Reflections from the Class of 2016

Rajeet Das is the student speaker at NJIT's 2016 Commencement ceremony.

Student Speaker Rajeet Das, Once and Future NJIT Engineer

During his four years at NJIT, senior Rajeet Das has seized opportunities with both hands. He’s president of the Student Senate, captain of the track and field team, a resident assistant in Laurel Hall and a repeat summer intern with Skanska USA, the global construction firm responsible for MetLife Stadium, the World Trade Center "Oculus" PATH Station, and the current reconstruction and raising of the Bayonne Bridge.

Shortly after 10 a.m. on Tuesday, he will notch one last peak experience as an undergrad: taking the stage at the Prudential Center to deliver a rousing sendoff to his fellow seniors as they await their diplomas – families proudly in tow – at Commencement. He calls the job “a great honor and a wonderful way to say ‘thank you’ for everything NJIT gave me.”

A civil engineering major from Old Bridge, Das says he does not view his accomplishments as unusual. “I’m one person, but there are so many other students just like me: they’re hard-working and capable, academically strong, diverse, open-minded and willing to get involved.”

 “What I would like to convey at graduation,” he says, “are my thoughts about the hard work that leads to success. It’s about people who struggled, parents who struggled and even grandparents who struggled to set an example. And our job is to never give up, to make those people proud. This day is for those who sacrificed for us.”

Das says he’s changed a lot since coming to college. Mostly, the chance to become “super-involved” on what he calls a “compact campus,” packed with opportunity, has taught him a lot about other people – and therefore himself.

 “What I’ve learned is that diversity is awesome and I’m thankful for that. Whatever you're told about it, at NJIT it isn’t made up. You learn about so many different cultures here and that’s not limited to race and ethnicity – it’s socio-economics, the towns we come from, gender and sexual orientation. I feel I’ve been exposed to so many personalities and learned so many different social norms that it’s prepared me for the world.”

For his part, he says he is most proud of his work on the senate representing his school mates, approving, alongside the administration, $80,000 in campus improvements such as new outdoor Wi-Fi stations for the campus center plaza, cell phone and laptop charging stations, water bottle filling stations, and music equipment for school bands that will be available to all students.

As to his future as a civil engineer, he says he hopes one day to work on a bridge “from start to finish.”

“I’ve always been fascinated with bridges. No two are the same, they bring together different cultures on either side and they look really cool!”

 But in the near term, it’s a third stint at Skanska. So far, he has worked on a research center at City College of New York and the 2nd Ave subway, and this summer, he’s assigned to Moynihan Station, an expansion of Penn Station. And then it’s – back to campus! Das returns this fall to earn a master’s in structural engineering “in order to differentiate myself from the competition.”

He hopes to find new opportunities, perhaps as an assistant coach on the track team. He already sounds excited at the possibility.

“There are tons of freshmen just getting started,” he says, adding that he would dig deep into his own experience to motivate them. “I was not recruited. I worked my way up.”

Meet the 2016 Gonfalon Carrriers

Anna Jezewska

Major: Mathematical Sciences

Hometown: Wallington

Next up: Deciding between actuarial consulting positions and graduate school in international relations and economics.

“I have a long list of things I’m grateful for at NJIT, but the people I’ve met here would be at the top of it. They’ve helped me learn about myself and who I want to be, and not just as a professional. I've come to see that there is a particular beauty in not knowing how things will turn out and that as long as I hold true to my values, everything will be okay. I owe that bit of wisdom to my friends and mentors from NJIT.”

Rebecca Deek

Major: Biology

Hometown: East Brunswick

Next up: graduate studies in biostatistics at Columbia University

"This September, I will begin graduate studies in biostatistics at Columbia University. My research places me in the midst of an exciting, evolving field that combines biology, mathematics, and computer science. My interest in the subject stems from a computational neuroscience research project on the rhythm of the circadian clock, which regulates biological behaviors by the day-night cycle. My goal as a Ph.D. student will be to learn how to develop and apply powerful computational methods to understand data-rich biological information sets. This type of research is particularly relevant to understanding cancer and has the potential to assess – and alter – current treatment practices."

Kimberly Lam

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Hometown: Sayreville

Next up: working on weapons defense systems for Lockheed Martin

 “The opportunities to get involved here are what really prepared me for the next chapter, and especially the people I met through them both on campus and off – from the students I tutored, to my professors, to veteran professionals through the Society of Women Engineers. People say engineers lack the so-called “soft skills,” but we should reject that. As I’ve learned through experience, the ability to communicate is key to success and it’s especially important to be able to talk about technical problems in a way everyone can understand.  Expressing yourself well helps bring great ideas to life."

Nicholas Hale

Majors: Computer Science; Applied Mathematics

Hometown: Toms River

Next up: will begin work as a software developer for UPS

“Thanks to the dedicated professors and the stimulating experiences I’ve had working on coursework with a gifted group of peers, I’m ready to hit the ground running. I now have the aptitude to use various algorithms and data structures to solve complex problems. And I’m fully prepared to go out there and learn new things to build onto the strong foundation I created at NJIT.”

Shakiya Charles

Major: Accounting

Hometown: Atlantic City

Next up: working for a major financial services firm and applying to law school

“I started out at the University of Pittsburgh and while sitting in a class of 300 where I never got to speak to my professors in depth, I realized that was the wrong environment for me. A lot of people would think it crazy to come to NJIT – an engineering school – to study business and accounting, but I couldn’t disagree more. I found a major I was passionate about, faculty I consider friends, and friendships that will last a lifetime. I’m proud of the professional woman the school has helped shaped me to be.”

Angelika Los

Major: Architecture

Hometown: Lodi

Next up: fielding junior architect job offers from firms in New York

“I thought I knew architecture…until my second year at CoAD. The masonry build project was a defining moment for me as a student. Witnessing the physical manifestation of my project completely redefined my idea of what it means to be an architect. Sure, materiality and design matter but through my studies at NJIT, I’ve adopted a focus on the social aspect of my profession. How will my work be of service and affect the life of my client? It’s a question that has stuck with me throughout college—and will serve me well throughout my career.”

Muhammad Elgammal

Major: Civil Engineering

Hometown: West Orange

Next up: currently works for the Civil Engineering Design Division at The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey

 “I was not a straight-A student in high school and my department did not accept me right away. I was trying to grab a dream; was I ready for it? But I did push through, and I now get the point of it all.  While I love the practicality of engineering, I also draw on the theoretical. It allows me to conceptualize problems. Right now, I’m working on Terminal A Redevelopment at Newark Airport. My message is: Don’t dismiss the work that seems too hard or maybe not directly applicable. You may not be asked to balance a particular equation, but you will be required to keep learning – on the job.

BS ’12 Civil Engineering

MS ’15 Critical Infrastructure

Tracey Regan tregan@njit.edu and Shydale James sjames@njit.edu