Niaja Farve has been working with her all volunteer team, comprised of administrative and marketing professionals, writers and mentors since June of 2013. The group, which has come a long way since their modest beginnings, recently began supporting the first collective of i-Trek mentees, “trekkers,” in their ambitious research project demonstrating the early success of Niaja’s vision. Although she recognizes i-Trek still has some distance in meeting its funding goals, for Niaja, the success of i-Trek is profoundly personal. Her approach to leadership is guided by a philosophy which developed from the significant observations made in her undergraduate and graduate education. These observations have impacted not only her career choices, but have driven her passion for the very mission of i-Trek.
Originally from the small town of Gaithersburg, MD, Niaja began her journey toward engineering with a love of music. She had hoped in high school to take her high aptitude in mathematics and her passion for melodies and become an audio engineer. It was Desiree Farve, i-Trek’s CFO and Niaja’s mother, who suggested she broaden her focus and study electrical engineering. Niaja has not regretted this decision, and believes her mother is her primary source of inspiration. Growing up with just the two of them, Niaja credits Desiree with what she believes is one of her most important inherited traits: to persevere through life’s obstacles.
Niaja’s accomplishments as an undergraduate at Morgan State University lead her to MIT’s graduate program in Electrical Engineering. MIT’s rich offerings tempted her to continue beyond her master’s; she now enjoys her daily research in the Media Lab as a PhD student. In addition to creating the blueprint for i-Trek’s model, Niaja works tirelessly on eye tracking, or using an individual’s eye movements to monitor thought patterns. With the hope of inventing a mobile platform for health technology, Niaja is designing a way to seamlessly monitor our eating and drinking habits. Through her lab work, she hopes one day we will utilize popular technology like smart phones and make them more advantageous to our health. Niaja fervently believes in applying her education to the betterment of the community.
As the leader of a bourgeoning non-profit organization, Niaja believes each member of the team is a fellow founder. Her philosophy of management is egalitarian and inclusive, not unlike her hopes for i-Trek’s impact on its students. Those selected for the program will come to an agreement with their mentor on which project will be chosen. For success in the program, the participants will have to push themselves to work together as effectively as they push themselves to complete each required piece alone. Niaja has high hopes that i-Trek will inspire more students from under-served and underrepresented backgrounds to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM fields can offer wonderful opportunities even outside of the classroom, just as engineering opened up the world to Niaja.
As recipient of the prestigious scholarship with Army Corps of Engineering, Niaja worked in Germany where she assisted in project management. Every weekend for an entire summer, she traveled to a different country in Europe. After visiting an variety of places like Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Vienna and Prague, Niaja was given a more worldly perspective that has set her apart from the majority of her peers.
In addition to her many European excursions, being introduced to MIT’s extremely well-funded atmosphere was eye-opening. She believes the main difference between students at MIT and students attending institutions with less funding is that MIT can afford to provide the hands-on experiences that encourage success. It is because of this realization that i-Trek’s mission is to assist in addressing the inequality. The program hopes to give the necessary guidance while encouraging the independence Niaja knows is crucial to success in any field.
As an engineer, CEO, inventor, and journeywoman, Niaja’s thirst for learning mirrors her drive, passion and vision for a career that makes a serious impact on the under-served and underrepresented communities in the STEM fields. She thrives professionally on the opportunity to guide and inspire those who share her enthusiasm for the boundless possibilities of education and philanthropy.
Have you ever wondered how NASA propels shuttles into space, or how space exploration is reaching new celestial destinations with probes like Voyager? Do you ever wonder what those men and women are doing at the International Space Station every day? Was there ever a moment when you stopped to think about the beginnings of your iPhone, from its blueprint to mass production, or have you ever gone to see a 3-D movie and asked yourself how the tech crew was able to make it a pleasant experience? These are questions best answered by those working in the STEM fields of study. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Each STEM subject has the potential to open its specialist to enormous opportunities, utilizing their forte in myriad professions.
Fascinating questions that leave the world curiously pondering are available for biologists, chemists, and physicists to answer. Just as a biologist might experience the joy of discovering a new species deep within the ocean, an astrophysicist or astronomer finds excitement in charting new stars and galaxies. If understanding life’s greatest mysteries inspires you, then studying the mathematics and science fields just might be in your future.
On the other hand, maybe you are someone who simply cannot disconnect from your computer and smart phone. Do you update your Facebook and Twitter just as often as you chat face-to-face with your peers? Are you interested in improving the efficiency of human communication, research, and transportation? The love of the analytical and methodological process of conceptualizing and designing machinery can be just the beginning for an engineer. Engineering and technology are for those who desire to be on the cutting edge of invention and innovation, and are passionate about making life a little easier.
Jobs within the STEM fields will only continue to flourish. In some areas like mechanical engineering, job growth is expected to increase by 4.5% in the next decade. STEM fields cater to those who have an intense curiosity for how the world works and how it could improve. Studying these subjects invites a yearning for discovery that leads to a life of learning, design, creation, and development.