Led by curiosity
Ajay Ajmera first became interested in science when he was 6 years old and wondered why his maternal grandfather had to take insulin before eating a meal.
“I didn’t really know much about science at that moment, so it kind of sparked my curiosity as to why he is taking insulin,” Ajmera said. “What is wrong? Why does he have to do that?”
Those childhood questions are part of the reason Ajmera, now 16, wants to go into medicine. The other reason is that he was once diagnosed with severe migraine headaches but was recently cured by a neurologist. The experience taught him how effective the medical field can be and what can be accomplished with hard work and by educating people. He hopes to someday become a primary-care physician who also conducts research.
Ajmera, of Greenville, will be one of 20 incoming freshmen entering East Carolina University in August as EC Scholars – the most prestigious academic scholarship program the university offers. He believes he was accepted into East Carolina’s prestigious scholarship program because of the activities in which he is involved.
“I feel like I’m just a really well-rounded individual,” he said.
During his time at J. H. Rose High School, Ajmera helped start the Healthy Lifestyle Club that is geared toward educating youth. Ajmera goes to Boys and Girls clubs in different counties, and when he becomes a Pirate, he hopes to continue that work by reaching out to high school and college students. He’s also volunteered with the Children’s Miracle Network and Sheppard Memorial Library and has been a member of the Tar River Community Band.
Ajmera is also one of 15 Pitt County high school seniors participating in a research project with Dr. Alexander Murashov in ECU’s Department of Physiology. It involves studying male mice with varied diets to see how their healthy or non-healthy eating affects their offspring. Ajmera hopes to get the work published, and the team intends to apply for a grant.
“We really want to use this research to reduce obesity and diabetes in the community and worldwide,” he said. “We don’t know how we can apply this to humans right now, but we’re definitely looking into that, maybe with more data and more generations.”
This summer, Ajmera will shadow Dr. Randolph W. Chitwood Jr., the surgeon who leads the East Carolina Heart Institute, for a second time. This summer, he’ll join the cardiovascular surgeon in the operating room.
Ajmera had several reasons for choosing ECU. His brother, who is a Pirate, told him the professors go out of their way to help their students succeed. Ajmera also loves the community and thinks of East Carolina as a second home.
“I’ve been coming to ECU and I’ve been living in Greenville forever,” he said. “I’ve been coming here for swimming lessons, science camps. I just love the campus. I love the area.”
Ajmera’s parents are Shiv and Rajni Ajmera.
— Justin Boulmay