Among NJIT's Women Engineers, Junior Jaasrini Vellore is Judged "Outstanding"
Success in a Snapshot: Jaasrini Vellore*, a biomedical engineering student who specializes in biomaterials, was honored at the 2018 NCE Salute to Excellence as the Madame Mau Outstanding Female Engineering Student. Although she’s a junior, Vellore’s accomplishments – from a 3.96 GPA, to a key role mentoring freshmen in her department, to research on a longstanding problem with hearing aids, to hospital internships – wowed the committee nonetheless. What also impressed them were qualities that can’t be quantified – her compassion and her ability to quietly lead. As a Learning Communities peer mentor, Vellore makes it a point to know which new students need extra help and guidance and is credited by the department with being “instrumental to their success and the success of the department in retaining and guiding them,” and “an invaluable asset.” Outside of the classroom, she has volunteered on hospital wards and in emergency rooms since high school, traveled to Panama to set up a rural clinic and responded to medical emergencies on an ambulance crew every Friday night since last fall. She explains, “My goal is to gain a variety of knowledge and experience related to medicine, and hopefully become a successful physician one day.”
Singular Accomplishment: Vellore won’t point to a single endeavor as her proudest, but says instead that she prizes her ability to juggle so many. Her Friday nights as an EMT for the Ridgefield Ambulance Corps. – from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. the next morning – are a notable case in point. In her first months on the crew, she quickly learned to handle a wide range of injuries, from scrapes and broken bones to strokes and heart attacks. “Every call is different. Even if it’s for the same issue, no two are similar.” Just as critically, she’s figured out how to manage chaotic situations with organization and superlative calm. On stroke calls, “we go into them knowing that we have only about three hours – a small time frame – to get patients to the hospital so that they can get the medication they need to minimize damage. This can be stressful, because a lot is happening and the family is often extremely scared and upset. We’re a four-member team and everyone has an assigned task, like bringing oxygen or the medical kit. We don’t bombard patients with a million questions and make sure only one person is interacting with them at a time.” Her crew recently transported a woman who’d had a stroke to the hospital in 15 minutes, giving her a large window to stabilize. “What I’ve learned is that every role we play is as important as another in these emergencies and the key is not just to be a leader, but to work with the group.”
Peak Adventure: Over spring break her freshman year, Vellore set off for Las Delicias, a tiny village in the Bocas Del Toro region of Panama to set up a pop-up medical clinic for rural villagers lacking primary care. For many, the nearest doctor was about 50 miles away and villagers who had not been examined or treated in years in some cases poured in with dental problems, chronic pain, poor nutrition and even ulcers. “I was mostly at the triage station, where we measured heights and weights and took blood pressure, but had the chance to work in the other stations as well. All of the supplies in the pharmacy – vitamins, painkillers, hygiene and dental supplies – were things we had to gather ourselves prior to our trip.” Her nine years of Spanish came in handy when a six-year-old girl with a broken, painfully infected tooth arrived and found out the dentist planned to pull it. “She was a mess – crying and crying. I held her hand throughout the procedure and explained that we were there to help her, not to hurt her, and that she would feel so much better when it was over. It may sound like fluff, but it actually helps a lot to hear these things. Going to a place that had minimal healthcare really impacted me because it urged me even more to pursue my goals of becoming a physician. Medicine is all about helping people and making them feel better.”
Ambition: Vellore knew by the age of seven, when some kids are still entertaining "superhero" as a possibility, that she wanted to be a doctor – and specifically a neurologist. Since then, all paths are leading her to medical school, although with an open mind about her field. While she is fascinated by the brain, she is also intrigued by prosthetics. “I chose biomedical engineering over biology, because I’m interested in how technology interacts with the body.” Working closely with Antje Ihlefeld (above, left), director of the Neural Engineering Speech and Hearing Lab, she spent a year and a half on a research project designed to improve the experience of Cochlear implant wearers, who often can’t perceive emotion in people’s voices – to distinguish, for example, between anger and amusement. But she’s also intrigued by emergency medicine following her Friday nights on the EMT crew, and so for now, neurology will have to compete.
*Vellore is a member of the Albert Dorman Honors College