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Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy - Is It Worth It?

There are plenty of summer programs, camps, and academies that cater to various STEM subjects, and you should strongly consider pursuing such an opportunity if you’re serious about a clear and specific field. An experience like this can set you apart from other applicants by demonstrating your commitment, passion, and readiness for a specialist niche. Today’s blog focuses on one such program, the Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy.


What is the Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy?

The Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy, hosted by the City of Hope cancer center, is a 10-week long, intense research program designed for high school students interested in biomedical sciences. Its purpose is to provide hands-on research experience under the mentorship of leading scientists, post-doctorate students, and the lab personnel at City of Hope. The academy aims to provide a serious opportunity to academically motivated high schoolers to build a deep understanding of cancer and diabetes research, preparing them for future careers in science and medicine.


City of Hope is one of only 56 National Cancer Institute designated comprehensive cancer centers in the US, and so offers a unique environment where you can engage in meaningful scientific inquiry. This program is special because it offers a rare opportunity to contribute to real-world research at one of the best cancer care centers in the country, while working and networking with its staff and researchers.


How is it structured?

The Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy is held from June 3 to August 9, 2024. The program is designed to provide a robust and immersive research experience, blending hands-on laboratory work with educational seminars and collaborative projects. Here’s a detailed look at what you can expect over the 10 weeks of the program:

  • An average day at the academy begins at 9 AM and ends around 5 PM, mimicking the schedule of a professional researcher. Mornings typically start with lab work, where you’ll be involved in various stages of scientific research, from experimental design to data collection and analysis. You will be assigned to a specific research project of your indicated interest under the guidance of a City of Hope faculty member, allowing you to contribute to ongoing research in cancer, diabetes, or other biomedical fields.


  • The core of the program is hands-on lab work. You’ll learn to use advanced research techniques and equipment, gaining practical skills that are invaluable for a future career in science. Alongside your faculty member mentor, you’ll also be working with graduate students, postdocs, and lab technicians who will provide daily guidance and support. This mentorship ensures you understand the scientific methods and concepts behind your work, making the experience both educational and practical.


  • In addition to lab work, the program includes regular seminars and lectures. These sessions are conducted by City of Hope faculty and guest speakers, who are leaders in their fields. Topics range from fundamental biological principles to cutting-edge research techniques and recent scientific discoveries. These sessions not only broaden your knowledge but also expose you to the latest developments in biomedical research.


  • Throughout the program, you’ll participate in workshops and training sessions focused on various aspects of scientific research. These may include data analysis workshops, bioinformatics training, and sessions on scientific writing and presentation skills. These activities are designed to equip you with a comprehensive set of skills that are essential for a successful research career.


  • At the end of the program, you’ll be required to present your research findings in a formal presentation. This presentation can be either oral or via a poster session, and allows you to showcase your work to the faculty, your mentors, and your peers. Not only is it an excellent opportunity to develop your presentation skills and gain confidence in communicating complex scientific ideas, it is also an opportunity to pitch your research idea for potential further funding and investment.


  • While the focus is on research and education, the program also includes social and extracurricular activities like a BBQ, movie night, banquet and field trips. These activities help you build connections with fellow students and mentors, creating a supportive community and a valuable network that may be of great use to you in your future academics and career.


  • Last but not least, the City of Hope campus in Duarte, California, provides a world-class research environment. You’ll have access to state-of-the-art laboratories and research facilities, including advanced microscopy labs, cell culture rooms, and molecular biology labs. The campus also offers a collaborative atmosphere and hosts a staff of over 11,000 researchers, providing you numerous opportunities to interact with researchers and students from various backgrounds.


Is it prestigious?

The Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy is extremely competitive - the previous year saw only 82 out of 2,100 applicants accepted, of which 45 were high schoolers, implying an acceptance rate of under 2%!. This incredible exclusivity drastically enhances the program's prestige, and hence the value it adds to your profile. City of Hope itself is one of the nation’s premier cancer research centers and home to some of the most advanced biomedical research, which adds another layer of prestige. Alumni of this program have worked on such cutting edge research projects as anti-HIV therapeutics, delivery systems for neural stem cells, and the molecular physiologies of cancers. The Academy also heavily encourages and supports you in taking your research forward and getting published, which is a crucial milestone for any aspiring medical researcher. Overall, we would rate this as a highly prestigious program that you should absolutely aspire to attend if you’re interested in biomedical research.


What are the eligibility criteria?

To be eligible for the Academy, you will need to be:

  • At least 16 years old before the internship begins.

  • A high school student entering your senior year.

  • A US citizen or permanent resident.

  • Have completed coursework in biology and chemistry.

  • Available for the full ten-week program.


How does the application process work?

The application for the Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy is fairly straightforward. All you need to do is complete the online application form on the City of Hope website. The deadline for this was March 13, 2024 so expect next year to be similar.

Beyond this, you can provide the following, though they are not required:

  1. A personal statement explaining your interest in the program and future goals.

  2. Letters of Recommendation from teachers or mentors.

  3. Your official / unofficial high school transcripts.


Selection takes part in two phases:

  1. An admission committee reviews and scores all applications, shortlisting the best possible candidates.

  2. A review of the waitlist from the previous step.


Note that the Academy does not charge any admission / tuition / registration fee - in fact you will get paid a stipend of $4,000 on completing the internship!


Pros and Cons of attending

Pros:


  1. You will engage in advanced research: You’ll be directly involved in major research projects of your specific interest alongside experienced researchers. Over the course of ten weeks, you’ll understand both the theory and the practice of biomedical research, providing you with rich practical experience and knowledge that will boost your future academics and career.

  2. You will receive valuable mentorship: You’ll receive guidance from some of the most experienced biomedical scientists and researchers in the nation, enhancing both your learning and professional growth.

  3. You will be able to engage in networking opportunities: As one of the top centers for cancer care and research in the US, City of Hope provides you with ample opportunities to connect with peers and professionals in the biomedical field. The Student Academy itself is structured to ensure that you get to interact with everyone from senior faculty members, to postgrad students, to lab technicians and of course your own peers. These professional and personal networks can go a long way in helping you with your future academics and career.

  4. The program is prestigious: The Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy is one of the most select and exclusive research internships available, with an acceptance rate lower than 2% (even lower than Harvard!). Participation in such a highly selective program can considerably boost your academic profile all on its own, on top of the learning you will obtain.

  5. You will earn a stipend: Not only is the program free of charge, you actually stand to earn $4,000 for completing it.

Cons:

  1. The program demands a major time commitment: The program requires serious, full-time dedication, limiting or outright preventing any other summer activities that you may have been interested in. Make sure that you’re ready to commit your entire summer to this.

  2. The program is extremely competitive: No matter how academically strong and motivated you are, the incredibly selective nature of the program means not all applicants will be accepted. We recommend having a backup option handy.

  3. The schedule is quite intense: The Academy has a rigorous schedule where you will be dealing with advanced STEM concepts and indulging in serious laboratory research. Make sure you’re ready for the intensity.

Is it worth it?

The Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy is a highly worthwhile investment if you’re an academically capable high schooler passionate about biomedical research. It offers unparalleled opportunities to gain hands-on experience, work with leading scientists, and enhance your academic profile. If you meet the eligibility criteria and are ready for a challenging yet rewarding experience, this program can significantly benefit your future academic and career aspirations.



Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you’re looking for the opportunity to do in-depth research on topics in STEM or engineering, you could also consider applying to one of the Lumiere Research Scholar Programs, selective online high school programs for students I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.


Also check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students. Last year, we had 150 students on full need-based financial aid!


Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.


Image Source: City of Hope logo

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