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Caldwell student, Governor’s STEM Scholar, presents at NJ State House

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Caldwell, N.J., March 31, 2017 – Pre-med post-baccalaureate student and alumna Jessica Binkiewicz was among the 2017 class of the Governor’s STEM Scholars honored by the legislature in Trenton on March 23, 2017.

Binkiewicz and the other STEM scholars spoke before the state legislature, gubernatorial staff, and policymakers. “It was a tremendous honor to have presented my research, be honored, and receive a joint legislative resolution on the floor of the Assembly at the State House,” she said.

The prestigious program brings together the high school and post-secondary student leaders who would like to pursue a STEM-related major and career in New Jersey’s STEM economy. Binkiewicz led a research team of three high school students–one was from Wayne Hills High School and two  from Paterson Charter High School for Science and Technology. They focused on determining the inhibitory effects of thieves’ and pulling oils on E. coli to evaluate their antibacterial properties in the hope of combating drug-resistant E. coli strains. They met on Saturday mornings in the university science labs.

The Governor’s STEM Scholars program aims to educate the best and brightest students about science, technology, engineering and math opportunities in New Jersey and to encourage the Garden State’s economic development.

Binkiewicz said the most rewarding part of her experience was being able to educate those in the state legislature and governor’s staff.  She explained that E. coli infections are life-threatening if untreated or if they do not respond to treatment and that there are highly drug-resistant E. coli strains that are present in the United States, including in New Jersey.  She pointed out how crucial her research findings are, which focused on how thieves’ and pulling essential oils are effective antibacterial agents against E. coli, in the treatment of drug-resistant E. coli strains. “What makes essential oils such a great alternative to allopathic treatments is not only are they cost-effective, easily accessible, and have very few side effects, but they also rarely induce microbial resistance unlike antibiotics,” she said. “It was amazing to see how excited, interested, and appreciative they all were to learn about my research project and findings and allow them to see first-hand the vital importance of research and STEM education.”

The year-long experience has given her the chance to network with other students and professionals in STEM fields. In addition to mentoring high school students, she had the chance to meet Nobel Prize winners and attend conferences. “I truly enjoyed every minute of it. I am sad for the program to come to an end, but I know all the knowledge and leadership skills that I have gained from this experience will always stay with me and be used each day in my future career as a physician.”

Her advisor has been Caldwell Science Chair Dr. William Velhagen.  Associate Professor Dr. Agnes Berki advised her on the research project.

Binkiewicz graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Caldwell in 2014.