Meet Mariya Tohfafarosh: An Outstanding Senior

NCE's Outstanding Senior in Biomedical Engineering Mariya Tohfafarosh

Mariya Tohfafarosh was recently named the Outstanding Senior in her major, biomedical engineering.

In her four years at NJIT, she has accomplished much.  She has the second highest grade-point average -- a 3.953 � in her class, but also manages to be involved on campus.  She is a Scholar for Women in Leadership and belongs to the Biomedical Engineering Honors Society and the Phi Eta Sigma Honors Society. She is a scholar in the Albert Dorman Honors College who has four named scholarships.

She has also done impressive research.  One of her research professors, George Collins, says that �Mariya may be the only undergraduate student to perform at such a high level at the interface between biomaterials and tissue engineering,�

Her research was so successful that she will appear as an author on an upcoming peer-reviewed journal article.  She has also done stem cell research with a national leader in the field: NJIT Professor Treena Arinzeh.  

Mariya is also a campus leader.  She is a member of the NJIT Student Senate, was vice-president of the Biomedical Engineering Honors Society and public relations manager for the Society of Women Engineers and the Biomedical Engineering Society. She also worked as a tutor in the learning center and as a peer mentor for the Honors College.

In this interview, Mariya talks about her accomplishments at NJIT

You have said that biomedical engineering (BME) is the perfect major for you.  Can you explain why?
To me, biomedical engineering is a great field that combines the rigors of biological sciences with the power of engineering applications to improve the quality of life for patients. Through BME, I was able to understand the importance of tissue regeneration for therapeutic purposes, which strengthened my desire to go to medical school. Studying BME was interesting because most of our classes are studio-based, which gives us students hands-on experience. I still, for instance, remember the time when we performed Cesarean surgery on a hotdog bun to give birth to a baby marshmallow. Most importantly, looking at the excellent research done by the professors in our department, I realized I couldn�t have chosen a better major.

Talk about the stem cell research you did with Professor Treena Arinzeh.
Certain stem cells derived from bone marrow have high self-renewal properties and can give rise to specialized cell lines. My research with Professor Arinzeh involved turning stem cells from both humans and rabbits into bone, cartilage and fat cells. We also investigated the healing of bone injuries in rabbit -- a pre-clinical model for orthopedic tissue engineering. I am grateful to Dr. Arinzeh for allowing me to work on such major research; and I eagerly look forward to see my work published in a scientific journal.

Why do you want to be a doctor?
Due to the medical condition of my grandpa, my family had frequent visits to doctor. As a child, I thought our doctor had some magical power to alleviate people�s pain. That�s when I decided that I wanted to become a doctor. Although I did not understand the responsibilities of a doctor then, I now value the capabilities of a doctor and I want to be one who improves the lives of patients. Some people view medicine as a money making profession; however, to me, the satisfaction that arises from relieving people�s suffering is the true reward.

What kind of doctor would you like to be and why?
Instead of being a general practitioner who treats an array of medical conditions, I would like to be a cardiologist. This specialty caught my attention when I learned about the detailed functioning of the heart in my Intro to Physiology class, and later when I understood the mathematical modeling of the heart in an Engineering Physiology course. I also learned about synthetic heart values and the regeneration of cardiac tissue. All this caused me to want to have a career as a cardiologist.  I�m now applying to medical schools and hope to hear soon.

You were involved in a lot at NJIT. But what was your favorite extra-curricular activity?
I loved serving on the Student Senate, where I acted as a bridge between administration and the students. The NJIT administrators I worked with were pleasantly approachable and willing to take great measures to resolve student�s concerns. And the pleasure I felt in helping my peers made the work worthwhile. It also allowed me to gain leadership, organization and communication skills, which are truly priceless. I also mentored freshmen through the Honors College, another activity that I thoroughly enjoyed. Getting proper guidance during the first year in college is essential for a student�s career, and I�m delighted that I helped a few freshmen succeed. 

You came to America to attend college at NJIT. Was that a difficult transition?
Being the youngest in my family, I was a pampered child who never left home. So, the sudden separation from my parents made me pretty homesick; in addition, the cultural shock and a bit of a language barrier made my transition difficult. If it weren�t for my brother, my friends at NJIT and my amazing professors, I might not have succeeded at NJIT. 

When you were in India in high school, how did you pick NJIT? And looking back, was it a good decision to study here? Did you enjoy your four years here?
I was looking for a university that was not too large but still offered great programs, research opportunities and student activities. I looked at NJIT�s website, and saw the great research being done by professors in the biomedical engineering department, and noted that students were working on that research with their professors.  Although I applied and got accepted at four other universities, I picked NJIT � a decision that I never regretted.

Why is that?
Because strong education I received here was amazing. NJIT has several resources, including the library and CAPE, both of which have enhanced my education. I have received incredible support from the Newark College of Engineering (especially the BME Department) and the Honors College, both of which have contributed to my intellectual development. The Student Senate and organizations such as the Society of Women Engineers, the BME Society and the BME Honors Society helped me to develop leadership skills. NJIT has offered me a lot.  I truly enjoyed my four years here and I am thankful to my friends, advisers and professors for giving me such a valuable experience.

(By Robert Florida, University Web Services)