Chelsea Sumner participated in the Beijing Youth Science Creation Competition in March 2010. For Sumner, then a junior at Knightdale High School in Raleigh, it was an eye-opening experience.
“I came back and thought that education in the United States is nothing compared to the level it is on in China and other countries,” Sumner said in a recent interview. “The importance of education here gets bogged down by politics. We should fund education and make sure our students are the next best and brightest.”
Sumner is now a junior at Campbell University. She is a J. Hunter and Mabel C. Strickland Endowed Scholarship recipient, which essentially foots her entire undergraduate bill. She is on her way to a bachelors of clinical research in pharmacy health science with a double minor in biology and Spanish.
She continues to think about her experience in Beijing as an advocate for improving science education.
“It’s funny because most people don’t know this about me at school. To them I am just another student. But as soon as they find out, ‘You’ve been to Beijing? You did what? You did research?’” she said.
At Campbell, Sumner had to persuade her professor to allow her to do research. As an alumna of Project SEED, a program that places high school students in a laboratory environment, Sumner had two summers of experience conducting research.
“I told them ‘I know what I’m doing in the lab. I did it for two years in high school. I am acknowledged on a paper where my research was used in publication. I know what I’m doing,’” she said. “The more professors I am interact with, they say ‘You do know what you’re talking about.’”
Sumner is seeking a research internship for the summer, specifically in clinical research, as required by her degree. After that, she plans to apply for pharmacy school.
At the time of our conversation, Sumner had a few days left on the fall semester and was looking forward to the holiday break. Her semester sounded hectic.
“We were two days into the beginning of school semester and we pulled an all-nighter in the lab. We received fecal samples from NC State and we had to process them,” she said. “I had an event that night because I’m also on our campus activities board. I went to lab at 5pm, left at 6:30pm, my event was from 7 to 9pm, came back to the lab at 9:30pm and we were in there from 9:30pm to 7am. And I had class at 8:30am, so I walked straight out and went to our dining hall, ate breakfast, and walked straight over to class.”
And Chelsea wouldn’t have it any other way.