Posted on Jun 30, 2005

For the 10th year running, Union College will be hosting a talented group of “underserved” high school students from across the country (and one from Barbados) for its Summer Science Workshop from July 3 to 16.

The two-week residential program gives students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to attend college-level classes, work in laboratories, and receive college and career guidance for science and health-related fields. The 22 students also will experience other “college life” experiences such as sleeping in dorm rooms, eating in the dining hall, and having discussions with professors.

Students are chosen for the program by a faculty committee that reviews their essays, transcripts, and letters of recommendation. Most applicants learn of the opportunity through teachers, guidance counselors, directors of special programs, and alumni of the SSW program.

“This is a wonderful and unique opportunity for high school students to experience college-level work in a campus setting, particularly for those that have no previous exposure to higher education,” said Biology Professor Karen Williams, who coordinates the program. “Students later tell us it was one of their best experiences ever.”

The longevity of the Summer Science Workshop speaks to its success, Williams said. “There are few programs like this that have lasted this long and been this successful.”

Besides exposing budding scientists to college-level work each summer, the program also has been something of a boon to the College's minority recruitment effort. Since its inception in 1996, twenty-five students from the program have enrolled as students at Union. Many have also gone on to become counselors for the very same program that brought them to Union. Williams said almost every student who has gone through the program has gone on to a four-year college, with about 75 percent majoring in math, science or engineering.

Professor Williams is joined by colleagues Peter Tobiessen; Twitty Styles, who teaches immunology; James Hedrick, who teaches computer technology; and Quynh Chu-LaGraff, who teaches cell and molecular biology, as well as two local high school teachers and four counselors.

The overarching theme of the program this year is HIV/AIDS, with study in immunology, a presentation by an HIV/AIDS educator and a field trip to Albany Medical Center. Students are tested and graded on their work during the two weeks and must complete a research paper, presentation and journal of their experience. They are asked to complete an online survey of the program upon its completion.

Summer Science Workshop is supported by a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.