Concept

Summer Science Program

Résumé
The Summer Science Program (SSP) is an academic summer program where high school students experience college-level education and do research in celestial mechanics by studying the orbits of asteroids, biochemistry by studying the kinetic properties of enzymes, or genomics by studying antibiotic resistance. The program was established in 1959 at The Thacher School in Ojai, California. It now takes place on three astrophysics campuses, New Mexico Tech in Socorro, New Mexico, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and University of Colorado, Boulder in Boulder, Colorado, and two biochemistry campuses, Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana and Indiana University Bloomington in Bloomington, Indiana. In the Astrophysics program, each team takes a series of images of a near-earth asteroid, then writes software to calculate its orbit and predict its future path. In the Biochemistry program, each team isolates and models an enzyme from a fungal crop pathogen, then designs a molecule to inhibit that enzyme. In the Genomics program, each team grows a culture of Vibrio natriegens under moderate antibiotic selection pressure. Each Summer Science Program campus hosts 36 participants and 7 faculty for 39 days. Faculty have integrated academic and residential roles. The participant experience is designed to be similar at all campuses. For the research, participants are organized into teams of three. The schedule includes classroom time, lab time, field trips (scientific and recreational) and guest lectures from working scientists and other professionals. Past guest speakers have included Maarten Schmidt, who has done pioneering work in quasars; Richard Feynman, a Nobel laureate in physics; James Randi, magician and debunker of pseudoscience; Mitch Kapor, founder of Lotus Development; Paul MacCready, creator of the Gossamer Condor and Gossamer Albatross; and Eric Allin Cornell, a Nobel laureate in physics. The application process and admission criteria are similar to that of selective colleges.
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