Unconventional students at Rice: Science with a conscience

Like most Rice University students, Grace Wickerson ’20 is busy.

The current Student Association president is also a materials science and nanoengineering major who cares deeply about social issues. “That’s something that I think is inherently a part of me is that I care a lot about social justice,” Wickerson said. “I think it should be a defining characteristic of our generation.”

Wickerson never thought of becoming president, but the Brown College senior said, “I really found my voice over the years in the Student Association through different roles as a senator and internal vice president. The presidency is a lot of work, but it’s something that I can kind of have the stage to think about all the students that I’ve kind of worked with over the years, and how to advocate for them on a bigger stage to all the different university administrators.”

Wickerson chose Rice because of the Century Scholars Program, which is designed to attract undergraduates interested in research and working closely with a faculty mentor.

“I’d never done research before,” Wickerson said. “I was very surprised that they gave it to me. But it actually opened the door for me to get involved in research my first semester at Rice. And I think that was really a life-changing experience for me because I got to learn about the scientific method very early on.”

The Florida native took full advantage of the research opportunities, working with polymer electronics in the Egap Lab and taking part in the Nakatani RIES Fellowship program with Junichiro Kono.

“It’s just really been a really good four years, and I don’t know how I would have done it differently,” Wickerson said. “I definitely think I could have gone down many different paths, but the path that I’ve had I think has been one that has been transformative for me.”

Wickerson hopes to keep the same passion and energy going in a Ph.D. program after Rice.

“I’m really excited for that,” Wickerson said. “Because it’s just for me, that’s intensive research, as well as I’m excited to also look into teaching opportunities and see how I can work on different curriculum that is kind of at that intersection of scientific research and social impact.”

About Brandon Martin

Greetings, I am a video producer at Rice University in the Office of Public Affairs. I became a Rice Owl in June 2011. Before that, I was at KPRC-TV in Houston as a special projects photojournalist for seven years, where I covered everything from hurricanes to sports. Southeast Texas has been my home my entire life. I am lucky to have a wonderful wife and two of the cutest girls I have ever seen. Go Owls!