As middle school and high school students around the country frantically search to find online summer opportunities in the wake of cancelled summer programs and research positions due to COVID-19, a nationally-acclaimed public school teacher from New York is teaming up with top students from Harvard, Stanford, MIT, and other elite universities to create a new virtual learning opportunity. The program is open to students worldwide, making it a prime resource for international students gunning for an acceptance to a top 25 U.S. university.
Dr. Serena McCalla, director of the research Institute summer research program, will bring her summer high school research program to a virtual setting through the Summer STEM Institute (SSI).
Here’s a link to the program website: https://www.summersteminstitute.org / .
The SSI consists of 3 components: (1) a research and data science “bootcamp ” , (2) a “Masterclass” young adult lecture series which features over 10 Harvard students and young graduates, and (3) for students who apply, a mentored research project.
The bootcamp program is designed to make learning research skills, computer programming, data analysis, and English in a technical setting accessible to a young audience. The curriculum combines a course in scientific thinking and English communication based on Dr. McCalla’s 12-year experience as a science research educator with a course in programming and data science taught by Stanford course assistants Adam Pahlavan and Alex Tsun.
SSI founders want to bring their elite educational opportunity to students of all backgrounds. Because the program is completely virtual, international students are welcome to participate. The founders hope that any international student interested in STEM or science research will consider applying, as the lectures will provide technical and English communication skills greatly valued by any renowned institution. The program also offers financial aid to students in need.
The goal of the bootcamp, according to Dr. McCalla, is to “train students to conduct computational research in a wide variety of interdisciplinary scientific fields.” Dr. McCalla believes that no matter what field of science you enter, learning how to program and work with data will be an extremely marketable and differentiated skill to have in a future being revolutionized by technology, computers, and data. She said that “a significant number of [her] students who go on to be successful entrepreneurs, business-women, and technologists were the “kids who were coding and working with data in high school” and she expects that association to only strengthen in the future.
The second part of the program is an one-of-a-kind Masterclass young adult speaker serie s which will host over 35 extremely accomplished young adults, drawing from a pool of the very top students at elite institutions such as Harvard, Stanford, and MIT. The goal of the Masterclass series is to “share the wealth of knowledge of extremely successful young entrepreneurs, scientists, and technologists who were high school students not too long ago.”
The Masterclass series is drawing from a pool of the highest-achieving students at the top universities in the world such as Harvard University, Stanford University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Many of these speakers bring diverse accomplishments and experiences, including two 1st place national winners of the Intel/Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS)
Amol Punjabi and Indrani Das , Forbes 30 under 30 awardee Jessica Pointing, and Rhodes Scholar Luke Melas-Kyriaz i .
After interviewing multiple members, we found that the most innovative part of the summer program is the mentored research project. SSI has developed a new framework to make conducting science research projects accessible in a completely virtual setting. SSI will guide and connect students to scientific literature, public datasets, and support their project design from inception to completion in a topic area of interest. International students will learn how to apply their English skills in order to effectively communicate their science and engineering projects. Masterclass speaker and Harvard student Franklyn Wang said that he was “impressed by how simple and easy to learn [SSI] is making the process of doing significant research with publicly available datasets.”
Although this is the first year that SSI is running online, Dr. McCalla is no stranger to science research. She has served as the science research coordinator at Jericho High School in New York, and over the past decade, her program has produced a record-breaking 74 semifinalists and
12 finals in the Intel/Regeneron Science Talent Search and 60+ International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) finalists.
The SSI will run from June 21st to August 1st, 2020. Applications are currently open to students worldwide and will close on May 15th, 2020. When asked, SSI responded that, based on an unprecedented interest, admission to both programs will be competitive and to expect applying for a research project to be more selective due a limited number of projects and mentoring resources. In addition, decisions are being made on a rolling basis and interested students should apply as soon as they are ready. The admissions process is need-blind and offers financial aid.