Sixty-six top high school science students are spending six weeks at MIT this summer as scholars in the 9th annual Research Science Institute.
RSI is the centerpiece program of the Center for Excellence in Education of McLean, Va., 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. Last year, six of the national Westinghouse Science Awards, including first place and five of the top twelve, were given to RSI scholars.
This is the first year that RSI is being held at MIT, whose participation is being sponsored by a grant from the Intel Foundation.
RSI participants this year, almost all of whom will be entering the 12th grade in September, include 50 US scholars, selected last February from among 700 applicants across the United States, and 16 international scholars from Bulgaria, Hungary, Jamaica, Lebanon, Mexico, Singapore, and Venezuela. Except for travel expenses to the summer program, RSI is cost-free to participants, thereby reducing financial barriers to scientific careers for all students.
This summer's RSI program started June 29 with a week of intensive classroom lectures. Lecturers were Dr. Mary deLong of Emory University (biology), Dr. Denise Garland of City College of New York (chemistry), Dr. Willis Konick of University of Washington (humanities), Dr. David Keyes of Yale University (mathematics), and Dr. Sidney Yip of MIT (physics).
The program's core, which began on July 8, is a four-week individual research internship for each student under the personal supervision of a mentor. Mentors, all of whom have volunteered their time, are faculty and senior research scientists at MIT, Harvard University, MIT Lincoln Laboratory and the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory; local high-technology companies; and teaching hospitals. At the end of the program, students will present talks and papers based on their research projects at a symposium August 6 and 7 at MIT (Room 6-120).
Director of the summer program is Dr. Mark Saul of the Bronxville, N.Y., school system, who has extensive experience working with gifted high school students through the American Regions Math League. He is assisted by Ms. Maite Ballestero of the Center for Excellence in Education and by a staff of teaching assistants and counselors, headed by a group of high school teachers who have achieved national recognition for their teaching excellence: Dr. David Drennan of Norman, Okla., Dr. Harold Reiter of Charlotte, N.C., Mr. Charles Roosen of Los Alamos, N.M., and Ms. Marsha Winegarner of DeFuniak Springs, Fla. Saul, Drennan, and Winegarner are all past recipients of the National Science Foundation Presidential Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics and the Sciences.
RSI's presence on the MIT campus is the first year in a trial period, during which MIT and the Center for Excellence in Education will evaluate the possibility of moving the program to MIT on a long-term basis.
Liaison with MIT is overseen by a committee chaired by Professor Harold Abelson of MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. "RSI has been a consistently outstanding program since its inception," said Dr. Abelson, "but this summer seems to be going exceptionally well. MIT's experience with UROP [Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program] and our overall excellence in science and technology are a natural match to the goals of RSI. There's been a lot of enthusiasm all across the MIT community for hosting such a talented group of students, and the students seem to be fitting right in to the environment here."
Joann DiGennaro, president of the Center for Excellence in Education, has worked with MIT faculty and administration for the past two years to implement an RSI at MIT. "This relationship between the Center and MIT is mutually beneficial. MIT offers opportunities for scientific inquiry beyond those of most universities."
Members of the MIT community are invited to attend the RSI colloquium, at which students will make their research presentations. People who would be interested in serving on a panel to help evaluate the papers and talks are invited to contact Professor Abelson, x3-5856 . People with an interest in serving as mentors in next summer's RSI program should also get in touch with Professor Abelson.
A version of this article appeared in the July 15, 1992 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 37, Number 1).