Spending summer inside an engineering lab is not an exciting plan for most high school students, but it is the choice of 26 students who started on Monday in the 2017 cohort of the Summer High School Intensive in Next-Generation Engineering (SHINE). How else could a pre-college student perform data collection on heart muscle beating outside the body in Professor Megan McCain’s biomedical engineering lab, or help develop new methods of internet authentication in Professor Jelena Mirkovic’s cybersecurity lab, or test innovative complex semiconductor materials that will someday be used in electronic devices in Professor Jayakanth Ravichandran’s lab, or help create fresh water through desalination in Professor Amy Childress’ environmental engineering lab? SHINE is the place to be this summer for students who want to use their science and math skills to help solve society’s most pressing problems.
Monday, June 19, 2017, was Day 1 of SHINE’s seven week immersion of 26 high students in 15 faculty labs. These students were selected as top achievers with a track record of excellence in STEM coursework and a clear commitment to research. With an average GPA of 3.7, these students come from elite private schools and inner city public schools, finding commonalities through their curiosity about engineering and willingness to join a professor’s research team.
Each SHINE student receives one-to- one guidance from a Ph.D. student mentor studying under each professor. These Ph.D. students receive training and compensation for mentoring their students, building along the way their own abilities to share the broader impacts of their own research. The Ph.D. mentors are the heart and soul of the program, helping the high school students to develop the mindset of a researcher, which is quite different from conducting experiments in high school laboratories.
In addition to helping with data collection, analysis, coding, and/or computer modeling in the labs, the SHINE students have numerous opportunities to pick up important skills:
Meet alumni from SHINE 2016
Learn to read a peer-reviewed article written by their professor and/or Ph.D. mentor
Learn to search databases of scientific literature Meet with USC Viterbi Admissions Officer to learn best practices for applying to university
Turn in a literature review of a related engineering research topicWomen Who Code panel discussion
Design a poster that summarizes all they learned in the lab
(L-R) SHINE Ph.D. student mentors Giovanni and Harry
SHINE students and families during their campus tour.
SHINE student Luigi and his family.
(L-R) Shravan’s family, Shravan, and Brian during their lab tour.
Along with these workshops, SHINE students will have weekly mentorship meetings with eleven volunteers from USC Viterbi’s Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE). These undergraduate students come from all over the United States to conduct research in a USC Viterbi’s professor’s lab, much like the SHINE students except that these older students are seriously considering applying to obtain a Ph.D. in engineering at USC.
It’s not all work for the SHINE students – there’s the annual SHINE/SURE Barbeque, a field trip to California Science Center to see the Dream Big movie in IMAX, and lots of other ways the students from as far north as Calabasas and as far south as Irvine will have a chance to get to know one another.