Everything is bigger in Texas, but for some that’s not always ideal. Walker Mask ’17 grew up in Rockwall, Texas, a suburb of Dallas and attended a very large high school. When it came to his college choice, however, he went for the other end of the spectrum.
“Initially I had chosen Simpson because it was out-of-state and extremely smaller than my high school, as well as opportunities for biochemistry research,” he said. “I was most surprised about the community of students and how easy it was to really get to know my professors.”
With a biochemistry degree, Walker planned to join a group like the Peace Corp to help communities in Central and Latin America improve their medical practice. But instead of biochemistry, it’s the research aspect that stuck with him.
Walker could frequently be found in the labs or crunching numbers, sometimes cutting close to deadlines. During Undergraduate Research Symposium his junior year, he was in the lab running the final test for his research project, which he needed to present that day.
“Even after working almost all night, I still didn’t get my physical results until about 10 minutes before I was supposed to present,” he said. “It was an anxious experience but that’s just how research goes sometimes.”
The result was clear: Walker had found his passion, something he wanted to continue to do for the rest of his life. Eager to see what more he could do, he prepared to apply for graduate school during his junior year, graduating from Simpson a year early.
But Walker didn’t feel prepared. He wasn’t organized. He was worried about graduating early. That’s when a professor cared enough to have an honest conversation with him.
“Jan Everhart convinced me not to graduate early, and if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t get to go to grad school,” Walker said.
So he slowed down, took his time and took every research opportunity he could manage. He was still going to go to grad school, but this time, he’d be ready.
“I knew from the beginning that the edge I needed was to prove that I want to spend my post-college professional career doing research and that I’m serious about this decision, so I spent as much time as I could doing research, learning about how to do research, and working on as many projects as I could within the next year,” he said.
When Walker applied for grad school during his senior year, he was equipped with a solid resume, strong letters from his professors and exactly how to craft his application. When received an offer to the University of Kentucky, he knew it was the right choice.
“Getting the acceptance to Kentucky was really what I consider my success at Simpson,” he said. “In grad school I will be doing theoretical chemistry and its applications with physical chemistry and materials chemistry.”
Sure, he could have graduated early, but that’s not Walker’s story. Maybe it’s someone else’s. That’s the great thing about Simpson. As Walker said, “Simpson can really be whatever you want to make of it.”