Rivka Stone, a senior at New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Albert Dorman Honors College, will graduate from the public research university with a perfect cumulative grade-point average of 4.0.
Stone, a driven student with a burning desire to learn, is graduating from NJIT after just three years. She crammed extra credits into her semesters and placed herself on an accelerated track. Her hard work has paid off.
In the fall, Stone, 21, of West Orange, will start medical school at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ). She was accepted, on full scholarship, into the university’s accelerated MD/PhD program. The program, more prestigious and harder to get into than regular medical school, will allow her to earn both an MD and a PhD in seven years. Graduates of the MD/PhD program are trained to become leaders in biomedical research and academic medicine. She will begin the program in late August and will spend the earlier part of the summer working as a teacher assistant in NJIT’s pre-college center.
A biomedical engineering major, Stone won an Outstanding Academic Achievement Award from the biomedical engineering department at NJIT.
“Rivka will make a terrific doctor and a great researcher,” said David Kristol, PhD, a professor of the biomedical engineering who is Stone’s adviser at NJIT. “She’s the top student in our department and she’s a wonderful person who sincerely wants to help patients. In the Jewish religion, the command is to ‘heal the world.’ And I suspect Rivka, who is an Orthodox Jew, interprets that to mean physically healing people.”
Stone credits the Dorman Honors College for putting her on the avenue to success, and she in many ways exemplifies the mission of the college: to educate students to become leaders in their fields.
“Dorman is a demanding and rigorous college,” she said, “that provides students with advanced classes and great seminars. Dorman gives its students generous scholarships, which means we don’t have to worry about finances, and we are encouraged to do research with faculty researchers. And research opens us up to the world of real-life science.”
During her last semester at Dorman, Stone did research at the Drug Delivery Lab based at the New Jersey Center for Biomaterials, Newark. The Center does research on drug delivery methods. Stone is helping to design a new drug delivery patch. The patch uses a newly patented polymer, as well as a chemical-penetration enhancer that could have use in delivering various drugs to patients.
Stone worked during the summer of 2004 as a research intern at Immunomedics, Inc., a cancer research company in Morris Plains. The company devises antibody-based therapies that target and destroy various cancer cells. Stone tested and characterized antibodies that can bind to the surface of tumor cells and block the agent that causes cancer cells to grow and proliferate.
“I was challenged each day to rethink and to understand the mechanisms by which antibodies interact with tumor cells,” said Stone. “Although the research itself was extremely satisfying, it was especially gratifying to know that my participation in projects, whether successful or not, could contribute to the fight to conquer this disease.”
From an early age, Stone was sensitive to the suffering of others and wanted to alleviate their pain.
In the essay she submitted along with her application to medical school, Stone wrote: “My interest in pursuing a career in medicine goes back to when I was a young child. “When asked in preschool what I wanted to be when I grew up, I was already choosing doctor over the more popular choices of princess or fireman. I have always been sensitive to the pain and distress experienced by those around me, and at the age of five, I think I had already associated medicine as the vehicle with which to help others in such situations.”
Stone was always driven academically to achieve her goal. In 2001, she graduated as valedictorian from Bruriah High School, in Elizabeth, with a straight A average. She also won a National Merit Scholarship, a Bloustein Distinguished New Jersey Scholarship, and a Bausch and Lomb Science Award. She earned enough advanced-placement college credits to allow her to finish her undergraduate degree at NJIT in three years.
Her ultimate goal after medical school, she says, is to “use my mind and talents to understand - and therefore conquer - disease. And on a more individual level, to provide effective treatment that will bring complete cure and total healing to those who suffer.”
Begun as a pilot program in 1985 and launched as a college of the university in 1994, the Dorman Honors College enrolls more than 500 of the nation’s brightest students, with SAT scores in the top 10 percent nationally and with math proficiency in the top two percent. The mission of Dorman is to transform students into leaders, which Stone seems destined to become.
Dorman is in the midst of a national fundraising campaign, headed by Princeton architect J. Robert Hillier, which hopes to raise $20 million for an endowed scholarship fund. NJIT is developing a website for the fundraising campaign that will be located at www. njit.edu/honorscampaign.