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Freshman seeks to merge service with science

by Angela Herring of news@Northeastern

As a high school freshman in India, Jigar Mehta started a small non­profit orga­ni­za­tion called Give a Week, which engaged stu­dents in com­mu­nity ser­vice projects for one week each month.

“We worked with juve­niles in prison, in old age homes and started blood drives,” Mehta explained. “I’ve always been inter­ested in service.”

Mehta, an incoming freshman, said that his pas­sion for com­mu­nity ser­vice led him to North­eastern, which has accepted the standout stu­dent into the inau­gural class of the Uni­ver­sity Scholars Pro­gram. The full-​​tuition pro­gram sup­ports highly accom­plished future thought leaders, inno­va­tors and entre­pre­neurs who have excelled both in and out of the classroom.

Jigar Mehta

Mehta, who praised Northeastern’s excep­tional research oppor­tu­ni­ties and flag­ship coop­er­a­tive edu­ca­tion pro­gram, believes that the uni­ver­sity will pro­vide him with the nec­es­sary resources to con­nect two long-​​held pas­sions: public ser­vice and med­ical technology.

Last fall, Mehta orga­nized a group of stu­dents from schools near Mumbai in an effort to develop an aug­mented reality tech­nology for med­ical edu­ca­tion. The bright minds designed a hand­held glove that, Mehta said, “helps med­ical stu­dents learn anatomy and under­stand pro­ce­dures, like min­i­mally inva­sive surgery, in an inter­ac­tive way.”

Mehta led his group all the way to a con­fer­ence in Thai­land, where the team won first place for its paper on making this type of tech­nology more fea­sible and eco­nom­ical. “We’re just scratching the sur­face of the tech­nology,” said Mehta, who wants to make it acces­sible to a variety of demo­graphics, including med­ical stu­dents in devel­oping coun­tries like his own.

Mehta plans to study behav­ioral neu­ro­science at North­eastern so that he can develop a better under­standing of human behav­iors. His long-​​term career goal, he said, is con­necting dis­abled per­sons with advanced technologies.

“There’s a great deal of sat­is­fac­tion when you can manage to do good for others and your­self,” he said. “Edu­ca­tion in clas­sical skills can be accom­pa­nied with a gen­uine com­mit­ment toward public ser­vice,” he added noting Northeastern’s strength in this par­tic­ular area.

In addi­tion to starting NPOs and devel­oping new tech­nolo­gies, Mehta has also spent time researching skin dis­eases and epi­ge­netic ther­a­pies for cancer as an Advanced Trainee for Uni­versal Pharma’s research lab­o­ra­tory. He has also assisted cancer patients as a vol­un­teer at the Care India Med­ical Society.

“You need to find a cer­tain amount of sat­is­fac­tion,” he said, “and in this area I always find that doing more is doing good.”

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