Signature summer program kicks off programming for its 88th cohort.
From a pool of more than 500 applicants, 39 students selected for The Jackson Laboratory’s 2023 Summer Student Program (SSP) arrived on JAX campuses in Bar Harbor, Maine, and Farmington, Conn., this week for a summer of living and learning. The group is JAX’s 88th annual SSP cohort.
“Each year, the entire JAX community welcomes and nurtures promising young scientists from institutions all over the country,” said Laura Muller, Ph.D., JAX’s program director for undergraduate and STEM education. “We’re excited to observe their personal and academic growth unfold over the next 10 weeks.”
One of JAX’s signature educational initiatives, the SSP brings bright, talented and curious young adults into the scientific career pipeline by offering hands-on participation in research discovery. During their 10-week residential program, SSP participants develop an independent project under the guidance of an experienced research mentor, perform experiments, analyze data and report results. Students can select a mentor from any of JAX’s areas of expertise, including cancer; bioinformatics and computational biology; genomics; aging; immunology and infectious disease; metabolic diseases; and neurobiology and sensory deficits.
A diverse group of students
This year’s cohort represents 31 U.S. colleges and universities and four high schools from across the country. In keeping with JAX’s ongoing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, the group comes from a range of backgrounds, including racial and ethnic populations traditionally underrepresented in science and from family situations categorized as socioeconomically disadvantaged.
Beyond their academic strengths, the students bring to JAX a range of experiences and interests. One completed a daunting fitness challenge in the Columbian jungle. Another can juggle with both their hands and feet! From soccer to crew to swimming – and with several certified scuba divers and lifeguards – they’re adventurers and athletes.
They’re also chefs and bakers, and artists: musicians, poets, dancers, a mural painter and one student who works as a gardener at a popular wedding venue. They have an affinity for service and volunteer work, dedicating their free time to nursing homes, memory care units, schools and their local Boys and Girls Clubs.
In the coming weeks, students will experience JAX’s unique residential Living Learning Community model that combines educational and co-curricular activities outside the lab. Students will contribute to a research team and expand their scientific knowledge, and programming also will nurture soft skills like critical thinking, empathy, leadership and collaboration. Students from both campuses will gather for a weekend retreat in late June in central Maine.
Funding the future of scientific research
Support for the SSP has long been a driver of philanthropic gifts to JAX, as many alumni have found the experience transformative and wish to enhance it for the next generation.
“Private gifts play a key role in providing SSP participants with a fully immersive residential experience as well as broad access to the resources available at JAX,” Muller said. “This program is an opportunity for students to get a true sense of what a career involving science can look like.”
Moses Davis, Ph.D., director of diversity, equity and inclusion at JAX, says the heart of the program lies in its focus on learning inside and outside the lab.
“The SSP living-learning environment empowers students to form a scientific community and to begin to see their place within it,” he said. “Their science benefits from conversations and collaborations with the scientists around them. Staff members facilitate activities to help students relate their scientific successes and challenges to the other young scientists in the residence. And residential activities focus on creating a setting in which all have a sense that they belong.”
Students will present their final research projects in August to family, friends and the broader JAX community.
To learn more about ways to support diversity and educational programming at JAX, visit www.jax.org/give.