Rensselaer was an attractive option for Jasmeen Kaur because of the ABET-accredited chemical engineering program and the school’s engineering ranking; she said receiving a scholarship to attend was “a blessing.”

Kaur has many fond memories of her time at Rensselaer, but none more so than meeting the young woman who is now her best friend. When Kaur was worried she wouldn’t pass one of the required courses for her chemical engineering degree, a classmate stepped forward to help her study. “This stranger believed in me more than I believed in myself! It was surreal for me,” she exclaimed. She passed the final exam well above average.

In addition to her chemical engineering studies, Kaur has been working on a documentary about herbal remedies with her Arts, Community, and Technology course and Collard City Growers, part of the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy. She is also collaborating with local community members from different cultures who rely on herbals for various ailments.

Kaur’s parents immigrated from northwestern India, and she grew up in an extended family household. Her grandmother instilled in her the importance of growing their own vegetables. Kaur remembers her grandmother trying to get her to eat garlic cloves, drink turmeric milk, and eat peppers to help whenever she or her brother got sick or caught a cold. “I grew up fairly resistant to these methods since I’ve always been very science-based,” she said.

Then she noticed a growing trend in supplements in the United States, such as garlic and turmeric pills, and wondered if there might be more to her grandmother’s remedies than she thought. It was during the pandemic she began changing her diet. “I asked my mother how she is staying safe and she gave all the credit to her diet,” said Kaur. Her mother worked in both a grocery store and elementary school, and had been exposed to COVID-19, but did not get sick. And so, the interest in the documentary developed.

Although the pandemic certainly changed Kaur’s last year at Rensselaer, she said she has learned that she “is the source of my own happiness and I can control my feelings and reactions to the world around me, despite how chaotic things can get.” These are skills that will serve her well as Kaur prepares to “change the world.”