Between chemistry classes, a campus job, football and four hours of research a week, Episcopal graduate Scott Wicker, Jr. ’18 has a full schedule. Wicker is in his sophomore year at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN where he is majoring in chemistry with a minor in math. He plans to pursue advanced degrees on his path to becoming a chemical engineer.
At Episcopal, Wicker was known for his ESTAAR research entitled Non-Traditional Heating Methods for Petrochemical Manufacturing. However, Episcopal Dean of Academics Dr. Sara Fenske says Wicker’s interest in research began well in advance of his ESTAAR journey. “Before ever taking any of my classes, Scott would drop by my classroom to ask questions,” says Dr. Fenske. “I soon learned that these ‘out of the blue’ questions came from his deep curiosity about the world around him. This curiosity led Scott to pursue ambitious research projects both in my class, where he studied the effects of antioxidants on quantum dots, to his ESTAAR project focused on the synthesis of iron oxide nanoparticles.” Dr. Fenske says that Wicker was never afraid to push himself to do more. “Fortunately, he also has the talent and creativity to succeed in these ambitions,” she says. After spending countless hours in the lab, Wicker was one of only 230 high school students to qualify to present at the 56th National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.
Admission into the ACCESS program is based on a student’s essay, an online application and letters of recommendation from professors regarding their work. As a result of his ESTAAR experience, Wicker had an opportunity to work closely with Dr. Fenske and LSU’s Dr. James Dorman. Both were able to write letters supporting his research and application. “When Scott told me that he was applying to the MIT ACCESS Program and asked if I would write a letter of recommendation for him, I was thrilled to do so,” says Dr. Fenske. “This program targets talented young researchers and helps to prepare them for graduate programs in chemistry, chemical engineering, and material science. Like attending the National Junior Science and Humanities program, I knew that this opportunity would open doors for him and help him see the different paths available to him. Programs like these are meant for rising stars like Scott, and I am sure that his future in research will be bright.”
At Rhodes, Wicker continues his commitment to research. Over the summer, when he wasn’t working on his ACCESS program application, he was in the lab. In fact, he spent eight hours a day assisting inorganic chemistry professor Dr. William Eckenhoff. According to the research group’s website, Dr. Eckenhoff’s lab currently has three research projects underway including Proton Reduction Catalysts for Artificial Photosynthesis, Solvatochromic Molybdenum Complexes and Zinc Complexes to Mimic the Enzyme in Binding Anti-Microbial Compounds. You can read more about the projects here. As part of the research team, Wicker runs experiments and gathers data. He also works closely with Dr. Eckenhoff to analyze the information and the results. Wicker hopes to publish an article from his summer research by the end of this year.
Even with everything else on his schedule, Wicker finds time for football. He spends 20 hours a week practicing and working out with the Linx as a defensive lineman. He says playing for a Division III team means that football is not his entire life, which is something for which he is grateful. As a result, he is able to manage college life, athletics and academics successfully.
Wicker is no stranger to juggling multiple interests. While at Episcopal, he was involved in athletics, research and numerous academic endeavors. One hallmark of an Episcopal education is the opportunity students are provided to explore their own interests and learn at their own pace. Whether students are passionate about research and the arts or athletics and spirituality, there are a range of experiences from which students can choose. While Wicker says it’s not always easy juggling a packed schedule, it is certainly worth it. Like he did during his time at Episcopal, he is making the most of his college experience and enjoying it along the way.
Good luck in your journey, Scott! Episcopal is cheering you on in the classroom, the lab and on the field.