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Prokop will attend nuclear summer school

By Staff | Apr 11, 2010

Christopher Prokop recently learned he is one of 12 undergraduate chemistry and physics majors to earn a position at San Jose State University’s nuclear studies summer school.

Open to all U.S. citizens, this is a significant honor, since only 24 students are awarded the opportunity to participate in this national American Chemical Society (ACS) program.

Christopher is the son of Harold and Carla Prokop of Elmore. A 2006 BEA graduate, he is currently a junior at Minnesota State University-Mankato. He declared physics as his first major and last spring declared a B.S. degree in chemistry.

The nuclear summer schools are held at two sites. Twelve undergraduate chemistry or physics majors are assigned to either Stony-Brook University in New York or to California’s San Jose State University. Prokop will be attending the western site. His award covers all reasonable expenses related to travel, housing, tuition, books and supplies, in addition to a $3,800 stipend.

Prokop’s competition for a slot at the ACS Summer Schools in Nuclear and Radiochemistry was extremely tough. There were more than 140 highly qualified applicants for the 24 slots.

“Dr. Vorlicek, at MSU, was in the program as an undergraduate,” says Prokop. “He recommended I apply in time for the February 1 deadline.”

Prokop says he filled out the application which included personal information, his qualifications – including awards and honors, as well as stating his career direction. He then had to write two essays on the topics why he was interested in this program and how the summer school would benefit him. He says he also had to obtain two letters of recommendation from college professors. Of course, Dr. Vorlicek wrote one of these for him.

“They (ACS) want to be assured you are going to continue and achieve a higher education in this area,” explains Prokop.

According to his award letter, Prokop was selected for this program in recognition of his achievements in his undergraduate studies in physics and chemistry. It is believed this opportunity will provide student participants with new insights into radiochemical applications of chemistry and physics, as well as learning of career opportunities in these fields.

The formal program of study for the summer school session consists of lecture and laboratory components which cover the fundamentals of nuclear theory, radiochemistry, nuclear instrumentation, radiological safety and applications related to fields. Typical topics of study will involve nuclear medicine, nuclear power, fundamental particle physics and environmental radiochemistry.

In addition to his course studies and experiments, such as comparison of counting vials in liquid scintillation spectrometry and radioisotopes as tracers in analytical and physical chemistry, Prokop will also attend conferences, banquets, weekly field trips to different state parks and listen to guest speakers who are leading scientists in the areas of nuclear chemistry and radiochemistry.

This year’s summer school program will begin for Prokop on Sunday, June 13 and will end on July 23. He is expected to travel to the site on June 12 and depart July 24.

After completing the session, Prokop will have earned seven credits which MSU will honor. It will also provide future opportunities. Participants in the 2010 summer schools will be encouraged to join a research project during the following summer at a university or federal research institution. Prokop will receive considerable personal assistance to secure summer positions and admission to Ph.D and M.D. programs at leading universities as a result of his participation in the program this summer.

To read more of this story, see this week’s Register.