PYLUSD alumna receives prestigious Quad Fellowship for her advanced research in neuroscience

Quad Fellowship recipient and PYLUSD alumna, Samantha Harker.Quad Fellowship recipient and PYLUSD alumna, Samantha Harker.

Samantha Harker, an alumna of the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District (PYLUSD), has been selected as a 2023 Quad Fellow. She is one of just 25 students chosen to represent the United States, and one of just one hundred individuals selected around the world.

During her time in PYLUSD, Samantha attended Linda Vista Elementary School, Yorba Linda Middle School, and Valencia High School before transferring to La Entrada High School (LEHS), which is now Buena Vista Virtual Academy, and graduating at the age of 16.

The Quad Fellowship is a scholarship program sponsored by the governments of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States. It is designed to build ties among the next generation of scientists and technologists. Operated by the philanthropic initiative Schmidt Futures, the program sponsors 100 masters and doctoral students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Each Quad Fellow will receive a one-time award of $50,000, which can be used for tuition, research, fees, books, room and board, and related academic expenses, such as research-related travel.

A little background about Samantha: During her time at LEHS, Samantha took concurrent classes at Fullerton Junior College. It is there that she attended a college fair and met a recruiter for the University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy (UHSP) in St. Louis, Missouri. They had an immediate connection and she invited Sammie to fly out to the college to see it. She met personally with the admissions team and was offered acceptance on the spot. She attended UHSP for two years and obtained a bachelors degree in Medical Humanities. While she was doing that she was working at Starbucks and took advantage of their College Achievement Program and completed a Bachelor’s degree in English through Arizona State University (ASU) online. She graduated in May of 2022 with two degrees at the age of 18.

Through her studies at ASU, Samantha networked and met two neuroscience research professors who encouraged her to apply for grad school. She was accepted as a fully funded graduate student and began her studies this fall as an 18-year-old Ph.D. student. Sammie will even be teaching a lab section next semester as part of her graduate program!

Through a 6-month application process, Samantha applied for the inaugural Quad Fellowship supported by President Joe Biden and the leaders of the three other Quad countries. The process to be selected was an extensive one, requiring high recommendations and two personal interviews with prestigious individuals in a variety of industries. She was even interviewed by a professor at Harvard. She is unique in the fact that the application requirements are to be at least 18 but also be in a graduate study program. That is definitely not common among other 18-year-olds!

Samantha credits her experiences in PYLUSD for equipping her with the skills and knowledge to receive such a distinct honor. In particular, she appreciates the support of counselor Sarah Miller, and teachers William Lin, Jason Kim, and Leina Howard.

“PYLUSD equipped me with flexible resources and scheduling opportunities that enabled me to pursue higher education in a way that worked for me,” Samantha shared. “Specifically, my teachers, mentors, and academic counselors provided me with the support to follow my goals to pursue a career in neuroscience and advance my studies at an early age. I am eternally grateful for the support I was provided and am privileged to have learned from the caliber of teachers that make up PYLUSD.”

Click here to read the official announcement from the White House or click here to learn more about the Quad Fellowship.

Congratulations, Samantha! You make PYLUSD proud. Below are some pictures of Samantha in recent years.

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