Credit: Nick Romanenko
Nakul Raykar, a graduate of the School of Engineering, found himself at an educational crossroads during his time at Rutgers. Should he become a research scientist or a doctor?
A ceramics and materials engineering major, he had immersed himself in the world of basic scientific research. Since his sophomore year, he had been part of a research team ferreting out carbon nano-structures that have applications from bone implants to ballistic armor.
But as much as he has enjoyed presenting his work at conferences and publishing his first scientific paper, he has also been attracted to the immediacy of medicine.
“There is a moral clarity and purpose to the medical profession,” said Raykar, who minored in biological science. During a summer in India, he tagged along with his uncle, a government physician treating people in poverty-stricken areas of the country.
“While research is exciting and broad, it doesn’t provide me with the sense of fulfillment that my uncle experiences on a daily basis,” Raykar said. “It lacks the exhilarating power of interpersonal connection that patient care delivers.”
This year, Raykar decided to apply to medical school. His 3.92 grade point average and number one rank in his materials science and engineering class had something to do with his acceptance at seven top schools – as did his involvement in student government and organizational activities.
As an oversight member of the Rutgers University Lobbying Association and president of the engineering student government, he lobbied the New Jersey Congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., this year for more federal student aid. In 2002-03 Raykar led the budget restoration effort in Trenton, helping to restore $3.1 million to the Outstanding Scholars Recruitment Program. In addition, Raykar served for two terms as president of Rutgers’ chapter of the American Medical Student Association, implementing a toy drive for children’s wards of local hospitals and shelters.
Raykar attributes his strong belief in education and commitment to service to his upbringing. His parents left India for the United States in the early 1970s so that his father could pursue a doctoral degree in pharmaceutical research. The family lived in California until 10 years ago, when his father joined the research staff of Hoffmann-La Roche. “My parents expounded the idea that if God gave you an opportunity or talent for something – anything at all – then it should be used for more than your own benefit,” Raykar said.
Adrian Mann, assistant professor of engineering and materials science, spent the last two years working on nanostructures research with Raykar, whom he describes as a gifted, extraordinary student, who is also modest and unassuming. “I have taught many outstanding students, but I have never had the pleasure to teach someone as accomplished and as level-headed as Nakul,” Mann said. “His decision to go to medical school is a great loss to the field of materials science, but a great gain for medicine.”
It is likely that Raykar’s activism will continue. After seriously considering attending Dartmouth or Mount Sinai medical schools, he plans to accept a scholarship to New Jersey Medical School, part of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark.
“It seemed like an offer too good to turn down. The school has a strong clinical reputation and it is near my home in New Jersey, where there are so many diverse communities in which to gain experience,” Raykar said. “Especially in the Newark area, with so many uninsured, the population really depends on the medical school to provide that care.”