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Two Turning Points Lead Guyana's Ryan Jaipaul
To Being Named City Tech Class of 2011 Salutatorian

Jaipaul with the bronze sculpture "Charging Bull" in the Wall Street area, near his new job.

In the spring of 1994, when eight-year-old Ryan Jaipaul, his parents, and his little sister arrived in New York City from tropical Guyana, he had his first encounter with snow – they landed in a blizzard.

“I wasn’t at all thrilled to leave behind my friends and relatives to live in a country where I knew not a single soul,” says Jaipaul, who lives with his family in Richmond Hill, Queens. Then, too, the family had to adjust to a different pace of life. “It’s so different here from back home in the Caribbean,” he explains. “The day goes by so fast here, but in Guyana days took forever to end.”

Fast forward 17 years – that little sister is a pre-med student and Jaipaul is graduating this June with a bachelor’s degree in computer systems technology. His participation in the June 3 commencement exercises will be especially meaningful for his family, as he will be acknowledged as the salutatorian (second in his class) for City Tech’s Class of 2011.

Like many City Tech students, Jaipaul, 25, is from a working class family. “Growing up I didn’t see my parents,” he says. “One worked in the afternoons, one at night. Everyone was busy. My family instilled in me that hard work, determination and making education a top priority were the keys to becoming successful in this country. I was not praised or promised new toys if I received good grades; it was just what was expected of me.”

Jaipaul developed an interest in engineering at Brooklyn Technical High School and entered the City College of New York’s Grove School of Engineering. In his second year, he took a robotics engineering class that proved to be a turning point for him. His assignment was to program a robot to do a task; Jaipaul programmed his to use a toothbrush to clean his sneakers.

“That was my first experience dealing with computers,” he says, “and I was intrigued by the computer technology components of my engineering courses. I saw how rapidly the technology changed and that textbooks in that field had to be updated every couple of years. I knew I wanted to change my focus from engineering to technology to be part of a fast-changing field.”

An older cousin, who majored in electrical engineering technology at City Tech and landed a job with Panasonic, told Jaipaul about the College. “He said that City Tech prepares students for entering the job market right away by providing hands-on experience, and that was important to me.” So Jaipaul transferred to City Tech.

A second turning point came during his first semester, when his technical writing teacher  (Dr. Reneta Lansiquot) mentioned a research opportunity at Columbia University's NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (NASA GISS) that was spearheaded by Dr. Reginald Blake, City Tech physics professor and director of its Black Male Initiative (BMI) program, in which Jaipaul participated as an Honors Scholar.

“At the time, I was working to pay tuition,” says Jaipaul, who received a Peter F. Vallone Scholarship and a National Science Foundation Scholarship in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM). “But I thought this opportunity might lead to bigger things, so I volunteered to participate.”  

At NASA GISS, Jaipaul worked with two other City Tech students on a project that assessed global climate change impacts on such urban cities as Athens, Dakar, Delhi, Harare, Kingston, London, Melbourne, New York, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Tokyo and Toronto.

“This was my first research experience, and I worked with Columbia University graduate school mentors and Professor Blake at every meeting,” Jaipaul says. He later published a research paper in City Tech Writer, a publication devoted to students’ writing. “Doing research at Columbia motivated me to do a lot of other projects that broadened my experience,” says Jaipaul.

Jaipaul was one of ten CUNY students chosen for a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF REU) program also directed by Dr. Blake. This project in Satellite and Ground-Based Remote Sensing was conducted at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Cooperative Remote Sensing Science and Technology Center (NOAA-CREST) at City College’s Optical Remote Sensing Lab.

There, Jaipaul used state-of-the-art remote sensing techniques to study atmospheric aerosols in the northeast region of the U.S., including factory emissions from New Jersey, to ascertain if the city was being unfairly blamed for pollution coming from elsewhere. He presented his research at national conferences held at Howard University, Princeton and the University of Texas.

As a participant in City Tech’s Technology Bridge Program, Jaipaul interned at Goldman Sachs and was then offered a full-time job as an application developer in the company’s Equities Trading Division. He will start there shortly after graduating from City Tech.

“When I started college, I thought I just had to make A’s,” reflects Jaipaul, whose grade point average of 3.951 out of a possible 4.0 earned him the departmental award for the computer systems technology major. “But I realized that getting high grades isn't enough. While I needed a job to pay the bills, I also needed to participate in extracurricular activities, both to achieve my goals and to give back to help others achieve theirs.”

Jaipaul currently works with City Tech’s BMI and its Science & Technology Scholars Program to mentor students, and this past year was a First Year Learning Community Peer Advisor.

“Education used to be a path to success, but now it’s a prerequisite,” he states. “I have done my best to represent City Tech and its students’ legacy of determination, resilience and dedication to exceeding expectations.” In February, Jaipaul gave public testimony on behalf of City Tech students at a Brooklyn Borough Hearing, speaking about the invaluable research opportunities the College offers to its students.

To his fellow graduates, Jaipaul says, “Don’t look at this graduation ceremony as a farewell. This is the beginning of your career, your future. Take your experiences here and use them to your benefit, as a steppingstone for what you will encounter in the future. The sky’s the limit.”

05.5.11


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