Mercer County students named Class of 2023 Governors STEM Scholars


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The Governor’s STEM Scholars has named a number of Mercer County students to its 2023 Scholars class.

Sumuk Anand, Rachel Guhathakurta, Suhani Gupta, Nick Hagedorn, Sruthi Potluri, Vinesha Shaik, Shriya Sudhakar, Sarah Usman, and Grace Xia are part of a 2023 Scholars class that consists of 128 scholars from 20 counties across the state.

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Students of color make up 83% of this year’s scholars and 64% of the class identifies as female, according to the Governor’s STEM Scholars (GSS).

“The Governor’s STEM Scholars provides high-achieving New Jersey STEM students in grades 10 through doctoral level with an introduction to the state’s vast STEM economy to retain that talent in the state,” GSS said.

Sumuk is a senior at Princeton High School. He has ranked highly in geography and history competitions such as the National Geography Bee, U.S. Geography Olympiad, International Geography Bee and National History Bowl. His extended interest in geography has led to interdisciplinary studies in geography and science. He has been conducting research for several years in the pursuit of finding sustainable solutions for the biodegradation of plant-based plastic alternatives. With his findings, he has presented at the Rutgers Junior Humanities and Sciences Symposium and has won regional science fairs, such as the Bergen SciChallenge, which qualified him for Broadcom Masters. He has three publications on National Center for Biotechnology Information’s GenBank sequence database for the analysis of three novel Landoltia Punctata sequences. In school, he is an officer for the UNICEF club and an active member of the History Bowl team. He is a two-time national semifinalist for North South Foundation’s Panacea Challenge, focusing on diversity and inclusion. He has actively volunteered to teach elementary school students in various areas such as STEM, geography, Taekwondo, and chess. Sumuk aspires to pursue a career in the fields of Environmental Science, Biotechnology and Computer Science to help solve global environmental issues.

Rachel is a junior at Princeton High School. She is interested in combining computer science, image detection, and AI (artificial intelligence) to create innovative solutions in healthcare. She is currently pursuing research in image detection with machine learning for destructive habit reduction therapies such as nail biting and compulsive hair pulling. She has challenged herself by earning university credit courses in computer science and economics from Carnegie Mellon University. She is also an organizer for the Princeton High School Hackathon (Hack PHS) where she is actively involved in outreach and designing challenges. Rachel serves on her school’s student council as vice president, and actively participates in Latinos Unidos to celebrate and embrace Latin culture. Outside school, she mentors underprivileged students through the Centro De Salud, Mexico outreach program. Her vision is to follow her passions in mathematics, science, engineering, computer learning, and statistical analysis and to leverage the knowledge and skills gained to create educational opportunities and technology equity for underserved Hispanic communities. And particularly for girls whose opportunities in STEM are marginal. When she is not pursuing STEM interests, you can find her on the soccer field or playing the flute.

Suhani is a junior at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South. Her interest in STEM has manifested itself through helping others learn more about science. Suhani is the founder of a nonprofit organization named Impact Code, with the goal to help other kids learn about the principles of computer science. She also has utilized a platform with Girls Who Code to create activist websites that spread awareness of political problems around the world. Suhani also expanded on the opportunity for researching virtually, having conducted research on nuclear chemistry and astrophysics with professors from the University of Michigan and Notre Dame University, sponsored by JINA-CEE. When not pursuing a STEM-related passion, Suhani also takes initiative in public speaking and is an active competitor in her Mock Trial and Debate Teams, where she has received awards for her speaking capabilities. She finds fulfillment in working with kids, whether it is recommending a good book to them while volunteering at the library, or helping foreign students improve their English. In her free time, Suhani enjoys playing basketball, songwriting with her guitar, and baking with her sister.

Nick is a junior at Princeton High School. His STEM interests primarily concern mathematics, where he has conducted research into knot theory, specifically studying crossing-number bounds on n-crossing knot projections. He has attended the Ross Mathematics Program two consecutive summers, the second time as a junior counselor in 2022. There he studied number theory and took graduate-level classes in Ergodic Ramsey theory. Nick is also the vice president of the national organization “Absolute Value,” a non-profit with chapters in over 15 states dedicated to engaging middle schools in math. Outside of math, he competes in Public Forum debate, having placed third in the state of New Jersey. Nick also enjoys orchestral music composition and programming.

​Sruthi is a senior at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North. She is the secretary of her school’s division of the Rutgers University’s Waksman Student Scholars Program, where she performs molecular biology and bioinformatics research as she isolates and analyzes DNA from duckweed. Sruthi is also conducting research on Alzheimer’s Disease through Polygence and is a member of the New York Academy of Sciences. During the pandemic, Sruthi founded Colors of Harmony to support seniors and individuals and promote wellness through her passion for music. She designed a website containing music playlists, student-made videos, blog posts, and virtual sessions featuring live performances. She is also a co-founder of Echo Irise which encourages appreciation for the environment through postings of meaningful moments found within nature. Sruthi volunteers with STEMNauts, tutoring young children in core subjects. She is the co-president of her school’s Business Club. Sruthi is interested in medical research and hopes to combine her interests in STEM and business to pursue innovation in health.

Vinesha is a junior at West-Windsor Plainsboro High School South. She is a STEM advocate passionate about using technology to create change. Being the president of a SWENext club and earning leadership on her school’s FIRST Robotics Competition team, she introduces new programs for students in her district and regularly organizes symposiums for youth from underrepresented groups to explore their interests in STEM. Selected as a Helene-Cody Scholar, she collaborates with non-profit organizations in Central Jersey to lead Social Entrepreneurship Coding camps. Her experiences in teaching young girls from local underserved communities and rural villages in India highlighted the subconscious inhibitions of many girls in STEM. This realization inspired her to found Coding for Community, a nonprofit aiming to make STEM education more accessible and bridge the digital divide, for her Girl Scout Gold Award. Looking to the future, she aspires to further her education in STEM and use her opportunities to make a positive social impact in the communities that have shaped her.

Shriya is a senior at West Windsor Plainsboro High School North. As co-captain of her school’s FIRST Robotics Competition Team, president of her school’s Medical Forum & HOSA chapter, and avid Girl Scout, she has founded and led initiatives to increase access to a STEM education within her local community. Shriya is also a lab assistant on her school’s chapter of the Waksman Student Scholars Program, where she conducts research in the field of molecular biology through lab protocols and bioinformatic analysis. Passionate about machine learning and computer science, she hopes to become a researcher in the field and promote STEM literacy.

​Sarah is a senior at West-Windsor Plainsboro High School North. As president and co-founder of her school’s Muslim Student Association, she has worked with multiple non-profit organizations to advocate for social justice in the local community as well as unify the Muslim student body at her school. She is a member of her school’s chapter of the Waksman Student Scholars Program, where she conducts DNA sequence analysis of genes from Landoltia punctata (Duckweed) using bioinformatic web-based tools to determine its viability as a potential source of biofuel. Sarah is authoring a paper on cardiovascular disease prevalence in South Asian populations by conducting a literary analysis of multiple publications and contacting various international health departments and medical departments to obtain cholesterol and lipid data. She is currently training to become an emergency medical technician and hopes to volunteer at her local rescue squad. In the future, Sarah aspires to use her interests in computational biology and bioinformatics to create screening technologies that can facilitate in early detection of chronic illnesses.

Grace is a junior at Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart in Princeton. She has been conducting research on the bioluminescence of micro-dinoflagellates at the Rutgers Biochemistry Lab this past summer. She participated in a study to demonstrate how dinoflagellate cells can be grown in labs, and to determine the force required upon the cells that will prompt them to glow. In the lab, Grace operated microscopy tools to take images to document the luminescence of the growing dinoflagellate cells. Although Grace is particularly interested in studying chemistry in the future, she is open and curious to learn about other areas as they all connect. Outside science, Grace is actively involved in serving her community through engaging in multiple projects. She volunteers at Loaves and Fishes, and Visitation Home that helps people with developmental disabilities, she advocates for fair and just housing policies for the underprivileged for Habitat for Humanity. Grace is also a big fan of music, anywhere from classical to modern pop. In her free time, she enjoys playing the piano and serving as an assistant instructor at the Westminster Conservatory Piano camp.

GSS introduces scholars to New Jersey’s STEM economy with a public-private partnership among the Research & Development Council of New Jersey, the New Jersey Office of the Governor, the New Jersey Department of Education, the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, and the state’s leading research companies.

The scholars are able to do this through master classes, research work, quarterly symposiums and field trips.

The program conducts four weekend conferences in the academic year, which allows for the scholars to engage with state STEM professionals.

In order to graduate from the program scholars must attend all of the four conferences and take part in a research project as a team member or a team leader.

When the students graduate in May 2023, they will join an alumni cohort of over 700 Scholars.

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