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Feature Story | Argonne National Laboratory

Students receive Argonne’s African American Black Club Academic Scholarship Award

Argonne’s 2013 African American Black Club (AABC) Academic Scholarship Award has been presented to Shacara Samuels and Sebastian Despiau.

Both students graduated from Lindblom Math and Science Academy in Chicago this year and will be continuing on to college to pursue careers in Biology. Shacara is enrolled at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for the fall term and Sebastian is enrolled at Virginia State University. AABC’s scholarship program is available to students enrolling in college for the first time in the fall with interest in pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM).

Numerous scholarship applicants from Chicago Public Schools and regional suburban high schools competed for the awards. Applicants came from high schools including: Chicago Vocational Career Academy, Dwight D. Eisenhower High School in Blue Island, Lindblom Math and Science Academy in Chicago, Richards High School in Oaklawn and Shepard High School in Palos Heights.

Applicants were considered for the awards based on a variety of factors including grade point average, ACT and SAT test scores, letters of recommendation, an essay detailing their STEM career interests and extracurricular, community and employment activities.

Argonne’s AABC Academic Scholarship Award is funded entirely through donations, most of which come from Argonne employees. AABC holds fundraisers throughout the year to support the scholarship program. AABC was established in 2004 to promote cross-cultural awareness and fellowship, encourage professional networking, and share ideas and resources that benefit the African American/Black community and all employees at Argonne National Laboratory.

In addition to the scholarship awards, Argonne’s AABC also hosted the scholarship winners at the laboratory for a tour of the facilities and took some time to talk with them about their love of science and plans for the future. 

How would you like your future career to have an impact on the nation?

Sebastian Despiau: I’m thinking of going into the medical field — anesthesiology, specifically. I’d like to give back to the community by providing health care for those who need it.”

Shacara Samuels: I’d like to have a career as an anesthesiologist. However, I’m open to the careers that Argonne has to offer.”

What sorts of mentoring, formal or informal, helped form your decision to go into a STEM area of study?

Sebastian Despiau: Initially I wanted to be a dentist, but when I found out more about anesthesiology, I felt that it would be a better fit for me. My step-father helped me learn more about the fields that are available to me and that really helped.”

Shacara Samuels: My family has been very supportive of my academic interests. I have several family members who work in the medical field in nursing and I look up to them.”

How has this scholarship impacted your academic career?

Sebastian Despiau: This scholarship certainly helps monetarily. College isn’t cheap. It’s an unfortunate but very real challenge for students today and I appreciate the support Argonne is providing.”

Shacara Samuels: It’s opened up opportunities for me. I’m particularly interested in applying for an internship at Argonne so I can get some real hands-on lab experience.”

What would you say to encourage our nation’s students to get involved in STEM fields of study?

Sebastian Despiau: Our generation needs to step up. At some point, we’re going to be the ones who’ll need to solve the problems of the future, so now is the time to get a strong education so we’re prepared to take on that role.”

Shacara Samuels: Some students may be scared of math and science, but I’d suggest trying out these types of classes in school regardless, especially AP classes. It may turn out that the student’s good at solving these kinds of problems and they may enjoy it, too.”