This past summer (2017) the W.M. Keck Science Department admitted the fifth class of the Summer Science Immersion Program (SScIP). This program was funded by a generous grant to The Claremont Colleges from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). A group of 17 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 Scripps dining hall.

According to Former Weinberg Family Dean of Keck 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 Stephanie Camey, PTZ ’21, “Being part of this program has helped me build relationships with people who are now my close friends and who have my back whenever I struggle with a STEM class. It has helped me grow as an individual to believe that I am not alone in this; there are others who are there for you and who are willing to take their time to give you advice or who are also willing to study with you. These people are my SScIP family.”

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.

SScIP students Kevin Contreras (PTZ ’21) and Valerie Duran (PTZ ’21) in chemistry lab.



Reflecting on her SScIP experience, Yessica Estrada, PTZ ’21 says, “SScIP served as the blueprint to my college journey, as well as the preliminary research to my Science major! SScIP was not only instrumental in enabling me to experience college course work before the start of my first year in college, but also allowed me to work closely with faculty and forge strong relationships with my peers. This program definitely served as motivation to make the best out of my first year in college. SScIP provided me with the resources I needed to thrive as a Science major, and generally I learned that in my hands I hold the power to use the resources SScIP provided me with, and to thrive as a Human Biology major.”

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) during a visit to the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.

SScIP 2017 at the Griffith Observatory.

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 led by Patrick Sharp (Professor and Chair of Liberal Studies).

Keck Science faculty and staff with expertise in biology and chemistry led the program. The instructors included Tom Davis, Lab Lecturer in General Chemistry; Kyle Jay, Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology, Mary Hatcher-Skeers, Professor of Chemistry and Sidney J. Weinberg Chair of Natural Science; Nancy Williams, Assistant Professor of Chemistry; and Marion Preest, Pritzker Family Foundation Professor of Biology. The SScIP students also worked with Judy LeMaster (Associate Professor of Psychology, SCR) and Roberto Escobar (Director, Scripps College Academy) for a reading and discussion on privilege. Mercedes Adame (SCR ’18), Ifunanya Okeke (SCR ’19), Alan Hernandez (CMC, 20), Jessica Saint-Fleur (PTZ, ‘18), Katherine Whitman (CMC ’19) and Sabrina Wu (SCR ’20) served as the peer mentors. All were former participants in SScIP.

Peer Mentors Jessica St Fleur and Mercedes Adame (L to R).

The Keck Science Department hopes to build upon the success of SScIP by adding year-round programming to keep alums engaged throughout their college careers. Scripps College gratefully acknowledges HHMI and our two newest SScIP sponsors, the Beckman Coulter Foundation and Southern California Edison, for their generous support of this program.