This summer the W.M. Keck Science Department admitted the second class of the Summer Science Immersion Program (SScIP). This program was funded by a grant to The Claremont Colleges from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. A group of 31 incoming Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, and Scripps science students participated in the week-long program, which was centered on the theme “The Chemistry of Life.” The students lived in a residence hall on the Scripps College campus and ate their meals in the CMC dining hall.
According to Weinberg Family Dean of Science and Professor of Chemistry David Hansen, “The Summer Science Immersion Program was constructed by the department to introduce participants to cutting-edge science and to the expectations and demands of college-level science coursework.” The students participated in interactive seminars, field trips, and hands-on laboratory experiences on topics including the structure and function of biomolecules, such as nucleic acids and proteins. As a final project, the students analyzed the genome and proteome of the bacterium Tetrahymena thermophila and had the opportunity to contribute their research results to an international database.
Says participant Gabriel Gosney, PTZ ’18, SScIP …“gave me the ability to go into college level science classes with confidence. The program helped me understand the expectations of professors and allowed me to familiarize myself with lab technique, and the Keck science center as a whole. SScIP was a great warm up to what has turned out to be a challenging year in science thus far and I'm so glad I had the opportunity to attend.”
The first day of programming introduced students to the introductory chemistry lab. In addition to training in laboratory safety (close-toed shoes, goggles, and long pants!), students performed two experiments and focused on good laboratory technique and accurate data-recording. Students were able to build upon this knowledge later in the week when they assembled models of biomolecules, ultimately creating a polypeptide chain.
Reflecting on her SScIP lab experience, Mercedes Adame, SCR ’18 says, “What I found very helpful were the labs we did ………… not only was I able to conduct an experiment where colorful chemical reactions took place, but the feedback on my lab report was really helpful. Having done this lab already gave me the confidence I needed for my current lab experiences.”
The concept of water and life on Planet Earth was extended to the search for life in the solar system and on exoplanets (planets in solar systems outside our own), with telescope viewings of Mars and Saturn using the Keck Science telescope at the Bernard Field Station, as well as during a visit to the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.
Throughout the week, students learned about science as a discipline and science as a culture. Through interactions with science faculty as well as professors in the areas of psychology and sociology, the SScIP students established peer networks and learned about the importance of collaborative work. They travelled to California State University Los Angeles to engage in a dynamic discussion on common portrayals and expectations of scientists in the context of gender and race. This was lead by Patrick Sharp (Professor and Chair of Liberal Studies).
Keck Science faculty and staff with expertise in biology, chemistry, and astronomy led the program. The instructors included David Hansen; Tom Davis, Lab Lecturer in General Chemistry; Mary Hatcher-Skeers, Professor of Chemistry and Sidney J. Weinberg Chair of Natural Science; Marion Preest, Pritzker Family Foundation Professor of Biology; Gretchen Stanton, Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry; and Emily Wiley, Associate Professor of Biology. The SScIP students also worked with Steve Naftilan, Professor of Physics, to make nighttime observations at the Keck Science telescope and Judy leMaster (Associate Professor of Psychology, SCR) and Roberto Escobar (Director, Scripps College Adademy) for a reading and discussion of Recitatif by Toni Morrison. Kevin Castro (CMC ‘17), Anna Cechony (SCR ‘17), Maite Cortes Garcia (PTZ, ‘17), Leonida Radford (SCR ‘17) and Maria Rivera (PTZ ‘17) served as the peer mentors.