Summer Science & Engineering Program
The Smith Summer Science and Engineering Program (SSEP) is designed for exceptional high school students with strong interests in science and engineering. Engage in hands-on research with Smith faculty in life and physical sciences and in engineering. Established in 1990, the program annually serves more than 100 students. Since its inception, nearly 1,800 students have participated, representing 46 states and 53 countries. After the program, participants return to high school better prepared to tackle tough science courses and understand what to expect in college.
Program Dates for 2022
Dates are forthcoming. Stay tuned!
Hands-On Learning & Exploration
Central to the summer science program is a learning environment that is rich in role models. SSEP offers hands-on, cooperative, investigative and challenging learning—where students get all of the faculty’s attention as well as the opportunities and encouragement to achieve their best. Smith undergraduate students with science majors also serve as teaching assistants.
Smith College is among the top-rated liberal arts colleges in the United States and one of the nation’s largest colleges dedicated to educating women. In 1999, Smith became the first women’s college in the nation to establish its own program in engineering science, the Picker Engineering Program.
SSEP research courses emphasize asking questions and learning by doing, not only by listening and watching. Students choose two-week research courses; in these, groups of up to 17 students work alongside Smith faculty members, assisted by undergraduate interns. Informal lectures in the lab and out in the field encourage students to ask research questions, and they learn to conduct actual experiments.
Most of the work is carried out as a cooperative team effort, with ample opportunities for individual contributions. SSEP participants learn how scientists and engineers formulate questions, work on sophisticated scientific instruments and develop valuable critical thinking and analytical skills.
Please note: For remote courses, additional synchronous class times may be scheduled. These additional times will be scheduled at the instructor’s discretion and with student availability in mind.
This course is designed to lay the foundation of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) study by introducing students to mapping concepts, tools and techniques for spatial data analysis through the use of remote sensing platforms such as satellites, manned (general aviation) and unmanned aircraft (drones). Students in this course will practice GIS using specialized software and field data collection (terrestrial - GPS and aerial - drones, virtually). We will also explore doing research with drones – rules and regulations, drone anatomy and application, surveying and photogrammetry, photography and cinematography. (Students will not be doing hands-on flying.) The course is a team-based endeavor, so you will learn and inspire your peers on design (cartographic or other visual storytelling), critical thinking, and (geo)data literacy. Class will be conducted over Zoom with the use of breakout rooms. Other program software will be utilized.
Mona Kulp, Ph.D., Laboratory Instructor, Department of Chemistry, Smith College.
Open to all students
There is a well-established link between food that we eat and common chronic health conditions such as diabetes and congestive heart failure. It has also been proposed that food or particular diets could serve as the key to reversing these health outcomes. There is an incredible amount of information available about what we should eat for optimal health and much of it is conflicting, difficult to parse and understand. This course will focus on taking an evidence-based approach to food and health claims. We will learn how to evaluate data that is part of a clinical trial and to critically read scientific information. Using a number of analytical techniques, we will learn how scientists are able to determine the nutritional content of whole foods. We will also look for chemicals that are commonly used as food additives and understand their impact on human health. Our goal is to take a holistic look at the food we eat, with the idea that food can serve as medicine.
Students will receive hands-on experience with chemistry, develop scientific writing and presentation skills, expand skills in chemical literacy, and critically read scientific papers.
This course is designed as an introductory experience for students who have an interest in chemistry, biology, health and medicine.
Leslie Jaffe, M.D., College Physician, Smith College
Open to students who are rising 10th graders and older
Globally, adolescent girls face an array of health-related challenges in their daily lives, and this course empowers young women to explore them. Lack of gender equity, including the right to an education and access to health care, places millions of girls in poor and developing countries at increased risk for poor health and preventable deaths. Through individual and group activities, this course provides opportunities to learn about many of these issues, including health disparities in the United States, child brides in Asia, obstetric fistula in Africa, maternal deaths in India, and violence against women globally. Course activities include research, discussion, and presentations. Participants investigate essential young women’s health topics such as the menstrual cycle, healthy eating, media literacy, violence, contraception and sexually transmitted diseases, and emotional health. These topics are considered within the contexts of current research in biology and medicine, and today's multicultural society. Global Young Women’s Health is an emotionally intense and rewarding course that builds individual and group knowledge and awareness. Zoom will be used for lectures, with extensive use made of breakout rooms for small group discussions.
Due to the material covered, this course is open to students entering tenth grade and older. Students in this course become members of a close-knit working group, sharing their own stories and learning from others while conducting research and participating in course activities. Students interested in health-related careers and medicine may find this course useful.
How did COVID-19 happen? This class will provide some ways of answering this question by introducing students to basic virology concepts with a focus on coronaviruses. We will learn about the science behind viruses: How do they work? Where do they come from? How do they spread in a population? We will discuss public health responses to epidemics and pandemics using a socioecological approach. The framework for this discussion will include ethical considerations at every level (intrapersonal, interpersonal, institutional, community and policy). This course will be taught over Zoom and will require students to engage in small group work, presentations, case studies and research.
Jesse Bellemare, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at Smith College
In this two-week course, we will design and implement student-led ecological research projects investigating aspects of plant ecology and questions related to the challenges of restoring plant biodiversity in human-impacted ecosystems. We will start by exploring plant diversity and ecology through an evolutionary lens using Smith College’s Botanic Garden and campus as a setting to observe and study unique plant species and their ecological communities. Students will develop an understanding of plant leaf, stem and reproductive structures, and how botanists identify species using scientific keys and dissecting microscopes. We will gain experience with ecological concepts and approaches to collecting data in the field. Small student groups will develop their own plant-focused ecological hypotheses, collect relevant data through surveys or experiments, and learn how to run basic data analyses and statistics to evaluate their hypotheses. A major theme will involve quantifying and understanding how plant communities have been altered by past human disturbance, using ecological surveys and comparison to more intact ecosystems, like old growth forests. The course will involve indoor lectures, discussions and hands-on work with microscopes, but also ample time in the field to observe natural communities and collect ecological data for student projects.
This course is open to all students with interests in biology, environmental studies and landscape architecture.
Anna Baeth, Ph.D., Director of Research for Athlete Ally and Katlin Okamoto, M.S., Research Assistant, School of Social Work, University of Minnesota
Open to all students
Where the (Moving) Body Meets the Mind is an exploration of the ways exercise, sport and physical activity are both influential to and influenced by the mind. This course draws from the fields of exercise science, sports psychology, and physical activity sociology and uses the students’ own experiences to better understand how movement and psychology are intertwined in physical activity and performance. Students will learn about how the body responds to exercise, training for performance, and how concepts such as sensation, biofeedback, and motivation play a role in exercise and sport. This course is experiential and will require students to participate in physical activity. It will be of particular interest to students who wish to explore careers in medicine, physical therapy, coaching, and mental health professions. Class time will be conducted over Zoom with breakout small group sessions.
Lou Ann Bierwert, M.A., Information and Technology Director, Center for Molecular Biology, and Ashanta Ester, M.S., Research Associate, Biological Sciences, Smith College
Human genetics has fascinated us for centuries—beginning with the basic question of why we look like our ancestors and continuing to recent advances in medical and courtroom analyses. In this course, students will gain experience with a variety of classical and modern techniques used in human genetic analysis. The course will include explorations in basic genetics, probability, pedigree analysis, molecular genetics and population genetics. Participants will determine their own genotype for a taste receptor on their tongue, and calculate the frequencies of these taster alleles in their class, sort chromosomes into a karyotype, determine the orientation of of a set of genes at the end of their own chromosome, and construct part of their own DNA fingerprints using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
In this online course, students will receive a kit that will allow them to swab their own cheek cells to send back for DNA extraction and further analysis. The subjects of the experiments are the students themselves, as the instructors will isolate the DNA from their cheek cells via Zoom, and then use PCR to amplify and then characterize different parts of their DNA. Time between experiments is spent working on genetic problem sets and case studies. Visiting speakers include a genetic counselor and a DNA crime scene analyst, to give students a taste of the wide variety of career paths they can take if interested in molecular biology.