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Perseverance Pays Off

Nancy Davis • DATE: May 12, 2017

Originally from Spanish Town, Jamaica, Jean Pierre Clarke came to the United States when he was 12. He enjoyed building model airplanes with his uncle and working on items designed to enhance people’s lives. Clarke lived in Harlem for a couple of years after moving to the U.S.  but went to Connecticut for high school, where he participated in a program for gifted young men of color called “A Better Chance.”  

“I began my time at Notre Dame as a mechanical engineering major, but I switched to aerospace engineering,” he says. It hasn’t been an easy or a straight path, but that doesn’t bother Clarke. “I try to not get narrow minded in life by working out defined pathways to my long-term goals because things never work out how you plan them. Instead I embrace opportunities and work with the resources I have to the best of my ability.”

He credits Notre Dame for this perseverance. “Engineering is not easy, but my time here has taught me  that no obstacle is too big to handle if you apply yourself,” he says. And the opportunities just keep coming. Most recently, he spent the summer conducting research in electrochemistry and plasma, working to understand the reactive pathways and transport mechanisms of free radicals from plasma to liquid, which is helpful for treating cancer and synthesizing various chemicals. Clarke is one of the authors of a  journal paper discussing his team’s findings that will soon be published.

He has also embraced social opportunities. Clarke is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers and the student group Wabruda. He says both are great groups that uplift and support students of color while also offering new ways to get involved in the on-campus and local communities. But Wabruda, which takes its name from the Swahili word for “brotherhood,” holds a special place in his heart. “We meet every Sunday and discuss current topics, from the struggles of a college student to world events,” he says. “More often than not we do not agree, but we still manage to love each other. I know that my brothers will be there to congratulate me when I get my first job, fly with me when I finally get my pilot’s license, and encourage me when I face my next obstacle.”