Volleyball player gets chance to study Saturn

Posted Friday, Jun. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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For three weeks, Weatherford’s Hannah Schwartz is going to be running rings around the moon, or rather Saturn.

That’s because the Kangaroos varsity volleyball player was one of only 10 students from across the country who was selected to attend Baylor University’s High School Summer Research Program. Students work alongside Baylor science professors in varying fields and then give a presentation of their findings at the end of the course. Each receives one credit-hour of college science that can be used at the university.

“I was honestly very very surprised and just very excited,” Hannah said about being accepted. “I called my mom and was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I got in!’ I did not expect to get in because I did not have any research experience but I am really glad for the opportunity.”

Shelly Schwartz, Hannah’s mom, said they learned about the program in January because they were looking for a way for Hannah to augment her interest in medicine and research.

“She has an interest...and wanted to get some experience like that to see if it’s something she wants to do,” Shelly said. “We hope it will be a wonderful experience.”

The application process requires students submit transcripts, recommendation letters and an essay. Jessica Russell, coordinator and assistant to associate deans for the program, said Baylor received 400 applications and that the essay is weighted the heaviest.

“Most of the students all have very high academic records,” she explained. “All of our students are excellent students but we consider the essay and what their interests are.”

There are 10 different specialties students are placed with professors in and each of those professors were part of the selection process, Russell said. Hannah was chosen to work with Dr. Lauren Matthews and will be studying the rings of Saturn.

“We try to align them with faculty mentors that we have. They work directly with the faculty mentor with a one-to-one relationships,” she said. “I imagine that was something Dr. Matthews saw in Hannah's application.”

Though she has no prior knowledge of what she will be doing, Hannah said she is looking forward to it.

“Dr. Matthews is in a subject that I have no prior knowledge of because it's astro-physics stuff about dusty plasma in Saturn's rings and I don't know anything about that so it was really interesting,” Hannah said. “I've been reading some papers that she sent me and it turns out that I actually am kinda interested in it so I am looking forward to learning about something I don't know anything about.”

Though the tuition is paid for by Baylor, parents are responsible for paying room and board. Students stay on campus and are not allowed to have a car though Baylor does provide a shuttle to take the students to church or a local retail store for items they may need.

“They've told them they provide transportation for that and they have lectures after the lab time and then they have some other activities for them,” Shelly said.

Hannah, 17, said she thought the three weeks at Baylor would be a good “first step” into the college experience. She said she’s always been interested in medicine but has recently been thinking about a different side of it.

“For the longest time I thought I wanted to do medicine when I grew up but recently I've been thinking more on the technology/research side so something related to medicine but medical research maybe,” she said.

Shelly, a former educator and now stay-at-home mom, said she and her husband, Greg, an orthopedic surgeon, will have the opportunity to hear what Hannah has learned about when they pick her up July 3.

Russell said the program started in 1995 with an alumni who donated a large sum of money so it was endowed but that is now funded through Baylor's College of Arts and Sciences.

“Students that get into our program usually get into pretty good schools,” she said. “They don't usually come to Baylor but past program participants are now at MIT, etc...they are smart and bright students.”

Hannah said were it not for the program, she would normally be spending her summer at various volleyball camps and lessons, among other things.

“I'd be taking volleyball lessons and going to youth group at First Methodist,” she said. “Last year, I volunteered at the hospital so I'd probably be doing that again this summer. I like that a lot. I worked with the radiology and it was a really good experience.”

She added that being gone won’t hurt her “too much.”

“I will have to hit it pretty hard with the volleyball lessons when I get back but I'll take my volleyball with me and do a little while I am gone,” she said.

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