Top Summer Programmes: Summer Science Program (SSP)

The Summer Science Program (SSP)

Exploring Summer Science Program for High School Students

The Summer Science Program (SSP) is a non-profit organization that provides hands-on research experience to high school seniors. It is one of the oldest pre-college enrichment programs that is run and supported by its alumni. Each program includes twelve research teams, led by a team of seven full-time faculty members. Participants work in groups of three on a college campus, where they complete a research project that emphasizes collaboration, rigor, inclusivity, and support. The program’s focus on cooperation is further strengthened by the absence of exams, grades, or formal credit. The participants are encouraged to adhere to an Honor Code.

The experience helps to accelerate their social and intellectual growth. All teams complete a research project, analyze data, and write a final report while developing a strong sense of community.

Research Options


In the beginning of the program, participants learn celestial coordinates, and how to interpret an ephemeris to select a near-earth asteroid to study. Then the team members write an “observing proposal” similar to what an astronomer would submit to an observatory. Together, they begin observing runs at the telescope. Each team takes a series of observations of a near-earth asteroid, then applies vector calculus to predict its future path. They could also use Visual Python to make an animation of their asteroid orbiting the sun! Their observations are submitted to the Minor Planet Center of the International Astronomical Union, and used to improve future predictions of the asteroid’s position.

The following subject areas are covered as a part of the program:

Astronomy: celestial coordinates, digital observational techniques, astrometry; brief introductions to planetary science, cosmology
Physics: gravitation, celestial mechanics; brief introductions to the electromagnetic spectrum, relativity, quantum mechanics
Mathematics: interpolation, coordinate transformations, differential and integral vector calculus, numerical methods, differential equations
Scientific Programming in Python


Participants will learn the fundamentals of enzyme structure, function, and evolution. Each team models an enzyme from a fungal crop pathogen, then designs an inhibitor that could be used in a safe fungicide. The research program demands hypothesis-building based on integration of existing information, critical analysis and interpretation of novel experimental results, and application of the novel information to portions of the drug design pipeline. These highly practical aspects of modern biochemical research train students how to intellectually approach a biochemical research problem.

The following subject areas are covered as a part of the program:

Biochemistry: affinity chromatography, gel electrophoresis, enzyme assays, kinetics, inhibition, drug screening
Molecular Modeling: homology modeling, ligand docking, molecular dynamics simulations, inhibitor optimization
Mathematics: rate equations, linear and non-linear curve fitting, biostatistics
Bioinformatics: Sequence similarity searching, multiple sequence alignment, secondary structure, and binding motif prediction


Genomics teams will stimulate the evolution of antibiotic resistance in a safe, controlled culture, then sequence its genome and analyze the acquired mutations. Participants will use a custom chemostat to maintain the constant growth of a non-disease-causing ocean microbe called Vibrio natriegens under moderate antibiotic selection pressure. Teams will map the genetic mutations and they will gain hands-on experience with the molecular biology, genomics, and bioinformatics needed to address this and other complex, real-world life science problems.

The following subject areas are covered as a part of the program:

Genetics: genetic evolution, DNA manipulation, PCR, and sequence analysis
Microbiology: bacterial life cycle and growth dynamics
Mathematics: rate equations, linear and non-linear curve fitting, biostatistics
Instrumentation: optical measurement, integral feedback control
Bioinformatics: read trimming, genome assembly (de novo and from reference genomes), Gene annotation, SNP calling

Admissions and Cost:

SSP is a very competitive program with an acceptance rate 0f 10%. High school juniors and exceptional sophomores who will be at least 15 years old, but not yet 19 are eligible for the program.

Sophomores and juniors need to meet the prerequisite requirement for each research program. A course must be taken for credit and a grade, and completed by June. Self-study does not qualify. If you have not taken the required classes, you are not eligible to apply.

The prerequisite requirements for each research program are as follows:

Sophomore (10th grade) – Calculus and Physics
Junior (11th grade) – Calculus or Physics and Precalculus

Junior or Sophomore – Biology and chemistry and strong algebra skills

Junior or Sophomore – Biology and Algebra II

Applications must include:
SSP essays should include your passion for the subject.
Extra-curricular Activities: Be sure to include any STEM competitions that you have won or participated in.
Recommendation Letters: It is highly recommended to get a letter from your science and math teachers.
Standardized test scores: Don’t forget to send your test scores.

No one pays more than the program fee of $8,400 (2023).

Did you know?

In recent years 10-20% of SSP alumni each fall choose to enroll at MIT for their undergraduate education. Others are there as grad students. Since 1959, MIT is the most frequent undergraduate destination for SSP alumni. Caltech is a small school, but over 200 SSP alumni have gone on to enroll there as undergrads, second only to (the much larger) MIT.

In conclusion, SSP is an excellent opportunity for students who are passionate about science and mathematics. Through SSP, students engage in hands-on, collaborative research projects in astronomy, astrophysics, and computer science. Students work with experienced instructors and participate in lectures, discussions, and field trips, which expose them to cutting-edge research and scientific concepts. The program also provides opportunities for students to develop their problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication skills. Finally, they get to engage in a challenging and rewarding educational experience that will help prepare them for future success in their academic and professional pursuits.

We can help you with your SSP application process. Working with study abroad consultants, overseas education consultants, or, as more commonly known, college counsellors, can help you plan ahead and make those high school years count. Ivy Central offers exceptional focus to help you prepare for college admissions throughout the high-schooling years. Start today!

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