100 years on

Names of Identified Individuals: Rolf Barth Categories: Summer Students Highseas  Date of Photograph: 1955  Note: 1 of 3 images of student dormitory life at Highseas on the patio. Rolf in rocking chair - Box Number: P3  A 1955 photo of JAX summer students relaxing at Highseas.

Preserving the Summer Student Program’s essence of professional and scientific exploration with Program Director Laura Muller, Ph.D.

In a century marked by rapid scientific and technological advancement, the Summer Student Program (SSP) has remained steadfast in its mission to create a focused, exploratory experience for young minds interested in research. Originating in the forests of Acadia, the SSP has since helped to forge leaders and innovators in both scientific and non-scientific careers, and with the celebration of the program’s 100th year, it is only fitting to showcase its essential tenets. Explore the program’s legacy and goals alongside Program Director Laura Muller, Ph.D., as she details the core values of the program and why they have contributed to its success.


One of the reasons why the SSP has been successful is its commitment to curating a welcoming environment for the next generation of brilliant minds. Community and belonging are major cornerstones of the SSP experience and are instilled into the structure of the program from day one. Throughout their time in either Bar Harbor, ME or Farmington, CT, students are completely immersed in a research environment alongside their peers. Surrounded by people who have similar interests and are around their own age, individuals develop friendships within a culture of camaraderie despite being far from home.


“The SSP provides the answer to the question, ‘What does it mean to be a professional scientist?,’” says Muller. “By being away from their typical environment, students are able to experience how it feels to be in a community of like-minded people and can begin to picture where they could contribute.”

Each SSP student delves headfirst into their research area of interest, exploring their new ecosystem and engaging in collaborative projects. The importance of connection in the scientific field is reinforced over the course of the summer, as they engage with lab members, faculty and staff at The Jackson Laboratory. By instilling the importance of connection into the program, JAX encourages students to be engaged participants in whatever they do during and well after they finish their education and training.

The class of 2023 summer students from Bar Harbor's campus.  The class of 2023 summer students from Bar Harbor's campus.


From sea to shining sea, the SSP has reached students across the United States. Over the last 100 years, representatives from all 50 states have attended the program, including those from underrepresented or disadvantaged backgrounds. Based on criteria from the National Institutes of Health, 59% of students enrolled in the SSP were from underrepresented groups over the past five years.

“It is an important fact about who we are,” says Muller. “We are able to bring a significant number of students who, based on their background, would not have been able to do this kind of research.”

Showcasing the importance of diversity in shaping the scientific landscape, the SSP is not solely about academic pursuits. Part of what makes the program unique is the way it provides for its accepted students. In addition to flights, food and housing being taken care of, each student receives a stipend, so they end the summer with not only a one-of-a-kind experience under their belts but also money in their pockets.

“We really try to pick students with promise. Students can be limited by their zip code or by what their high school has to offer for science courses. They may still be first year students in college who have not had the opportunity to get in the lab yet. We accept them into our program, they do research for the first time and they catch the bug,” says Muller.

The class of 2023 JAX summer students at the Farmington campus. The class of 2023 JAX summer students at the Farmington campus.


Thinking outside the box often leads to the greatest breakthroughs, especially in science. The SSP encourages individuals to express their inventiveness by incorporating a hands-on, experiential learning approach. Many accepted students have had little to no opportunity to perform in-depth benchwork prior to their enrollment. The program provides novice yet promising students with the chance to develop laboratory skills in state-of-the-art facilities, supporting their budding critical thinking capabilities.

“We select students who show a real interest in science and understand what research is about. Maybe they have not done any formal research projects, but they can recognize the areas where they have performed their own type of research in their own lives,” says Muller.

Whether it’s testing a new recipe in the kitchen or attempting a technique during ceramics class, the way students may perform research in their daily lives takes many forms. The SSP reinforces the inherent observant and resourceful nature of these students by giving them an opportunity to learn both hard and soft skills that they will carry into whatever career they choose.


All scientists understand that their work stands on the shoulders of those who came before. The same can be said for the SSP. At the end of each summer, each cohort joins a network of alumni who will forge ahead with research — or other fields — as they make their way into the real world. The impact of the program has ripple effects throughout numerous fields, and alumni have gone on to start research labs, become medical practitioners, advocate for research funding on Capitol Hill, educate other students of promise and more. Many remain connected and continue to engage with the program long after their summer of research has ended, which speaks volumes about how much they value this experience.

The spirit of exploration, innovation and inclusivity that defines the SSP is encapsulated here as a testament to its accomplishments over the past 100 years. These principles will be a reminder to future students and educators, illustrating how far the SSP has come and its commitment to educating forward thinkers in the ever-evolving landscape of scientific discovery.