2023 Summer Student Program fulfills dreams in Bar Harbor and Farmington

Class of 2023 summer students from JAX's Bar Harbor and Farmington campuses ­gather for a joint retreat in central Maine. Class of 2023 summer students from JAX's Bar Harbor and Farmington campuses ­gather for a joint retreat in central Maine.

Graduates celebrate the power of science and enduring friendships.

The JAX community convened in Bar Harbor, Maine, and Farmington, Conn., to recognize the Summer Student Program (SSP) Class of 2023. In commencement ceremonies, 39 students celebrated with family and friends as mentors reflected on their accomplishments.

“You embody the spirit of what makes JAX so special,” President Lon Cardon, Ph.D., FMedSci, told the Bar Harbor cohort, encouraging students to draw on the critical thinking skills they honed throughout the summer.

That spirit was on full display before the ceremonies as students presented on topics encompassing many of JAX’s leading research areas, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, rare diseases and stroke recovery. Each presentation was met with cheers and applause from fellow students, mentors and friends. Students then received certificates of completion from faculty mentors and the lab teams that guided their research journeys.

One of JAX’s signature educational initiatives, the SSP annually brings talented young adults into the scientific career pipeline by offering hands-on participation in research discovery. After arriving in June, each student spent 10 weeks developing an independent research project under the guidance of an experienced mentor, serving as an active member of a laboratory team and refining their communication skills to analyze and report their results.

2023 SSP graduate Aleisha Roberts (Harvard University) receives congratulations from JAX President and CEO Lon Cardon, Ph.D., FMedSci. 2023 SSP graduate Aleisha Roberts (Harvard University) receives congratulations from JAX President and CEO Lon Cardon, Ph.D., FMedSci.

A sense of community

During the Bar Harbor scientific poster presentations, students shared valuable lessons they learned about themselves as scientists, including how to step back from their work to rethink their approach, how to be patient with themselves and how to recover from failure. Most of all, they spoke of feeling truly understood by those around them, and of how much they appreciate the SSP’s powerful sense of community.

As an incoming college freshman and one of the program’s youngest participants, Annika Bai of Menlo Park, CA confessed to worrying early on about feeling intimidated by the scientific talent around her. Instead, she found herself in good company.

“My mind is always churning [with scientific questions],” Bai said, “so I appreciated being around people who think the same way I do.”

Bai’s and other students’ participation was supported in part by philanthropic gifts that help to provide students with a fully immersive residential experience and broad access to JAX resources.

The programs included an annual retreat that brought together the Bar Harbor and Farmington cohorts in central Maine.

“We want the students on both campuses to get to know each other,” said Laura Muller, Ph.D., JAX’s program director for undergraduate and STEM education. “The retreat gives them an opportunity to enjoy some downtime together away from their lab. The best part of the retreat is that those connections continue through the rest of the summer.”

Permanent bonds with JAX

As the newest members of JAX’s diverse alumni network, the Class of 2023 joins 3,000 trainees—including three Nobel Prize winners—who have graduated from the program.

JAX’s alumni program works to ensure that those who have shared in the SSP experience benefit from a lifelong relationship with JAX. Students are encouraged to consider the JAX network a readily available resource for research interests, career guidance and other professional connections.

“Think about the research you gave to JAX this summer,” Muller told students in her final remarks. “All of your work—and all of you—are part of JAX now.”

On behalf of his class, SSP student Raheem Khadour shared a heartfelt expression of gratitude to JAX’s faculty, program administrators and leaders.

“We have enjoyed every day with you,” he said. “The SSP has been beyond our wildest dreams.”

Visit the Summer Student Program page to learn more about admissions. Are you an SSP alum? To stay in touch, contact AG Barry, Assistant Director of Stewardship and Alumni Engagement.