If you’re a high schooler determined to round out your college applications and gain skills for a future career in STEM, then today’s blog post is for you. Engaging in programs like the Young Scholars Program (YSP) or the REACH Summer Program at the University of Washington offers you a unique opportunity to explore neuroscience and take the first steps towards a STEM career. It's a solid opportunity to show colleges and future employers your commitment and passion for STEM.
What is the REACH Summer Program?
The REACH Summer Program, hosted by the University of Washington's Center for Neurotechnology (CNT), is a five-day program for high school students that aims to introduce them to neuroscience, neural engineering, and scientific communication.
It's a comprehensive experience with both virtual and residential options, designed to improve your preparation for college studies in STEM.
CNT's mission is to develop innovative neural devices and methods for engineered neuroplasticity, aiming to improve sensory and motor functions for people with neurological disorders, and the REACH Summer Program allows you to contribute to this mission.
The University of Washington's Center for Neurotechnology is a hub of innovation and research equipped with the latest technologies and a strong innovation ecosystem, making it an excellent learning environment. Here, you'll not only learn but also contribute to groundbreaking work that could shape the future of neurotechnology.
Is it prestigious?
The REACH Summer Program offers in-depth learning and a practical research experience. The program has a holistic selection process, which when combined with its low cost make it easy to apply to and thus fairly selective. This is however offset by the short duration and low intensity of the program. Fortunately, the depth of learning, hands-on involvement, and exposure to real-world research make it a worthwhile stepping stone. The CNT also provides interactions with graduate students and sessions on navigating and preparing for a future in pre-med or neurology. Overall, we would rate this program as moderately prestigious, but valuable if you’re keen on neuroscience and neurotechnology but new to the field.
Who is eligible for REACH?
To be eligible for REACH, you must:
Be a high school student.
Graduating seniors can also apply.
International students can also apply.
Be able to commute to the in-person lectures / ensure attendance for the virtual program. This is a non-residential or virtual program.
There is no requirement for specific grade levels, but a background in science and math is expected and will assist you in your learning. There is no necessity for computer programming experience either.
How does the application process work?
The application form is a Word document available off the YSP website. Along with this form, you’ll also need to provide your high school transcript and a letter of recommendation. While the deadline for application is March 15 2024, you’re strongly advised to apply as early as possible. In general, what the CNT is looking for in an application is:
Your understanding of, and interest in, neural engineering.
What your recommender has to say about your interests, aptitude, maturity and experiences.
Why you could be a good fit for YSP-REACH.
How much does the YSP REACH Summer Program cost?
For 2024, the cost is $500 for the in-person program, and $100 for the virtual program.
How is YSP REACH structured?
The REACH Summer Program will be held from July 15 to July 19, 2024. An average day in the program runs from 10 am to 3 pm, with a mix of lectures, hands-on projects, and group activities.
You’ll have the opportunity to tour CNT partner labs, and receive an introduction to neuroscience, neural engineering, and neuroethics.
Previous participants have talked about the interdisciplinary and well-rounded structure of the program. Examples of projects include developing medical devices and exploring brain-computer interfaces, with participants dissecting animal brains, recording neural signals from insect limbs, and working on the sensory adaptations of prosthetic limbs.
There is also a strong focus on teaching the practical applications of neuroscience with coherent examples drawn from the labs that you will get to visit as a YSP-REACH scholar.
Considering the pros and cons
You will receive solid exposure to various aspects of neuroscience and neural engineering in a rich, interactive environment.
The reasonable cost and the availability of a virtual option make the program highly accessible no matter where you’re from.
There are several opportunities for hands-on, practical experience over the length of the course, ensuring a solid, practical grounding in the field.
You will be attending workshops and lectures to familiarize you with college life in neuroscience and pre-med, potentially enhancing the quality of your future college applications.
The course is very short, limiting the amount of learning you can obtain.
The selectivity of the program is driven more by its accessibility and low cost rather than a rigorous and demanding selection process requiring high grades. This means that its prestige value will be limited for the purpose of boosting your profile.
While the program is a good stepping stone if you’re new to neuroscience, it does not offer a high degree of depth to take your knowledge of the field to the next level.
The REACH Summer Program at the University of Washington is a good opportunity for high school students passionate about STEM and neurotechnology to take their first steps into the field. It offers a holistic blend of lectures, laboratory visits and practical research work, guided by the experts at CNT. While it’s a short program, it is highly accessible and requires a low commitment of both funds and time. If you're at all interested in neuroscience and its parallel fields, then there really is no reason for you to not apply for the YSP-REACH Summer Program.
One more option - Lumiere Research Scholar Program
If you’re keen on pursuing in-depth research in neuroscience or other branches of STEM, 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.
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: Seal of the University of Washington