Penn Summer Science Initiative (PSSI)

  • PSSI Students
    Each year a very gifted group of high school students participate in the PSSI program.

Response to the COVID-19 Crisis

This year’s program will be virtual to ensure the well-being of everyone involved.

May 2021 Update – Applications are closed. We are still reviewing applications and will post updates on this site as they become available.

Summer Course in Materials Science for High School Students

The LRSM has organized a free PSSI four week summer program for local high school students interested in materials science and engineering since 1993. Typically 24-28 students, usually juniors but occasionally well qualified sophomores, are accepted. The program consists of lectures on materials, a computer lab, experimental labs, and field trips to both industrial and Penn facilities. Students are drawn from schools in the Delaware Valley within easy commuting distance of the LRSM. Students from under-represented groups in science are encouraged to apply, especially those from the School District of Philadelphia, women, minorities and the disabled. Student should apply through our on-line application form. The application will require a resume, school transcript, and two letters of recommendation.

Penn Summer Science Initiative 2021

Program Details: The FREE Penn Summer Science Initiative, PSSI, is sponsored by the Penn Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, MRSEC, which is funded by the National Science Foundation. It will accept up to 28 students entering their junior or senior year of high school from the greater Philadelphia region for a four-week intensive materials science virtual course from July 12 – August 6, 2021. The course will run from approximately 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM daily (the curriculum is being designed to accommodate this format). The course may include formal lectures from Penn faculty and affiliated researchers, materials science workshops, lab report writing seminars (very useful for college!), projects, virtual hands on activities, and virtual field trips. Students will get exposure to a variety of materials characterization techniques, such as scanning electron and optical microscopies, thermal analysis techniques, mechanical testing, and x-ray diffraction. Students will be expected to work on reports, projects, and other assignments outside of program hours.

Eligibility: Students will be selected for this program based on their scholastic achievements, resume, interest in science, and recommendations. Students must have taken chemistry and/or physics courses. Qualified applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Women, minorities, and persons with disabilities are especially encouraged to apply.

How to Apply: Any student wishing to apply to this program should fill out the on-line application form. Submission will require a resume, report card (PDF), and 2 recommendation forms uploaded. The deadline to apply is March 14th. Additional instructions are provided here.

NOTE: Applicants must arrange for two adults to submit recommendation forms. One must be from a current or former science teacher. The second recommendation may also be a teacher (of any subject) but can also be a coach, club advisor, school administrator, or other adult who knows about your work ethic and achievements. You may not ask a family member or friend to write a recommendation for you.

The recommendation form and instructions for submitting the form should be downloaded from the following link and emailed to the recommenders directly by the applicant.

For Recommenders: Recommenders should be able to speak to the applicants academic achievements and abilities, as well as personal characteristics. Recommendation forms must be uploaded directly to the Interfolio system by each recommender. Additional instructions are provided here.


more information:

Ashley Wallace, Assistant Director, Education & Outreach
Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter
University of Pennsylvania
3231 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6202

Tel. (215) 898-3446
Fax (215) 898-8296
e-mail: walla3@seas.upenn.edu