The Research in the Biological Sciences (RIBS) summer program at the University of Chicago is designed to provide students with a challenging and rewarding summer gaining hands-on research experience and exploring the world of biology in preparation for college and future careers in the field of biology.
Overview of the Program
Open to students in grades 10 and 11 the RIBS program lasts for four weeks, typically between June and early August. The first two weeks are comprised of an intensive training program designed to teach basic lab skills, and then more advanced lab techniques in developmental biology and microbiology under the supervision of a teacher, and with the support of a research assistant. After these first two weeks, students move on to a research project, where they can choose from a project provided by the teachers or propose a project of their own. Days will be spent mostly in the lab working from 9.30am until 5.30pm, although, you may well need to have some late nights to complete experiments. Lectures are used to provide background and introduce students to new concepts.
An important part of the RIBS experience is the RIBS Workbook, a book where students record every aspect of their lab experience and analyse the procedure. The workbook is graded at the end of the first two weeks.
At the end of the programme, a research forum takes place at which participants present their research to the other students and university faculty.
Outside of their work commitments and writing up the workbook, students are free to access a wide range of recreational activities, led by the residential staff. These provide opportunities to get to know your fellow participants and experience something of life in America. Unless they happen to live in Chicago, students are expected to live in one of the university residential houses where they can receive personal and academic support from the residential staff.
Entry Requirements and Cost
To be eligible for the RIBS program, students must be current high school sophomores or juniors who have completed at least one year of high school biology and have a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. RIBS is arguably the most rigorous of U Chicago’s summer programmes and in reality, successful students will demonstrate a passion for science with a strong performance across biology, chemistry and maths and a GPA that is 3.8 and above.
The estimated cost of RIBS for 2023 is $13,600. The first $1,000 is a non-refundable deposit paid within a week of being accepted, the balance is due four weeks prior to the programme starting.
How to Apply
Application deadlines change from year to year but for students applying for summer 2023, applications opened late in 2022 with a single deadline of 18th January for the application to be received. Students can apply for up to four of the Summer Session programmes offered by U Chicago, however, order is important, and RIBS must be the first choice if students are to be considered.
In addition to completing the online application form, applicants for RIBS are required to submit their full school transcript from Grade 9 onwards and include a grade report from their current year. Reporting SAT/ACT or PSAT scores are optional, but if you have completed one with a good score, it would be advantageous to include it in your application. Applicants have to write two essays; the first asks why they have chosen to apply to RIBS and how it fits in with their interests and plans (500 words), while the second shorter essay (250 words) asks about a rewarding academic experience. In addition, applicants submit an essay or research paper which is typed, written in English, and includes their teacher’s grade and comments. Up to three letters of recommendation from teachers, one of which will need to be from their biology teacher. Finally, when the application is received by the university the applicant’s parents are sent an email that they must return to give their consent to the application. The application is not completed until this is received by the university. So, it is important to build time for this into the application timetable.
Competitiveness and Types of Students Accepted
The RIBS program is highly competitive, with a limited number of spots available each year. However, the program is open to students from all backgrounds who are interested in the biological sciences, and the selection process is based on a combination of academic achievement, potential for success in the program, and demonstrated interest in biology. Students don’t need to have experience of working in a research lab, that’s what the programme is for, but they will have pursued their interest in biology outside of school through activities like reading and watching related articles and documentaries, undertaking independent studies such as online courses or attending previous summer programmes.
Overall, the RIBS program is an excellent opportunity for high school students interested in biology to gain hands-on research experience and explore their passion for the subject. With its rigorous curriculum, world-class faculty, and competitive selection process, the program is sure to provide students with a challenging and rewarding summer experience that will prepare them for success in college and beyond.
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