Hamid Bagce - Biomedical Engineering

Hamid Bagce

Hamid Bagce will graduate this spring from NJIT after studying here for just three years. And what’s more notable about his achievement is his grade-point average: a perfect 4.0. He is a scholar in the Albert Dorman Honors College.

His academic accomplishments have earned him one of NJIT’s top honors: Newark College of Engineering (NCE) recently named him its Outstanding Biomedical Engineering student.

“Looking back on all I have learned here these past three years,” said Hamid, “I couldn’t see myself attending another school in which I would have learned more or had a better overall college experience.”

Hamid essentially skipped a year at NCE. As a high school student at Delbarton, in Morristown, he took a host of Advanced Placement classes – two college-semesters worth. And he came to NCE having fulfilled the college’s calculus, physics and computer-science requirements. And at NCE he always took the maximum load of undergraduate classes.

Hamid excels not only in the classroom but also in the lab. Since his freshman year, he has worked on biomedical research projects that will improve the health of sick children and disabled adults.

First, he developed a computerized sign language program to help deaf people communicate. Then, he designed a rehabilitative chair that simulates the up-and-down motion of a horse. Such movement reduces spasticity, or muscle tension, in children who have cerebral palsy. The chair will be used in a hospital that rehabilitates children with cerebral palsy as well as brain and spinal-cord damage. He is also designing a knee brace that can be filled with magnetic fluids. The fluids, when combined with electrical stimulation, will help patients who have bad knees regain strength and prevent further injury.

All of Hamid’s research projects are done under the direction of Professor Richard Foulds, one of the university’s top teachers and researchers. Hamid met Foulds when, as a senior in high school, he came to an open house at NJIT. He was immediately taken by Foulds’s unbridled enthusiasm for biomedical engineering.

“I was attracted to the biomedical engineering department after meeting Dr. Foulds and seeing his Biomechanics Lab,” said Hamid. “His passion for his research, for his students and for the biomedical engineering department was unlike anything I had seen at other colleges I applied to.”

Back then Hamid had applied to, and was accepted, at Cornell. But NJIT was closer to home – his family lives in Paterson – it seemed a superior university and, through the Albert Dorman Honors College, he was offered a full scholarship.

That scholarship meant everything to Hamid -- and to his family. Twenty-five years ago, his father, Mahmut, emigrated here from Turkey. He works now as a mechanic who services espresso and cappuccino machines. He doesn’t have a college education. So like many other immigrants, he worked hard to establish a good life and he encouraged his son to excel academically. But before too long, Hamid didn’t need encouragement. He saw how hard his parents worked and was inspired by their example.

At the Sacred Heart elementary school, in Clifton, Hamid was his class salutatorian. And with help from New Jersey Seeds, a non-profit group that helps low-income students prepare for elite high schools, he won a scholarship to Delbarton.

“Hamid was the only student from Passaic County at Delbarton, recalled Hamid’s mother, Anita. “It was all rich kids there and we could never have afforded it without his scholarship.”

Hamid took a bus to high school. Her husband, Mahmut, would drive him to a bus stop in Ridgewood, where he’d hop a bus to Morristown. Anita would pick him up at 5 p.m. on her way home from her sales job. While he waited for her, Hamid would sit in an empty school office -- and study. “There were many times when he and his father would miss the bus and they’d chase it to Morristown,” recalled Anita, laughing.

Hamid was always an avid student but his motivation escalated when his younger sister, Shery, was born. “Once my daughter was born he changed,” said Anita. “He got even more desire and drive to set a good example for his sister.”

Shery Bagce is 14, an 8th grader at Hamid’s old school -- Sacred Heart. And here is what she has to say about her older brother: “Hamid is the best role model in the world. He taught me to do well in school and not to fool around.  He taught me to do my best and try as hard as I can. He is always looking after me to make sure I am doing well and that I am safe.  He is an awesome big brother and I truly don't know what I would do without him.”

Shery has more reason to be proud of her big brother. Last week, Hamid was accepted into medical school – on a full scholarship. In the fall, he’ll attend the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, in Newark. He is one of a handful of students from across the nation, and the world, accepted into the medical school’s MD/PhD program. He’ll work simultaneously towards a medical degree and a doctoral degree.

“In one week Hamid told us he won the NCE award and was accepted into med school,” said Anita. “My husband and I are ecstatic. We are walking on clouds. It’s all so hard to believe. It’s like a dream. We couldn’t have asked for a better son.”

(by Robert Florida, University Web Services)