Gloria Portocarrero, of Union City, receives her bachelor of science in biomedical engineering from NJIT at the Prudential Center this Saturday at 9 a.m. She’ll walk at the head of her class—an Albert Dorman Honors College scholar who’s accepted into a master’s degree program for next fall in biomedical engineering.
She’ll also represent—quite admirably—NJIT’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), the McNair Scholarship Program, and NJIT’s Greek system. Portocarrero will also remain president of her 22-member social sorority, Sigma Psi Kappa, through much of graduate school.
ATTENTION EDITORS: To interview and/or photograph Portocarrero at or prior to the May 17 graduation, contact Sheryl Weinstein 973-596-3435.)
“EOP was a great head-start,” said Portocarrero. Now in its 37th year, the program is offered to select freshmen the summer before school begins. Students endure an intensive six-week academic boot camp which focuses on a successful homebrewed method of time management skills plus math, science and paper writing lessons.
She said the invitation to participate in the McNair Program was an answered prayer because it opened the door for advanced research at an early stage. By her junior year, with graduation looming, she had wondered what to do next after school ended. Like bread from heaven, Angelo Perna, PhD, distinguished professor of chemical engineering and director of NJIT’s McNair Program, appeared out of nowhere, inviting her to apply to the Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program.
“My greatest dream is to obtain a doctorate in biomedical engineering to perform stem cell research,” Portocarrero said. The program teamed her with NJIT’s award-winning adult stem cell researcher, Treena Arinzeh. With Arinzeh she studied the mechanical properties of collagen scaffolds for tissue growth. For this accomplishment, the Association for Equality and Excellence in Education (AEEE) http://www.aeee.org/ named her this spring a 2008 Outstanding McNair Scholar.
NJIT offered this young woman yet one more notable opportunity: Sigma Psi Kappa. “Whenever I have needed a shoulder to lean on, someone to hear me, it’s been my sisters,” she said. Improved leadership skills have been additional dividends. She now boasts of working better with others and the ability to lead small groups.
The sorority experience also offered her the chance to serve a three-year term as community service chair of NJIT’s Inter-Fraternity/Sorority Council. The experience included organizing and participating in campus-wide fund-raisers, raising more than $24,000 over a three-year period. The 22-member sorority has also given her a better understanding of diversity: “Different women from different economic classes and different backgrounds belong. To be exposed to an experience like this so early in life is important,” she said.
This past semester Portocarrero ran for sorority president, a full-year position. “It’s going to work out, because I am staying at NJIT to earn my master’s degree. Also the vice president is my roommate and best friend, Joanna Veres.”