MST Times

Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology Newsletter

MST Student Spotlight: Rajwant K. Sandhu, Recipient of the Ruth L. Gottesman Math & Science Education Scholarship Fund

By • Jan 6th, 2015 • Category: Science Education
Photo Credit: Rajwant Sandhu, Recipient of the Ruth L. Gottesman Math & Science Education Scholarship Fund

Photo Credit: Rajwant Sandhu, Recipient of the Ruth L. Gottesman Math & Science Education Scholarship Fund

Rajwant Sandhu is an extremely intelligent young woman with grit and determination—she has earned many academic accolades, and has overcome various extraordinary personal and professional obstacles while striving for excellence. These culminating experiences have prepared Rajwant well to participate in graduate studies at Teachers College, in which she is currently pursuing an M.A. in Science Education, specializing in 7th through 12th grade Biology.

Rajwant was raised in a small town in Upper State, New York, where she excelled in high school STEM coursework. After high school, she moved to New York City to follow her dreams of becoming a physician. Thus, she attended the College of New Rochelle (CNR), earning double BS degrees in Biology and Chemistry, in which she graduated Magna Cum Laude in the spring of 2013. Throughout her undergraduate education, Rajwant earned the respect of her colleagues and professors as a dedicated academic powerhouse, earning several awards such as the James J. McBride Award in Chemistry, the “Who’s Who” award among students in American Universities and Colleges (in recognition of student merit and accomplishment), and the Carol Tordo Brennan Award, to name a few. Additionally, she was a biology and chemistry lab assistant and professional science tutor at CNR, and is a member of the Tribeta Honors Society, a member of the Science and Math Society (in which she served as both the Student Advisor and President for her school’s chapter), was a resident assistant, and was even invited to recite the opening prayer at her graduation hooding ceremony.

However, Rajwant’s success did not come without struggle. During her junior year, Ms. Sandhu’s life took an unexpected dramatic shift. On the evening before she was to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), in which she was prepared to excel at, she suffered a massive heart attack and was rushed to the New York Presbyterian Columbia University Medical Center. It was there that her life was spared, as she lay unconscious for four days. In her own words, Rajwant recalls the aftermath of tragedy:

“Life changed intensely and I would fail miserably if I tried to explain how it did both physically and emotionally. A month later, as I was recovering, I suffered a stroke that took away my ability to speak and completely paralyzed the left side of my body.  I had been an excellent student that was full of knowledge and suddenly I no longer knew my ABCs and 123s.  I did not know the days of the week or what year it was.  I could not speak more than a single word at a time and I could no longer write because I was naturally a ‘lefty.’ I can say with confidence that this was the turning point in my life.”

In 2011, Rajwant underwent three open-heart surgeries and endured more than 25 physical procedures. Her doctors concluded that her condition is medically unexplainable—she went from being a brilliant, active and healthy young scholar, to an extremely ill patient fighting to survive. In spite of her setbacks, Rajwant fought to regain her sense of humanity, and literally had to relearn everything she knows. Only two weeks after her first open-heart surgery, Rajwant began her senior year at CNR. She never gave up on her education, and she refuses to fall victim to her circumstances.

Through her trauma, Rajwant’s dream of studying medicine has become unrealistic. Nevertheless, she has recalibrated her innermost wants and desires, and in doing so, has remembered all of the remarkable science teachers and mentors that helped to shape her into the remarkable woman that she is. After serious introspection on what to do with her educational and professional future, Rajwant has decided that she herself wants to become an educator, so that she can help to empower children through the sciences.

Rajwant Sandhu’s excellence in the disciplines of biology and chemistry, and her dedication to science education, coupled with her inspirational story of perseverance in the face of adversity, has earned her the Ruth L. Gottesman Math & Science Education Scholarship Fund. Rajwant is the first ever recipient of this scholarship, which will fully fund her education at Teachers College. We at the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology (MST) are proud of Rajwant, and will support her as she navigates her education at TC and her professional life beyond.


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