Clark Scholars Program Brings Gifted High School Students to Campus

Participants from across the country work hand-in-hand with university researchers.

Clark Scholar participants live on campus and sometimes quickly realize that research is not a 9-to-5 job

The 13 Clark Scholars participants lived on campus and quickly realized research is not a 9-to-5 job.

From how women learn science to the crystallization of proteins, 13 high school students from across the country recently spent seven weeks on the Texas Tech campus gaining a hands-on opportunity at high-level research.

The Clark Scholars program is designed to bring some of the nation’s top high school students to campus for an intensive research experience.

“The students work hand-in-hand with researchers at Texas Tech and at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center,” said Michael San Francisco, director of the program and associate vice president for research. “The Clark Scholars program accepts students in every discipline, from the arts, to the humanities, to the hard sciences.”

The students live on campus and quickly discover that research is not a 9-to-5 job.

“This has been a different environment for me,” said Mihail Eric of Los Angeles who worked in a physics laboratory. “I found that I was doing my work at 10 in the morning and at midnight. Working with someone on the forefront of research has been amazing.”

The program also gives students, already interested in research as college undergraduates, a taste of what to expect.

“I indicated an interest in protein folding when I applied for the program and ended up working in a molecular biophysics lab at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center where we studied protein crystallography and looked at proteins on a structural level,” said Kellen Svetov, from Highland Park, Ill. “It was incredible to have the technology and ability to do that.”

His colleague William Liu, from Davis, Calif., used the experience to make a decision about a potential major in college.

“I did research in chemical engineering and that was a relatively new field I had not experienced before,” he said. “The experience motivated me to want to do research as an undergraduate and maybe to go into some engineering field.”

The Clark Scholars program was established 20 years ago by Texas Tech President Robert Lawless and Provost emeritus John Burns with an endowment from the Anson L. Clark Foundation. It has provided nearly 225 gifted high school students the opportunity to work with Texas Tech’s outstanding researchers.

It is not just the students who reap the rewards of the program; the faculty mentors also gain a sense of accomplishment and in San Francisco’s case, joy.

“It is amazing to see the quality of work that students still in high school do here,” he said. “Some faculty mentors tell me these students come into their labs and really do graduate-level work. I’ve been involved in the program for 15 years and I love it. It’s most rewarding.”

Clark Scholars

The Clark Scholars program allows high school students the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with outstanding faculty in a research-intensive setting. The seven-week program also includes weekly seminars, discussions and field trips.

The students are afforded an atmosphere designed to develop their critical thinking abilities and career interests with faculty and other students. Students are selected on the basis of their academic accomplishments, letters of recommendation and career objectives.

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