Published April 7, 2022

By Elizabeth Sudit

As a first-generation student studying mechanical engineering, Steven Perez-Badillo hopes to inspire middle and high school students to pursue STEM opportunities at Rutgers.

As a first-generation student studying mechanical engineering at Rutgers University–New Brunswick’s School of Engineering, Steven Perez-Badillo has risen to every challenge. Last year, he spearheaded an engineering project that combined robotics and blood plasma sterilization. “The goal was to combine the two and say go to point A, to point B, and sterilize,” he says. “Obviously amidst the pandemic, the project was relevant because it could create cleaner working environments for hospitals, schools, factories.”

After graduating in 2023, Perez-Badillo plans to continue his education at Rutgers by pursuing a master’s degree in engineering. “As an engineer, problem-solving is at the core of everything,” he says. “I hope to use my degrees to better the world one step at a time.”

Perez-Badillo credits the Rutgers student chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) with helping him to develop professionally in his career and education. Perez-Badillo got involved with the Society of Hispanic Engineers (SHE) soon after arriving at Rutgers and came to lean on the tight-knit community while away from his family. “Within the club, we call ourselves La Familia, and it’s just really beautiful because it’s like having a second family,” he says. “[SHE] offers a supportive environment where we’re all speaking the same language and taking these rigorous engineering classes together.”

Perez-Badillo is a member of the SHE board, where he’s responsible for talking to middle and high school students across New Jersey about STEM opportunities at Rutgers. “It’s been a rewarding and humbling experience to see myself through all of these younger students interested in engineering. I like giving them some insight about what it is to be a college student at the Rutgers School of Engineering,” he says. “We always try to target underrepresented communities.”

During his senior year in high school, he received scholarships and a grant from Rutgers Future Scholars, but he credits his Scarlet Promise Grants with helping him maintain a high level of achievement while at the university. “Everything stems from my grants—the opportunity to go to college and also be a part of an amazing club, the Society of Hispanic Engineers, that I’ve been in since my freshman year.”

Scarlet Promise Grants offer essential financial support to thousands of students for whom a world-class education otherwise would be impossible. “The Scarlet Promise Grant was an investment in me, so I’m glad that I was trusted with it.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, both of Perez-Badillo’s parents were hospitalized and he moved back home with his sister. “You don’t know how to move forward and pray to God every day,” he says. However, he was able to maintain his grades, continue participating in research, and still be part of the Society of Hispanic Engineers. “It was hard at times, but I didn’t let that hold me back.”

“As a student here at the engineering program at Rutgers, I’ve been able to apply what I’ve learned in the classroom outside of the classroom,” he says. “Without the grants, I don’t think I would’ve had that. They helped me bridge the gap between the engineering opportunities and my dreams coming true.”


Interview with Steven Perez-Badillo

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Scarlet Promise Grants provide essential aid to students for whom a Rutgers education otherwise would be impossible.