Five Students Selected for Merck Internship

Five students were awarded internships and $5,000 scholarships from Merck, the leading pharmaceutical company,

Five students were awarded internships and $5,000 scholarships from Merck, offering the students invaluable experience at one of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies. The students will be paid for the internships and the scholarships will be applied to their 2014-2015 tuition.

The internships are competitive and coveted, and it’s uncommon for Merck to select five students from one university. Merck usually selects only a student or two from top U.S. universities. But the NJIT students, all of whom major in chemical engineering, impressed Merck recruiter Joseph Hinksmon, who came to NJIT to interview the five.

“Five is an unusually high number as we generally target 1-2 students from each school,” said Hinksmon, who is himself an NJIT graduate (2001, chemical engineering). “But because of the depth of qualified students interviewed at NJIT, we were able to arrive at this positive outcome.  These students will be placed in a variety of Merck's departments across a variety of New Jersey and Pennsylvania sites.” 

Internships help students in various ways. While working, the students are able to assess the field they intend to work in and see what area within the field they prefer. It also schools them in the realities of work, teaching them to work in teams, meet deadlines and think under pressure. 

Norman Loney, chair of the department of chemical, biological and pharmaceutical engineering, says it’s immeasurably easier for students to find good jobs if they have had internships.

“As you may know, the job situation is tough, but it’s much easier if students have acquired an internship or co-p experience -- and the more the better," says Loney. "The experience is highly valued by employers as it addresses not only technical proficiency but also maturity and professionalism in the work environment.”

Most students also return from internships with a deeper commitment to their studies, adds Loney, in that internships show them the value of their class work and how it applies to the workplace.

What follows below is a brief interview with each of the five students. They talk about their passion for chemical engineering, their backgrounds and their future plans. .    


Nida Riaz is a junior majoring in chemical engineering

Nida RiazWhy did you choose chemical engineering as a major and what do you like about it?

When I was in high school, I looked up to my math teacher. As I got to know her, I found that she studied chemical engineering at NJIT; that made me look into what chemical engineering was all about. When my guidance counselor told me that I had enough credits to graduate high school one year early, I seized the opportunity and decided to go to NJIT to studying chemical engineering. That was honestly the best decision I could have ever made because the ChE Department welcomes students and helps them whenever they need it. The warmth I receive from the professors and students really makes me feel like we are one big family.

What has been the highlight of NJIT for you?

Every opportunity I have received at NJIT has allowed me to reach another level. I am a junior and have already had two different co-op jobs. I’m also President of AICHE (the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, student chapter). By interning at Merck this summer, I will get insights into the pharmaceutical industry. I’ve already did one co-op working in the oil industry at Infineum, and a second co-op in the cosmetic industry, working at L'oreal.


Are you the first in your family to attend college?

My parents were born abroad, in Pakistan, and did not attend college. I am the second to attend college in my family.  My older sister, Maliha Riaz, is a senior in the NJIT Honors College who majors in Law Technology and Culture

Are you looking forward to the Merck internship?

I am looking forward to the challenge Merck has set for me. This will be my first time working at a pharmaceutical industry and I am very excited to learn! This internship and my co-ops in the past will help me decide what part of chemical engineering I would like to go further into after I graduate with my bachelor’s degree in May 2015.

What are your future plans?

As part of the BS/MS program at NJIT, I will pursue my master’s in chemical engineering at NJIT, following the completion of my bachelor’s. I plan to work in industry while pursuing my master’s and eventually Ph.D. My ultimate goal is to be able to come back and teach chemical engineering and give to students the invaluable knowledge I was given.

Would you recommend NJIT to a high school student who likes science and math? 

I would recommend high school students interested in STEM come to NJIT because the education here is invaluable, the culture is rich, and the amount of opportunities are countless.

Bolutife Kolawole is a senior majoring in chemical engineering

Bolutife KolawoleWhy did you choose chemical engineering as a major? Do you have good professors?

Basically I liked chemistry and mathematics in high school and I didn’t like physics that much, so I chose chemical engineering as my major. I had two great NJIT professors last semester, Prof Tomkins and Prof Dreizin; the knowledge they imparted helped me on the Merck interview.

What has been the highlight of NJIT for you?

I am a senior and I think the highlight for me at NJIT is my exposure to academic research in Professor Dreizin’s lab, where I work on metal alloys for energetic applications.

Are you the first in your family to attend college?

Yes I am the first in my family to attend college.  I was born in Nigeria.  I actually went to university in Nigeria for three years, and then transferred to NJIT.  


Are you looking forward to the Merck internship?

Yes, Merck is a Fortune 500 company and a global leader in the pharmaceutical industry. Interning at Merck will help me appreciate the importance of the theoretical concepts I have learnt in class.

Why did you choose to come to NJIT?

My father was living in New Jersey, and while in Nigeria I researched chemical engineering departments in the area. I came to NJIT and visited the Admissions Office. The people there were so helpful and direct and welcoming. I chose NJIT because it has an international friendly admission policy.  They really welcome international students.

Would you recommend NJIT to a high school student?

Yes, I would. The class sizes are medium to moderate and this enables the student to have a one on one interaction with the professors.  The professors are happy to see you and willing to help when you go for their office hours.

Yohana Garcia is a junior majoring in chemical engineering

Yohana GarciaWhy did you choose to major in chemical engineering?

I chose chemical engineering because you receive a broad education, which opens many job opportunities. I like that I get to learn about many different topics and that I don’t feel constricted to a narrow field.  The market for chemical engineering majors is strong, and you can also get a good job with a bachelor’s degree.  And there’s a lot you can do with that degree.

Do you have good professors?

I do have great professors. Some go out of their way to get you information for programs/scholarships that you may qualify to apply for.

What has been the highlight of NJIT for you thus far?

I am considered a “non-traditional student.” I am a transfer student from Middlesex County College and started out at NJIT as a sophomore. After Middlesex, I took a three year break since I couldn't afford a four-year university. During this time I worked at a dental office. I ended up getting married and thankfully was able to return to NJIT. After being away from school for three years, I wasn't sure everything was going to come back as easy (studying).

But each semester at NJIT just continues to get better. During this past summer I did research under the McNair program. I transferred into the Dorman Honors College this past fall, a great accomplishment for me. It is a great financial help as well as inspiration to continue working hard. I am now doing a co-op with Colgate-Palmolive, in Morristown.  I work in the unit that develops and refines underarm deodorants.  The chemists work on different formulations and my unit scales them up.  We are like a pilot plant, a mini factory.  It’s great experience.

Are you the first in your family to attend college?

My father is from Colombia and my mother from Dominican Republic. I was born in Venezuela and I am the first in my family to attend college.

Are you looking forward to the Merck internship?

I am interested in getting experience in the pharmaceutical industry to see if I would like to work in this industry in the future. This internship will also definitely help my career.

What are your future plans, or your main academic interests here?

This past summer I did research in sustainable energy. It is a topic of great interest to me but I will like to continue gaining experience in chemical engineer before deciding what I will like to pursue.

Would you recommend NJIT to a high school student who likes science and math?

Yes. You receive a great education here as long as you make learning your priority.

Jennifer Ligo is a junior majoring in chemical engineering

Jennifer LigoYou are interested in the environment? How did you develop that interest?

I took AP Environmental Science during my senior year of high school to fill an elective. I ended up really learning a lot and enjoying the material. Having done this, I thought that it would be a good idea to apply at NJPIRG, the nonprofit environmental group. After working at NJPIRG, I decided that I wanted to try to pursue engineering in this field.

Why did you choose chemical engineering as a major?

I knew that I wanted to pursue engineering as a major since I enjoyed science in high school and I liked challenges. I remember my dad telling me that engineering was hard work but that it was worth it because of what it taught you. Not specifically what Q or U was equal to, but the fact that engineering taught you how to be a problem solver -- to look at a situation and find a solution. Engineering takes a lot of dedication but in turn it gives a new mindset and an invaluable skill set which will help in any field.

I chose chemical engineering because I was not sure of what specific field I wanted to go into. When I started at NJIT as a freshman, I was a biomed major. I switched because I wanted more options for my future career. Chemical engineering gave me the choice of going into pharmaceutical or environmental engineering, which at the time were my top choices. However, since then I've taken a strong interest in environmental studies and green technology. I interned with NJPIRG and also took a few classes to learn more about this field.

Why did you come to NJIT?

I chose to come to NJIT based on the scholarships I received. Since I am planning on some type of grad school, I did not want to be stuck with a ton of debt from my undergraduate degree. I also liked the Honors College here and the programs they had to offer as well as the small school environment.

What has been the highlight of NJIT for you?

I've had a great experience at NJIT over the past three years. There have been a lot of opportunities here which I would not have gotten at another university. I love being involved on campus. I am a part of Engineers Without Borders, Alpha Phi Omega, Student Senate, and the Women’s Fencing team.  This year I also became an RA (resident assistant in the dorms) and that has been a really rewarding experience.

Are you looking forward to the Merck internship?

I am very excited for this summer and to find out what project I'll be working on. I can't wait to work in a manufacturing environment. I think this will be an opportunity for me to gain exposure to chemical engineering in industry.

What are your future plans? 

I know that I have a ton of options with a ChE degree. I have considered going to law school for a JD. I also want to get a master’s degree and I've been thinking about environmental engineering. I know that no matter what I end up doing, I want to somehow work with sustainability, energy efficiency, or green tech.

Would you recommend NJIT to a high school student who likes science and math? 

I would because there is opportunity for many students to succeed here at NJIT. The curriculum is rigorous but students are really learning to be able to make a change in the world. There are tons of extracurricular activities that can spark an interest that may inspire them for their futures. If they are looking for a small school environment, this is a great fit.

Jennifer Cislo is a a junior majoring in chemical engineering

Jennifer CisloWhy did you choose chemical engineering as a major and what do you like about it?

I chose chemical engineering as a major because I was always really interested in math and chemistry and loved solving puzzles.  Math came really easy to me and chemistry was fun.  The problem solving that is involved with chemical engineering is exactly what I wanted to do.

Do you have some good professors?

I have had some great professors.  Professor Bilgili is one of the best professors when it comes to teaching, and Professor Perna loves to share his experiences from industry and in the field, which gives students insight as to what it’s really like.  Each professor I've had has worked in the field at some point, which is extremely important.  They know what we need to learn to be successful when we graduate.

What has been the highlight of NJIT for you thus far?

The highlight of NJIT for me has been the opportunity to attend a great engineering school as well as compete on a Division 1 Soccer team. The fact that NJIT offers both has made college a great experience for me.  I am a member of the Honors College and have been on the Dean’s List every semester here. I am also a member of Omega Chi Epsilon, which is an honor society for Chemical Engineers.  Also, last summer I interned at L'Oreal, which was a huge accomplishment for me to be able to expand my work experience.

Are you looking forward to the Merck internship?

I am really looking forward to the Merck internship. Learning about the pharmaceutical industry will be a whole new side to chemical engineering that I haven't seen before.  The internship will definitely help my career as I am interested in finding a job when I graduate next May. Having experience at Merck will really boost my resume and may even prove to be the field I want to work in.

What are your future plans?  

My plan is to start working immediately after I finish college. I would love to travel and I am considering working abroad outside the U.S..

Why did you choose to come to NJIT?

I chose to come to NJIT because a few reasons.  The main two were because NJIT has a great chemical engineering program and a division one soccer team.  Also, the Honors College and the scholarships they could offer made NJIT a really strong candidate.

Would you recommend NJIT to a high school student?

Yes I would recommend NJIT to a high school student who likes science and math.  Both programs are really strong and they allow you to excel.  The opportunities are great for someone interested in these fields.  The career options that come from being a part of NJIT make the hard work in the classroom well worth it. 

By Robert Florida