Penn Summer Science Initiative (PSSI)

PSSI Ssummer program with Schuyler Patton and remote students on Zoom

Schuyler Patton (left), TJ Rickey (right) and students on Zoom at bottom.

This free, four-week program annually exposes high school students to materials research at Penn through hands on laboratory experiments and in-person lectures. Last summer, the program was redeveloped to run virtually. Each day during the week students had a faculty lecture followed by an “Introduction to Materials Science” class. To increase engagement, students were sent numerous samples to participate in daily hands-on activities.

In 2021, 20 students were accepted from a diverse pool of applicants. The class consisted of 75% URGs, 70% female, 30% URM, 5% self-report as having a disability, and 85% from public schools.

Program evaluations indicated students gained a better understanding of the field of Materials Science & Engineering, which many had never known to exist, became more excited about STEM, and gained confidence to pursue it in college. Some example student quotes:

“I had never heard of materials science before this program. That being said, the program not only sparked my interest in materials science, but showed me that materials science is very interdisciplinary and can fit into many of the fields that I was already familiar with.”

Yes this program has impacted what I want to study in college, it increased my passion for STEM by exposing me to a different aspect I have not been exposed to before.”