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Freshman seeks to merge service with science

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.”