Rachel Wilkerson, a junior and University Scholars major from Lubbock, chose to attend Baylor for the freedom in curriculum that she found in the University Scholars program. She said, "I knew I wanted to study the hard sciences as well as religion and literature," and the University Scholars program allowed her to pursue all of her interests while maintaining a focus for her degree.
What she did not expect to find at Baylor was the strong sense of community which has grown to be the most positive aspect of her college experience. "My freshman year one professor invited us to his home to eat dinner and discuss the Russian Revolution," she said. "And when I led Welcome Week, alumni in the area opened their homes to the freshman class." Rachel noticed that gatherings such as these are the norm at Baylor and feels that the genuine care that the professors and community show for the Baylor students are what she has really come to love and what sets Baylor apart as an institution.
Out of the Ordinary
Though Rachel is busy with classes, she still finds time to conduct research and volunteer at Baylor and around Texas. This past summer, Rachel had an internship at McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis, Texas where she was able to research deep mixing patters in globular clusters. At Baylor, Rachel has worked with Dr. Jeffrey Olafsen to conduct research on nonlinear dynamical systems, learn about new programming languages, and even to explore the basics of chaos theory.
With a passion for lending a helping hand, Rachel has volunteered at the Gospel Café and at Mission Waco where she has done everything from helping kids with school worksheets to taking them skating and meeting their families. She has also volunteered with the physics department at Mission Waco to cook breakfast for the homeless. "I remember scrubbing a frying pan and realizing that the chair of the physics department was at the next sink over and up to this elbows in soap suds," she said, "That was the moment I realized that the Baylor faculty is a bit out of the ordinary." To Rachel, the willingness of the physics faculty to work with their students on a variety of different projects truly fosters a productive and inventive environment, both in and outside the classroom.
When asked about what she planned to do after graduation, Rachel answered that her plans were "in perpetual flux." She plans on graduating in May 2011 but after that she seems relatively open to new and exciting suggestions. In the mean time, Rachel plans on enjoying her remaining time at Baylor and continuing to study and research original ideas that spark her interest.