Seventy of the world's top high-school science students will come to MIT this summer to work as research interns under the Research Science Institute program sponsored by the Center for Educational Excellence in Washington, D.C. MIT's participation in RSI this summer is being sponsored by a grant from the Intel Foundation.
Center and MIT officials are exploring the possibility of having MIT become permanent host for the program, which has been based in Washington since its inception nine years ago. As such, the program would become part of MIT's growing activity in pre-college (K-12) education.
"This seems like a good match for MIT because of our excellence in science and technology, and because of our experience with UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program), which is similar to the RSI research internships," said Professor Hal Abelson, who has been named by MIT Provost Mark S. Wrighton to chair MIT's RSI Oversight Committee.
"We have agreed to host RSI for a trial period of one or two years," he said in a letter to faculty members and research staff, "while we study the possibility of more permanent involvement."
UROP is MIT's pathfinding program, organized in 1969, that gives undergraduates the chance to participate with MIT faculty and research staff in ongoing research projects. Prior to UROP, hands-on research experience was rarely a widespread undertaking for undergraduates at MIT or elsewhere.
The Center for Educational Excellence was founded in 1984 by the late Admiral Hyman G. Rickover with the goal of keeping the United States competitive in science and technology by early nurturing of the nation's most promising students.
RSI, the Center's core program, is a six-week residential summer institute for students who have completed their junior year in high school. It includes one week of intensive classroom lectures, a four-week research internship under the guidance of a scientist mentor, and a final week in which students complete and present research reports on the results of their internship.
Except for the cost of travel to the summer program, RSI is free to student participants, thereby reducing financial barriers to scientific careers for students who are not affluent.
In his letter to MIT faculty and research staff, Dr. Abelson, professor of electrical engineering and computer science and Engineering, said that RSI "is by most accounts the premier program devoted to identifying and nurturing scientific talent among high-school students."
"Its alumni figure prominently among the student bodies of outstanding colleges and universities," he continued. "It has more students chosen as Westinghouse Science Talent Search honorees and winners than any other educational organization in the country. Last year, for example, six of the top Westinghouse Science Awards, including the grand prize and five of the top 12, went to RSI participants."
The Intel Foundation hopes that its support will enable RSI to remain at MIT on a permanent basis. "RSI is a proven successful program, and we are delighted to see it moving to MIT," said Margie Kintz, Executive Director of the Intel Foundation. "We particularly hope that RSI can be an additional vehicle for MIT's efforts to encourage participation in science and engineering by women and by members of underrepresented minority groups."
At a meeting in Washington in late February, 50 students from a pool of about 700 applicants from across the United States were selected to participate in this summer's RSI program by a committee consisting of Professor Abelson, MIT Director of Admissions Michael Behnke, and Center representatives. An additional 20 international students will be selected over the next few weeks. RSI students will be assigned to research projects on the MIT campus, at the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory (formerly an MIT laboratory, which still contributes to MIT's educational program) at the MIT-operated Lincoln Laboratory, Harvard University, and local high-technology companies.
A version of this article appeared in the March 18, 1992 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 36, Number 24).