-medical applications. And this summer, as a post-graduate in the Institute, he is developing a MEMS drug delivery device – a patch embedded with micro needles -- that delivers drugs more efficiently to the body.

All these research projects helped him get into Princeton, says Diya.

“When I interviewed at Princeton, the professors asked me about my research experience. That’s what they were most interested in. If I hadn’t done research at NJIT, Princeton would not have taken me.”

As a graduate student at Princeton, Diya will continue the research he started at NJIT, fusing chemical and biomedical engineering in a way that results in breakthrough research.

Professor Angelo Perna, who as director of the McNair program was Diya’s mentor, has faith in Diya’s ability to “have an impact in his field.”

Perna, one of the university’s longest tenured and beloved professors, has helped hundreds of NJIT students become researchers, professors and engineers. And as head of the McNair Program, he has helped dozens of low-income minority students excel at NJIT and later pursue doctoral degrees.

Diya is one of those students.

“I was utterly delighted when Diya told me he was going to graduate school,” Perna says. “Diya is what NJIT, and the McNair program, is all about: Educating a diverse group of first-generation college students will enter the world and make a difference. Diya will do that. I’m sure or it.”

(by Robert Florida, University Web Services)