Summer Research Academies

Research Tracks

Program Format

Students participating in the Summer Research Academies will earn 4 university credits by taking an interdisciplinary research course that teaches fundamental concepts in the particular track they choose, leading to more specific topics current in the field. Students will learn how to compose a formal research report and gain key communication skills to effectively present findings.

Starting the first week, students will develop an appropriate research question and build the framework for their project. During the first half of the program, students will participate in specially designed hands-on labs that demonstrate concepts and reinforce principles learned in lecture. In the second half, the focus will shift from labs to investigation and analysis in order to allow students to present their results in a formal capstone seminar at the conclusion of the program. 

The general academic component of the program is as follows:

Week 1: 4 Lectures | 2 Labs | 2 Discussions | 2 GRIT talks

Week 2: 3 Lectures | 2 Labs | 2 Discussions | 1 GRIT talk

Week 3: 4 Lectures | 3 Discussions | 2 GRIT talks

Week 4: 3 Lectures | 3 Discussions | 2 GRIT talks | Capstone Seminar 

pre-college student looking at anthropology repository

2022 Research Tracks

Track 1: Blueprints of the Brain
Advancing Neuroscience with Genetics
Disciplines: Neuroscience, Optogenetics, Quantitative Genetics, Neurological Disorders and Disease
Track 2: Creative Industries
Exploring the Hidden World of Media and the Forces that Govern It
Disciplines: Media Studies, Film Studies, Economics, Philosophy, Communications, Anthropology
Track 3: Turning Tides
Marine Biology in a Changing Ocean
Disciplines: Ecology, Physiology, Aquaculture, Climate Change, Environmental Science, Marine Biology
Track 4: Mind Matters
An Exploration into Clinical Psychology from Assessment to Intervention
Disciplines: Clinical Psychology, Counseling, Mental Health, Identities, Autism, Mood Disorders
Track 5: Critical Intelligence
Informing the Public in the Digital Age
Disciplines: History, Sociology, Global Studies, Political Science, Public Policy, Journalism
Track 6: Soft Robotics
Engineering Bioinspired Compliance from Artificial Muscles to Novel Locomotion
Disciplines: Materials Science, Engineering, Robotics, Physics, Computational Fabrication
Track 7: The Science of Persuasion
Investigating the Complex Cognitive Resources to Mass Communication
Disciplines: Mass and Interpersonal Communication, Social Psychology, Persuasion Neuroscience, Media Theory
Track 8: Intelligent Algorithms
A Deep Dive into Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
Disciplines: Computer Science, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Mathematics

Track Descriptions

Track 1: Blueprints of the Brain – Advancing Neuroscience with Genetics

With over 100 billion cells and 125 trillion synapses, the brain is the most complex organ in the human body. Today’s neuroscientists are faced with an overwhelming challenge: to understand how this dense collection of neurons and glia allows for sensation, cognition, and behavior as well as disorder and disease. This course will examine how researchers can break the brain into its basic components using genetics as a guide. Students will explore the molecular mechanisms that drive development, neuronal function, and more. They will compare nervous systems from across the animal kingdom to understand where our brains came from as well as the power of model organisms. Students will model human behavior and neurological disorders using tardigrades and transgenic animals. The course will include learning about cutting-edge genetic tools, including CRISPR and optogenetics, that are changing the way we think about neuroscience and medicine.


Track 2: Creative Industries – Exploring the Hidden World of Media and the Forces that Govern It

The entertainment industries have seen remarkable transformations in their ownership, distribution, and content due to the emergence of new technologies and global distribution flows. Media is the site of billions of dollars in investment, the subject of elaborate corporate strategy, and the source of livelihoods for hundreds of thousands of workers that include freelance news reporters, film directors, and streaming service executives. Researchers synthesize economic and cultural analyses in their effort to determine media’s impacts on everyday civil society. This course introduces students to the core methods of media studies, imparting a diversity of approaches for students’ own academic development. Students will engage with issues that include production, labor, distribution, consumption, financialization, and globalization as they immerse themselves in the field of media. Through the construction of a collaborative research project, students will ultimately develop the essential skills for critical consumers and practitioners in today’s media-saturated environment. 


Track 3: Turning Tides – Marine Biology in a Changing Ocean

The world's oceans are changing at unprecedented rates. Rising temperatures and sea levels are devastatingly affecting the benefits that humans and animals derive from the ocean. This course will explore topics based upon the foundational concepts of marine biology, ranging from the effects of climate change on local ecosystems to solutions addressing the increasing food demands of a rapidly growing global population. Students will learn various research and data collection techniques from experts in the field that will become applicable to their research projects. While acquiring laboratory techniques and visiting local field sites, they will measure environmental conditions, conduct ecological surveys, and analyze large sets of data. By the end of this course, students will have a deeper understanding of marine ecosystems and gain hands-on experience researching solutions to some of the oceans' most challenging problems.


Track 4: Mind Matters – An Exploration Into Clinical Psychology from Assessment to Intervention

Different aspects of a person’s identity, including cultural identity, sexuality, neurodiversity, and gender identity, play a crucial role in shaping who they are. This course examines contemporary theories, techniques, and literature to understand the convergence of psychopathology, mental health experiences, and identity. Students will explore specific areas of clinical psychology, including cognitive and personality assessment and therapy helping skills. Students will also gain a better understanding of themselves, those around them, and how the environment, such as social media, friendships, intimate relationships, families, and stressors can have a significant impact on mental health. Additionally, this course includes experiential training on research methodology (quantitative and qualitative), data analysis using SPSS and R, and interpreting data while applying cultural humility.


Track 5: Critical Intelligence – Informing the Public in the Digital Age

This course will allow students to play an active role in not just recording the past, but making sense of the present. From the insurrection at the Capitol to the ongoing debates over Critical Race Theory in schools, this tumultuous year has demonstrated the necessity of understanding the past and the dangers we risk when it is not communicated properly by the very experts who seek to propagate knowledge. The abrupt shift to virtual learning due to COVID-19 has made digital communication and the rapid sharing of ideas, including “fake news,” even more closely felt. By employing historical tools including oral history interviews, students will learn qualitative research skills and best ethical practices in the digital age. Students will explore why our world needs policy experts on the deeper histories of topics like medicine, colonialism, and social movements, as well as leaders who can communicate their research to a public-facing audience in creative and succinct ways.


Track 6: Soft Robotics – Engineering Bioinspired Compliance from Artificial Muscles to Novel Locomotion

Soft robotics mimic biological systems through its use of deformable structures. The flexibility that these machines offer is crucial in systems that concern dynamic task environments, such as the manipulation of unknown objects, locomotion in rugged terrains, and physical contact with living cells. This course will connect bioinspiration to the engineering and construction of soft robotics. Students will learn about innovative applications of bioinspired robots alongside the technical details on actuation principles (e.g. cable-driven actuation, fluidic actuation, shape memory alloys), sensing principles (e.g. capacitive sensing, resistive sensing), and fabrication techniques (e.g. 3D printing, soft lithography). They will explore the meaningful contributions that researchers are currently making in this thriving field. Additionally, this course will give students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience through solving a real-world research problem by designing and fabricating a partial or full soft robot.


Track 7: The Science of Persuasion – Investigating the Complex Cognitive Resources to Mass Communication

Persuasion is ubiquitous, and we often engage in it without awareness of its fundamental mechanisms. It can be found through emotional appeals in advertisements or posts with compromised credibility through platforms such as YouTube and TikTok. In the era of heightened polarization, understanding persuasion through interpersonal and media-mediated communication is critical to studying human behavior. In this course, students will explore the theories and concepts behind persuasion and its intersection with neuroscience and psychology. They will examine topics such as the Lasswellian perspective, language expectancy theory, and the dual processing model to cultivate a foundational understanding of cognitive and affective persuasion. They will learn how to design experimental and survey studies, as well as build computational methods and perform quantitative data analysis using Python. By the end of the course, students will be able to explain how the neuroscientific perspective of persuasion can be applied to digital communication.


Track 8: Intelligent Algorithms – A Deep Dive into Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence

Today’s world is living in a golden era of artificial intelligence; it is becoming significantly more dependent on machine learning models in many aspects of everyday life. With growing access to data, humanity’s interest in machine learning is quickly increasing and changing every industry. This course is designed to provide a deep understanding of a wide variety of machine learning models such as linear and logistic regressions, neural networks, support vector machines, genetic programming, and reinforcement learning. The course will focus on both the theory and applications of machine learning where students will develop a preliminary understanding of the mathematical theories behind each of these techniques. They will explore how to implement the methods to real-world problems in various labs that apply popular machine learning packages. Finally, students will dive into a research project that will help them understand the current limits and possibilities of machine learning. 


Previous Capstone Seminar Programs

2021 Program

2020 Program

2019 Program

2018 Program

2017 Program