SCOTCH PLAINS, N.J. – Diana Stinkova, a senior at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School and Scotch Plains, N.J., resident, originally from Chernivtsi, Ukraine, has been named to the 2022 class of New Jersey Governor’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Scholars. The statewide education initiative engages the next generation of research and innovation leaders by recognizing high-achieving New Jersey high school and college students.
Ms. Stinkova arrived in the United States from Ukraine at the age of 8 after her family won a green card lottery. This summer, she visited Ukraine as part of a job-shadowing program. While in Ukraine, in addition to meeting with family and friends, she was able to make connections with a surgeon, a traumatologist, pediatrician and orthopedist in Ukraine. Her primary focus was the work from the perspective of the doctor, not the patient. However, she met with children in the hospital who were being treated for various conditions. During her childhood in Ukraine, Ms. Stinkova needed medical care and it influenced her decision to pursue medical research.
“The COVID-19 pandemic opened my eyes to the important role of healthcare providers and reinforced that this is what I want to do in my life,” Ms. Stinkova said. “I want to give all my time to help as many people as I can.”
Ms. Stinkova, in speaking with The Ukrainian Weekly, discussed how COVID-19 has impacted the needs of the medical system in Ukraine. There is great potential for new technologies to be developed and implemented there, she added.
Ms. Stinkova, 17, said the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Public Schools are preparing her to succeed in the medical field. “Ever since freshman year, I have been trying to take all the most rigorous classes,” she said. “All the Scotch Plains-Fanwood teachers are marvelous; they make the concepts clear, interesting and useful for the future.”
Ms. Stinkova is president of Beyond the Book Club, a 70-member student-led group that volunteers to teach and mentor children through a partnership with the YMCA. She plans to study pharmacology, neuroscience and pre-med in college, and is interested in conducting research on the brain and cellular aging.
Ms. Stinkova is a student at the Lesia Ukrainka School of Ukrainian Studies in Whippany, N.J., and she dances with the Iskra Ukrainian Dance Academy in Whippany. These are outlets where she continues to be a strong advocate for her Ukrainian heritage and they help her keep a connection with her roots. The Ukrainian American Cultural Center of New Jersey, she added, has helped her to preserve her Ukrainian identity. She said her parents have high expectations and great hope for their daughter in the future.
The application process included an essay portion (50 percent), and a video portion (50 percent). In the essay, Ms. Stinkova explained her potential contributions to medical research and its impact on the future. In the video portion, she described herself, her professional passion and how the STEM program has helped her.
The STEM Scholars initiative is the result of a public-private partnership among the Research and Development Council of New Jersey, the Governor’s Office, the New Jersey Department of Education, the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, and private research companies. The ultimate goal of the program is to retain future STEM professionals in the state.
This year, 100 students were selected for the Governor’s STEM Scholars initiative from a pool of more than 600 applicants. The eighth class of scholars represents the most diverse group yet, with 66 percent of the class made up of females and 27 percent male who are or will be first-generation college students.
“I was quite surprised to be chosen because, according to my research, it is a very prestigious and honorable program,” Ms. Stinkova said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunities this will provide.”
Ms. Stinkova met with other scholars on October 16 during a conference held at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). The conference attracted representatives from government councils on research, chemistry and engineering opportunities in the U.S. military. The conference, she said, provided great insight on how STEM programs can affect government.
Additional conferences are scheduled at Rowan University, Stevens Institute of Technology and Kean University (dates to be announced). Attendees will participate in a research project, led by undergraduate and graduate-level scholars, that advances the work of New Jersey’s research community; tour New Jersey STEM facilities and laboratories; and network with STEM professionals.
The Governor’s STEM Scholars is sponsored by Bristol Myers Squibb, Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Siemens ERG (Employee Research Group), RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) Capital Markets, and the PSEG (Public Service Enterprise Group) Foundation. Additional partners include Rutgers University, Rowan University, NJIT and Kean University.