Clark Scholars Get a Jump on Laboratory Research

A select group of UT Dallas’ sharpest students have fanned out across campus this summer to work in labs and ask the kinds of research questions that challenge even the most experienced faculty mentors. 

The 20 students are spending 10 weeks in the prestigious Anson L. Clark Summer Research Program, which selects only the highest achieving incoming freshmen or returning “Clark students” each year.

The average SAT score for this year’s incoming freshman Clark students is 1450.

Only students awarded Academic Excellence Scholarships or National Merit Scholarships are eligible to apply for one of the 20 coveted slots.  Clark students receive a $2,000 stipend and the opportunity to work one-on-one with faculty in labs across campus.

“The make-up of this year’s class of Clark students is much more diverse than we’ve seen in previous years,” said Blake Hamaker of the Academic Excellence Scholarship program.  Hamaker coordinates the Clark Summer Research Program.  “In the past, we saw a majority of students from engineering, but other research programs around campus are also strongly represented this year.”

This year’s Clark students are paired with faculty researchers in the Schools of  Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Engineering and Computer Science; Behavioral and Brain Sciences; and Arts and Humanities.

Nineteen of the 20 Clark students are incoming freshmen. The other, sophomore mechanical engineering student Stuart Yun, is spending his second summer working in a lab with Dr. Matthew Goeckner, professor and associate head of mechanical engineering.

“I’m working with plasmas, which are ionized gasses, and what we’re designing is a system to extract electrons from plasma and using that as a diagnostic tool to analyze gasses, which has applications in the semiconductor industry, manufacturing and analytical chemistry,” Yun said.  “I knew UT Dallas was a big research institution, which is why I decided to come here. I found the Clark program was a great way to kick off my freshman year getting some experience, working in the lab and doing some scientific work.”

Goeckner, Yun’s faculty mentor, was enthusiastic about the sophomore returning to his lab.

“Stuart is interested, he works hard and gets along well with everyone, and he’s far enough along on his own that it makes sense for him to come back and try to get a publication out, which isn’t common for someone so young,” Goeckner said.  “He has a great deal of ability, so we’re going to help him reach for what he can do.  I’m learning as much from him as he’s learning from me.  Students like him make being a professor the ideal job.”

With guidance from Goeckner, Yun hopes to publish the results of his summer research.  He credits Goeckner and fellow plasma researchers for helping steward both his research career and his student experience at UT Dallas.

“Dr. Goeckner is an amazing professor who cares about his students and wants them to learn,” Yun said.  I’m learning a lot from him about the research process, campus life and everything in between.  His mentorship is helping me through my undergraduate years, and I’m really grateful for it.”

The Clark Summer Research Program was founded by Dr. Anson L. Clark, who had a highly unusual and successful career — first as an engineer, then as a Mayo Clinic physician, and finally as a businessman in the oil and banking industries. Clark’s philanthropic activities have for many decades supported scholarly endeavors at a number of Texas colleges and universities, including the Anson L. Clark Memorial Lecture, the Clark Summer Research Program and the Clark Presidential Scholarship at UT Dallas.

Dr. Matthew Goeckner (left) is working  with Stuart Yun, a second-year Clark student, on a project involving ionized gases.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].