Matthew Schaefer - Mechanical Engineering

Matthew Schaefer

When Matthew Schaefer was a freshman, he set himself a lofty goal. In four years, he’d graduate from NJIT with a perfect grade-point average -- a 4.0.

Now, as graduation nears, Matthew’s GPA is 3.987. He missed his mark by a hair, but by setting himself such a high standard, he managed to win two of the university’s top awards. He was recently named the Mechanical Engineering Department’s Outstanding Senior as well as the Newark College of Engineering’s (NCE) Outstanding Senior.  

He received both awards during NCE’s Salute to Engineering Excellence.  

“As a sophomore I got a B+ in linear algebra,” said Matthew, “and that’s why I missed a 4.0. I was also taking differential equations that semester and I think I underestimated how hard linear algebra is. I was a disappointed but I figured it was just one B + and I kept aiming for As."

Matthew, of Randolph, N.J., has a strong record of commitment to NJIT.  He is a scholar in the Albert Dorman Honors College. He is treasurer of two honor societies -- Tau Beta Pi and the Pi Tau Sigma -- and a member of two others: the National Honor Society and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He is on a student team that designs and races mini-Baja cars and he has helped another team build a remote-controlled plane. As part of a senior design project, he’s developing a human-powered still that can be used for water purification. And during NJIT Open Houses, he demonstrates the mini-Baja car - his favorite school project -- to high school students.

His social conscience is also well developed. Matthew is an Eagle Scout and a member of the Habitat for Humanity at NJIT. Working with Habitat, he helped build a house for a poor family in Newark.  

This past summer, he was an intern for Thornton Tomasetti, an engineering firm in New York City. Before that, he worked as an engineer’s aid for the township of Livingston, N.J.

“Matthew’s unique combination of leadership, scholarship, service and outstanding potential as a mechanical engineer make him truly deserving of these two awards,” said John Schuring, NCE’s interim dean.

Matthew is not the first in his family to attend NCE. His father earned a civil engineering degree from the college in 1972, and now works as the Township Engineer for Livingston, N.J. His uncle earned the same degree from NCE in 1970. He now runs his own construction company. And his younger sister, Erin, is a freshman in the School of Architecture at NJIT, where she is thriving. “I was shocked when Matt told me he won two top awards,” said Erin. “I’m really happy for him. It’s awesome.”

Mathew’s mother, Alice Schaefer, a former school teacher, said her son’s success results from his strong work ethic. She and her husband never pushed him academically, she said. “It was his idea to aim for a 4.0,” she added. “He works hard, he’s goal-oriented and self motivated. He’s always very curious.”

When Matthew was young, the family subscribed to Popular Science and Popular Mechanic magazines. He would lose himself in reading the magazines. He liked to read about cars, too, but he never tinkered with them, said Alice.

His father, Robert Schaefer, recalled helping Matthew with his Boy Scout projects. He remembered buying Matthew his first computer, on which they played endless games of Star Trek. Robert first realized Mathew was gifted intellectually when he was in fifth grade. His teacher told Robert that Matthew was teaching himself. Matthew later excelled at Randolph High School, and once he got to NJIT, he immersed himself in his studies, Robert said.

“He was successful at NJIT because he was happy there," said Robert. “He always told us how happy he was at NJIT."

After he graduates, Matthew plans to earn a master’s degree in mechanical engineering.  He’s applied to some of the nation's top engineering schools – including Princeton -- and is waiting to hear from them.

Asked to explain why he set himself the goal of achieving a 4.0 GPA, Matthew said he always strives for perfection.

“I figured I should take advantage of the clean slate I was starting with at NJIT, and accomplish more than I did in high school,” added Matthew. “I also realized that my academic performance could have a big effect on where I'd work or go to graduate school after NJIT.  I developed part of my work ethic in the Boy Scouts, where I eventually became an Eagle Scout.  My parents also have a lot to do with my work ethic. They always encouraged me to work hard and promoted academic excellence.  In doing so, however, they were careful not to push me so hard that I was always studying and not enjoying life.”

(by Robert Florida, University Web Services)