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Dr. Norman Hackerman (rear, second from left) and Norbert Dittrich (rear, fourth from left) with Welch Summer Scholars
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- Characterization of Recombinant Oncostatin M.
- Index of Refraction of Ionic Liquids.
- Friedlander Synthesis of Phenanthrolines.

These are just three of the many research projects conducted at the University of Houston each year. But the researchers were not UH professors, graduate students, or even undergraduates. The investigators on each of these projects—and many more like them—were high school seniors.

Since 1988, the Robert A. Welch Foundation has funded the Welch Summer Scholar Program (WSSP) at the University of Houston. The WSSP, a highly competitive program, is available to juniors (rising seniors) from across Texas who demonstrate potential for success in the sciences and engineering. The program admits between ten and fourteen students annually. For five weeks, successful applicants live on campus and actively participate in scientific research projects directed by UH faculty. Afterwards, each student prepares a report on his or her findings.

Currently Dr. Norman Hackerman is the chairman of the Welch Foundation Advisory Board and Norbert Dittrich is the president of its board of directors. Known for its dedication to and emphasis on chemistry and chemistry education, the Welch Foundation also funds WSSP programs at The University of Texas campuses at Austin, Arlington, and Dallas, as well as Texas Tech University. The UH program is the longest uninterrupted WSSP in existence. When the Welch Foundation wanted to begin a WSSP at UH nearly twenty years ago, its members contacted Mamie Moy, professor of chemistry.

Moy explains that the program’s goal is to invigorate participants’ interest and aptitude in the sciences overall. “We don’t want to make chemists out of them,” Moy says. Indeed, many WSSP participants go on to careers in business or industry, and not all become researchers or scientists.

As for the Welch Foundation’s support and involvement, Moy described the partnership as a “model” program. “Members of the foundation visit every single site and meet every kid in the program,” Moy says. And while the Welch Foundation takes an obvious interest in the students they support, Moy describes their participation in the program’s management as very “hands-off,” which she greatly appreciates.

Moy also pointed to the program’s nationwide recognition, citing instances where students have received admission to the most prestigious universities thanks in part to their participation in the Welch Summer Scholars Program.

© University of Houston 2006