SNHS’s hosts most popular meeting: Summer Science Programs

Senior Catherine Yi volunteers at the El Camino Hospital. She emphasizes good work relations with nurses and good communication with patients. Photo taken from Creative Commons

Senior Catherine Yi volunteers at the El Camino Hospital. She emphasizes good work relations with nurses and good communication with patients. Photo taken from Creative Commons

Jessica Xing

On Dec. 5, Science National Honors Society hosted their most popular meeting of the year — their science summer program info session. Many students hope to gain experience in the STEM field through research projects, lab internships or science camps such as Cosmos during the summer,, but sometimes these opportunities can be hard to find.

“A lot of students, especially sophomores and freshmen, don’t have access to the information because they are new to it,” co-president senior Catherine Yi said. “We want to give them direction as to where they can apply.”

With an officer team of juniors and seniors, SNHS officers are veterans to the science summer program application process. During the session, they shared their experiences applying to different programs and what advice they had to offer for their club members.

The officers of SNHS looked at a number of different factors when choosing summer programs and organized the information into three categories: summer programs, research internships and volunteering opportunities. They looked at the programs’ distances from Cupertino, offering information on far ones like Michigan State’s High School Honors Science Program, a seven week residential research program at Michigan State University, yet also talked about research opportunities at University of California Santa Cruz.

“It really depends on interest on our members so we try to provide a large variety,” Yi said. “While we share some competitive programs, we also share some less popular that would accept more people, for members who just want to try something out then move to more competitive programs in the later summer. We try to base them in California, but we have them in other areas of the country incase anyone wants to get exposure away from home while also doing scientific research.”

According to Yi,  it is good to connect with people to find these opportunities. Yi found her volunteering job at the El Camino Hospital through people she knew, and applying for the job was a good simulation of the college application process itself. Asking for recommendation letters and preparing application materials was exposure to what the first semester of her senior year would look like.

Senior Catherine Yi volunteers at the El Camino Hospital. She emphasizes good work relations with nurses and good communication with patients. Photo taken from Creative Commons

Senior Catherine Yi volunteers at the El Camino Hospital. She emphasizes good work relations with nurses and good communication with patients. Photo taken from Creative Commons

“Volunteering is less enhancement of science rather than it is exposure — volunteering was a more about patient interaction and building social skills,” Yi said. “That is really helpful if you want to work in the science field because with a lot of research projects you have to collaborate in a group, and the interactions you learn volunteering at a hospital is going to be useful in that sense.”

Secretary and treasurer junior Aditi Gnanasekar found her first research opportunity after winning the Emperor Science Award, allowing her to work with a mentor, a professor from University of Washington. Her research dealt with the new FDA drugs for prostate cancer, and she worked with her mentor to determine whether it was the drugs that allowed prostate cancer patients to live longer, or just heightened awareness for the disease that just made it seem like the drugs were working.

During the summer of her sophomore year, Gnanasekar was waitlisted for the UC Davis Young Scholar Program, so instead she decided to create her own research project. She worked on her research dealing with the new prostate cancer drugs until it was put on pause so her mentor could finish writing a grant. She then decided to write a paper on the differences between oncologists in America and India, shadowing oncologists in El Camino hospital and in India.

UC Davis Young Scholar Program is a seven week residential research program for sophomores and juniors. It is a good choice, according to Senior Catherine Yi, because it is local and close by. Photo taken from Creative Commons John Loo Flickr

UC Davis Young Scholar Program is a seven week residential research program for sophomores and juniors. It is a good choice, according to Senior Catherine Yi, because it is local and close by. Photo taken from Creative Commons John Loo Flickr

“Personally, during the summer I wouldn’t want to sit in a classroom and learn because it’s just like school. I want to do something different than what I do at school. I kind of created my own summer project.” Gnanasekar said, “That was fun for me because I learned a lot that i wouldn’t have learned just sitting in a classroom or just an online course.”

Yi’s advice for applying to summer programs is to start early.

Do a lot of research on the program that you are applying to.” Yi said “Make sure it’s somewhere you want to spend weeks on end, or if it’s across the country you would be able to spend your time there.”