Alena Wicker gained national notoriety after graduating from high school at the age of 12 and becoming the youngest Black student accepted to medical school a year later. At the age of 14, the Texas native will graduate from Arizona State University (ASU).
A collaboration between Arizona State University, the Phoenix Mercury, and Desert Financial Credit Union resulted in Wicker receiving a full scholarship in 2021. According to ASU News, this allowed her to continue her education without having to worry about money.
When she first arrived at ASU, she enrolled in the engineering department, wanting to one day work for NASA. After taking one biology class, she decided to change her major. In a few months, she will graduate from college. Wicker, a senior at Arizona State University, will graduate in December with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical biological sciences and a minor in global health. Her master’s degree in biological sciences will be conferred in May.
Wicker stated that one of the reasons she works so hard to motivate others is that she was once discouraged by an adult. She explained that when she was in fifth grade, her school’s principal, who was also a person of color, informed her that young women of color couldn’t pass state tests or get excellent marks.
“I really wanted to show her that I can get good grades and I can go on and do amazing things. So I’m proving that,” Wicker told USA TODAY.
The teen also established Brown STEMGirl, a group for females of color who desire to major in STEM fields. “I’ve always tried to prove that girls of color can do what they put their minds to,” she said. “Being able to graduate at the age of 12 from high school and going into college, I just want to inspire other girls to follow their dreams.”
Wicker and her mother, Daphne McQuarter, are concerned that she does not miss out on the joys of childhood because of her unique educational path. She is involved in chorus, track and field, and soccer, and she socializes with her friends her own age.
Wicker was recently supervised in Dr. Tonya Webb’s lab at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
“She contributed to the lab, the atmosphere,” Webb revealed to USA TODAY. “Everyone’s in there working but she’s like, ‘What are you doing?’ That excitement and enthusiasm and the questions. The lab ended up treating her like their younger sibling.” The teen also joined a project involving ovarian cancer where she proved her prowess in research by producing what Dr. Webb called “amazing” findings.
Wicker was accepted to the University of Alabama’s Heersink School of Medicine to pursue a medical degree, but she stated that she is more interested in research. She is thinking about applying elsewhere for a doctorate in viral immunology with a focus on infectious diseases.
“That’s the big decision because that’s what will determine what I will be doing in my career,” she said. “I’m thinking of going toward the Ph.D. route because I love getting out there, discovering new things, being in the lab, finding cures for viruses or even connecting with medicine in other parts of the world,” said the teen who has been in love with science she was five years old.