Finding His Groove at NJIT: Meet Chinedu

Chinedu Ezebuiroh won a fellowship to study mechanical engineering at Stanford. He excelled at biomedical engineering research at NJIT.

Chinedu Ezebuiroh, a biomedical engineering major who excelled as a researcher at NJIT, has won a fellowship to attend Stanford University, where  he’ll pursue a master’s in mechanical engineering. The fellowship will cover his tuition and related academic expenses.

Chinedu (pronounced Chi-nay-do), a 2010 graduate, is one of three members of his senior class to win scholarships to Stanford: Salman Naqvi, an electrical engineering major, and Katrina Hornstein, a mechanical engineer, will also start graduate work in the fall at Stanford.

Chinedu is a top student. He was in the Honors College, had a 3.7 GPA, and was a McNair scholar who did three major research projects. He was inducted into Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honors society and was so good at physics that NJIT hired him to work as a physic’s tutor. 

But by his own admission, he wasn’t always a stellar student.  In point of fact, when he started college, he nearly flunked out.  He spent his first three semesters at Cornell University, where he struggled to find a major he liked and the maturity and discipline he needed to succeed.  He found none of that at Cornell. Fortunately for him, though, during an academic leave of absence from Cornell, he found all he was searching for at NJIT.

In this interview, Chinedu discusses how NJIT helped him find a major he loved, professors he adored, and research opportunities that put him back on the path to academic excellence. 

So why did you transfer out of Cornell and into NJIT?
During my senior year in high school, I was accepted at Cornell. And as one would guess, I was thrilled by the prospect of attending an Ivy League college.  I jumped at the opportunity. High school was never much of a challenge for me, though, and at Cornell I lacked the maturity and discipline needed to succeed. So after my third semester, I took a leave of absence.  During that year, I worked and took classes at both Rutgers and NJIT.  At NJIT, I met professors who gave me great guidance and advice. So when I had to choose to return to Cornell or stay at NJIT, I decided to stay at NJIT.  And staying here was the best decision I could have made for my future.

And what do you love about biomedical engineering?
From a young age, I have always had a keen interest in human physiology; hence understanding the systematic and mechanical functions of the body was of interest to me.  Knowing this, I wanted to choose a major that would allow me to explore these facets.  Once I came to NJIT and discovered Biomedical Engineering, selecting this major was an effortless decision.

You worked on research projects with some of NJIT’s top professors. Can you discuss those projects?
While at NJIT, I was accepted into the McNair Program, a great program that allows undergraduates to do summer research with prominent professors.  During the summer of 2008, I did research with Professor Bryan Pfister of the Biomedical Engineering Department. There, I helped him optimize a device used to study traumatic brain injury.  During the following year, I did research for Professor Treena Arinzeh.  I assisted her graduate student in the study of a certain polymer.  We tested the polymer to analyze its potential use as a biomedical implant.

You also got to do research in California one summer.
During the summer of 2009, I worked on a summer research project in California with a professor at the University of California, Irvine, where I investigated a method used to make and high-performance metals.  I always planned to attend graduate school, and being part of the McNair program helped me understand what graduate school will be like.  McNair has prepared me for the rigors of graduate school and helped me get accepted at Stanford.

Discuss your family and your background.
My younger brother and I were raised in West Orange, N.J., but our parents are Nigerian immigrants. Throughout their lives, both my mother and father worked hard to achieve their successes.  My father got his a master’s degree in electrical engineering in 1991 from NJIT, and my mother has a master’s in journalism from another college. So my younger brother, Obinna, and I knew from a young age that the same drive and determination would be expected of us.  Since we were boys, our parents instilled in us the importance of education.

What are main interests, outside of academics?
From my youth, I have been interested in sports and music.  Growing up, I played soccer, basketball and ran track in high school.  Musically, I played the alto saxophone for five years and bassoon for two years both in middle school and high school. I learned to play the piano by ear when I was six years old. And most recently, for the last five years, I’ve played the guitar.  I played in bands in high school and now make and play music on my own.

Talk about what you’ll study at Stanford and the fellowship.
While at Stanford, I will be working on a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, with a concentration in biomechanical engineering. The fellowship I received at Stanford is called the Stanford 5-quarter Graduate Engineering Fellowship. It includes waived tuition for the duration of my master’s degree and a stipend I will receive for five quarters (Sept. ’10 – Dec. ’11).

And what do you plan to do after Stanford?
After I receive my master’s I plan to pursue a Ph.D., an MBA, or both.  Ultimately, I would love to work for a top engineering firm in a managerial role or in an executive position.

Looking back, do you think you got a solid education at NJIT -- the kind of education your parents wanted for you.?
I feel the decision I made to come to NJIT was a great one.  Because Cornell was such a large school, it was easy to get lost in the distractions associated with college.  At NJIT (at least in the BME department), the professors are much more accessible and eager to devote time, effort, and energy to helping students succeed.  At NJIT, I received great mentoring from many of the professors. And I can confidently say that NJIT gave me the chance to bounce back from a challenging, previous academic experience.  NJIT gave me the opportunity to prove to myself and to others that I deserved all of the prior successes I have received. But most importantly, NJIT helped me prove to myself, and to others, that I merit all of the future accomplishments that are yet to come.

(By Robert Florida, University Web Services)