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High Schoolers Come to MIT for Summer Programs

By Kristen Landino

During the summer MIT offers a number of programs which cater to talented high school students across the country.

Project Interphase; Research Science Institute; Summer High School Studies Program; and Minority Introduction to Engineering, Entrepreneurship, and Science, are examples of these selective summer academic enrichment programs.

Research Science Institute

Under the aegis of the Center for Educational Excellence in McLean, Virginia, RSI is an intensive six week program for high school students gifted in mathematics and science.

There are currently 68 students enrolled in this highly selective program which features research, lectures, and discussion. Most RSI students will be entering twelfth grade in September.

The first week mainly consists of lectures followed by five weeks of intensive research culminating in a research paper and presentation in the last week of the summer program.

RSI was not always held at MIT; it was established in 1984 by Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, and moved to MIT in 1992.

Rickover founded the program in order to keep the United States competitive in science and technology by nurturing the nation’s most promising students.

Feng Vhang, a current RSI student from Des Moines, Iowa, is working for Professor of Biology Arnold L. Demain.

“I’m trying to develop a growth medium which will slow the growth of budding yeast. Eventually, we hope to send the yeast into space and study them,” Vhang said.

RSI student Michael Dimakos from Athens, Greece, spends his days working with an MIT graduate student from Yugoslavia on convergence number theory. He describes his work as “not too hard - until now. I expect it will be much harder tomorrow though.”

Students enrolled in the program are sponsored by a grant from the Intel Foundation and do not pay any tuition costs, thereby opening the program to students of all financial backgrounds.

“It is a really great program. I had a friend who came here and she loved it,” said RSI student Charitcha Gowda from Rockville , Maryland.

RSI alumni have gone on to be very successful in the Intel Science Talent Search competition, often using their summer research as the basis for their submissions. RSI has produced 153 Intel semifinalists, 47 finalists, and 19 top ten scholars in its first 14 years. In the 1998 competition, the first, second, and fifth place winners were all RSI alumni.

Neils Dreyer, an RSI student from Germany, is studying cryptosporidium parvum, a type of parasite, in geese. When asked about his work, he responded: “I collect shit”.

Interphase aids minorities

Sponsored by the Office of Minority Education, Project Interphase is open to all incoming underrepresented minority freshmen.

The seven week curriculum consists of physics, writing, physical education, chemistry, calculus, as well as other co-curricular activities which focus on preparing the students for their freshman year at MIT. Incoming freshmen enrolled in the program can also earn transcript credit for subjects taken in the program, thereby allowing them to skip the corresponding subjects usually taken in the fall semester.

This year marks the 30th Anniversary of Project Interphase. In 1968, then President Howard Johnson appointed a task force to assess the educational opportunities available to students.

One year later, at the urging of Shirley Jackson PhD ’68, the first woman to receive a PhD from MIT, Project Interphase was established to increase minority attendance at MIT.

SHSSP caters to area students

Another program offered during the summer at MIT for high school students is SHSSP.

Sponsored by the Educational Studies Program, it consists of a series of non-credit academic enrichment courses held every Saturday from July 10 to August 14. Classes are two hours long and are offered in the areas of computer science, chemistry, biology, electrical engineering, mathematics, neuroscience, and the liberal arts.

It is open to area students in grades seven through twelve. Students may take up to three classes for a total cost of $30.


Mites is a six week residential summer program open to talented underrepresented minority high school juniors. The program focuses on introducing the students to careers in engineering, science, and entrepreneurship.

The program is fully scholarship-based; admitted students pay no tuition. This tuition-free system is possible through grants from a host of individuals and organizations including the following: 3M, Citicorp Foundation, Digital Equipment Corporation, DuPont Chemical Company, Hewlett-Packard Company, and the Eastman Kodak Company among others.

The curriculum consists of various levels of calculus, chemistry/biochemistry, physics, writing/humanities, entrepreneurship, and design. The design course culminates in a highly competitive engineering design competition each year.

In addition to rigorous coursework, the students also have the opportunity to talk with business executives, scientists, and researchers of color in different fields through special lecture series.

Admission to MITES is based on a number of factors including: high school grades, standardized test scores, participation in extracurricular and volunteer work, written essays, and teacher recommendations. A group of MIT faculty, administration, students, and instructors select the class each year.

A fair amount of MITES alumni are accepted to MIT each year. OF the 58 students who attended MITES 1997, 43 of the 46 who applied were accepted at MIT; 22 of these students plan to enroll.

Anna K. Benefiel contributed to the reporting of this story