What is the Stony Brook’s Garcia Summer Program?
The Garcia Summer Program is an intensive 7-week program for high school students with Stony Brook University’s Garcia Center for Polymers at Engineered Interfaces focusing on research about polymer science and technology. Students both receive formal instruction and perform independent research with the help of Garcia Center faculty, students, and staff.
Even after these 7 weeks, students can continue with the program and plan a research schedule with a faculty mentor for the school year. To assist with this process is pre-arranged transportation and class schedules, all coordinated with local school boards so that students from further geographical areas can also enroll.
Who is eligible?
Applicants must be at least 16 years old by around halfway through the year (typically early July) because of university safety policies regarding minors working in labs. Students must also have the following: an unweighted GPA of 95/100 or 3.8/4.0, standardized test scores at least in the 60th percentile, and 3 subjects (Honors or AP) amongst English, chemistry, mathematics/calculus, physics, and biology.
How is the program structured?
Students are first given 3 days of instruction on laboratory safety and must pass a written test to work in the labs, ensuring that you know the basics. Students are then given daily lectures on current and relevant research topics specifically by those who are conducting the research. There are even group experiments to help students learn techniques specific for materials research.
Once students begin developing an area of interest, they are grouped with mentors based on their chosen fields. Within these groups, you will work alone or with one or two partners to focus on specific research experiments. Some research topics students have chosen in the past deal with nanotechnology and 3D printing.
Is the program prestigious?
More than 50 high school students each year participate in the program, and since its inception in 1998, this program has already given hundreds of students the opportunity to deeply explore their scientific interests. Considering students have the opportunity to work closely with experts in the field and achieve even higher scientific goals (such as presenting their research at conferences), it is safe to say that this program is prestigious.
How much does the program cost?
This depends. The total program cost is different depending on whether you will be commuting or living in a dorm. First and foremost, to apply to the program, you must pay a non-refundable $50 registration fee. On top of this, the laboratory usage fee (applicable to all participants) is $3,700.
If room and board is needed for those unable to commute, it can be more expensive. A room (double occupancy) costs $2,436, the mandatory meal plan is $600, and the mandatory student health services fee comes out to $61.50 for a total of a little over $3,000. There is no mention of financial aid on the website.
Pros and Cons of the Garcia Summer Program
Stony Brook’s Garcia Summer Program is a competitive, and thus, tempting program. Even so, you may be wondering if this is the right program for you. Below, we have compiled a list of both pros and cons for the summer program to help you choose whether or not you might want to apply and attend.
1. You can choose your own research topic and work in small groups It is not often that you are able to choose your own research topic and work on a project closely with a mentor, especially as a high school student. But with the Garcia Summer Program, you are able to choose an area of interest and will then subsequently be grouped with mentors who are experts in that field. In this group, you will also be split into smaller groups to work on specific experiments related to your topic.
2. You will learn actual lab and research techniques As a high school student, you may not have the opportunity to learn lab techniques at your own school or even step foot into a lab. To get a head start, you can learn complex lab techniques with the Garcia program. You will be taught the basics of laboratory research from those who know about it best.
3. You will present your research and receive support for further scientific achievement. A symposium specific to the program is also held on the last day of the formal program. Each group will have to summarize their project and explain their experiments and results to an audience of peers, parents, science teachers, high school principals, and Garcia faculty.
Furthermore, Garcia Summer Program students have consistently won recognition for their independent research through a number of ways: competing in renown scientific competitions (like International Science and Engineering Fair, Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, etc.), publishing in peer-reviewed journals, being awarded patents, being inducted into the National Young Inventor’s Hall of Fame, and presenting their results at national conferences (like the American Physical Society and Materials Research Society Fall Symposium).
4. You will form a great network of peers and mentors Through this program, students will meet peers just like them who are passionate about materials research and exploring their interests further. They will collaborate with one another for the duration of the program (and most of the time, even after). Not only will students form a new network of peers, but they will also meet mentors who are willing to guide them through and beyond their research journey. Besides learning and researching, students can also attend fun events like barbecues and excursions.
At this link is a slideshow of a number of Garcia alumni who have gone on to do amazing things. For example, Mariah Geritano has earned a BS in Biology and an MS in Materials Science and Engineering at Stony Brook University, and she is now a 3D print engineer at Boston Children’s Hospital. Steven Lubin has received a BS in Chemistry form Duke University and a PhD in Chemistry from Northwestern University, and he is now a Senior Process Engineer with Intel.
5. You will receive mentoring even after the program is over There is no set time limit to this program. Even after the official end date, you are able to continue working closely with your mentors and newly made friends. And even after graduation, the Garcia Summer Program can still be a resource to you.
6. You will boost your college application Having conducted independent research and forming a network with experts in the field like Garcia faculty willing to mentor can greatly enhance your college application. Also, note that only around 50 students attend this program every year amongst the many that apply. Being admitted into the summer program is proof that you thrive with academic rigor and have the skills to be a leader and researcher.
Garcia Summer Program students have regularly been accepted to universities or professional programs of their choice.
1. You need to have a strong and dynamic profile to get in (high competitive program) First and foremost, students are limited by age, unweighted GPA, and standardized scores. Those who do not meet these eligibility requirements are unable to apply. Because the required scores are very competitive, some students may find themselves ineligible for the program.
Moreover, students showing evidence of leadership, special talents or interests, and other personal qualities through their community service or other extracurricular activities are given special consideration, which means applicants likely must also excel outside of school for admittance.
2. You will have to shell out a pretty significant chunk of money This is subjective, but the bottom line is that it is not free. Besides the non-refundable registration fee, the program also costs a significant amount of money. And of course, Stony Brook University is located in Suffolk County, New York, which may be far away from home.
The room and board package for such students, a little over $3,000, can double the total. For some students, this may be a financial burden. Again, there is no mention of financial aid (of any sort) from Stony Brook.
3. You will not receive visa support if you are an international student The Garcia program does not support visa applications. However, this does not mean that international students cannot apply. The program still accepts international students, but they are essentially only eligible to apply and attend if they already have documents allowing them to be legally present in the United States for the duration of the program.
Though there may be some cons to this program, they mostly deal with eligibility or funding issues. For example, for international students lacking a visa, this program may not be the best option for you. However, for those who meet all these eligibility and funding requirements, the Garcia Summer Program may be an amazing opportunity for you to conduct independent research, network with peers and mentors, and enhance your college application. Even so, always keep in mind that there are other great summer programs out there that will allow you to participate in similar activities.
Lumiere Research Scholar Program
If you are passionate about a specific field and are interested in doing 1-1, in-depth research with a top PhD as your mentor, then you could consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online program for high school students, founded by researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 2100 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.
Rachel is a first year at Harvard University concentrating in neuroscience. She is passionate about health policy and educational equity, and she enjoys traveling and dancing.
Image Source: Stony Brook University