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Penn students who stay on campus for the summer taking classes or researching for professors are amongst a diverse set of visitors: 7-year-old kids to rising high school seniors who are getting a taste of what it’s like to walk on Locust.

Biomedical Research Academy

Each year, 104 budding biomedical researchers take part in the three-week non-graded, non-credit Biomedical Research Academy. The Academy is managed in part by the pre-college program company, Summer Discovery.

While 94 of the students pay for the program, 10 are scholarship students selected from the Philadelphia School District by the Penn coordinators.

In the morning, the students sit in lectures, learning about disease mechanisms and hearing Penn faculty talk about their research. In the afternoon, students participate in hands-on experiments to learn about cells. For example, they determine their blood type through isolating DNA in their cheek cells.

“We don’t do new, cutting-edge research in the lab ... but it’s new to them. They think it’s pretty cool to be able to determine their blood type from cheek cell DNA,” said Linda Robinson, the program coordinator and a Penn biology lab coordinator.

Students also participate in a Journal Club, in which they are taught by a Penn post-doc student or graduate student to read journal articles.

Robinson said she often sees Penn freshman coming into Biology 101 and Biology 102 who were participants in the Biomedical Research Academy.

“It seems like most students do the program since they want to come to Penn,” she said.

Management and Technology Summer Institute

Another pre-college program that attracts many Penn hopefuls is the three-week Management and Technology Summer Institute, the for-credit summer incarnation of the dual-degree Jerome Fisher Management and Technology program, designed for high school students.

The 50 to 55 students who are admitted into TSI every year have a chance to stay in the Quad and take classes in the Engineering buildings and in Huntsman Hall. Many are rising high school seniors, but a select few rising juniors are also admitted.

The culmination of the program is the creation of a go-to-market product. Participants use their engineering skills to create working prototypes and their business skills to market the products. Parents are invited to a product fair, where the products can win awards like “Most Innovative.”

“Each year the products have become more and more advanced,” said January Wuerth, the administrative director of the M&T Program. “Typically, all the projects [in the past] have been geared toward students, such as how to not lock yourself into your dorm room. Now the projects are for a wider audience.”

Wuerth added that students become “very close-knit” over three weeks and build strong connections for the future.

“We have seen a large number of the [TSI students] apply to Penn, whether for M&T or a single-degree in Wharton or Engineering or the College,” she said.


Some summer programs are less conspicuous than those held in Penn’s main campus buildings. One summer program, held in the rooftop lounge of Rodin College House, is where 35 students have been building real companies throughout July.

Endevvr, an independently-run program in its third year of operation and its first year of operation at Penn, teaches rising juniors and seniors how to become entrepreneurs. Past programs were held at MIT in 2013 and Georgia Tech in 2014.

“A lot of [the students] want to start companies but they just don’t know how,” said Jill Klinvex, the Chief of Creative Design at Endevvr. “They don’t have the necessary skills at the moment but they have the potential, and they know that.”

In the morning, students are taught classes on all elements of business by founder and Managing Director Martin Miller. In the afternoon, students have structured time to work on their companies and meet with mentors. In the evenings, they are also encouraged to teach their peers new skills.

At the end of the five weeks, the students pitch their companies to investors for funding.

“We absolutely love Penn. Everyone is really helpful,” Klinvex said. “The startup community in Philadelphia is actually huge, which we weren’t expecting at all.”

Klinvex also said that a lot of students are motivated to come to Penn.

“A lot of [the students] apply to many summer programs and the reason why a lot of them chose [Endevvr] is because they want to go to Penn. Pretty much someone goes on a tour of the campus every day,” she added. “Quite a few of them have been repping a Wharton shirt.”

Penn Gems

While Penn is home to many overnight programs for the summer, Penn GEMS — Girls in Engineering, Math & Science — is one of many day camps that operate at Penn.

The local girls accepted to the program — rising seventh, eighth and ninth graders — are split into three tracks. The first two are based on age, and within those tracks, the students are exposed to six divisions of engineering. For example, in the bioengineering lab, the girls make DNA necklaces and in the material sciences lab, they make ice cream. The third track is for those interested in robotics, and gives students the chance to spend the whole week in the robotics lab building and fighting robots.

“[Penn GEMS] is our attempt to give middle school girls the opportunity to have exposure to engineering, math and science in a supportive environment where they can see other girls who have very similar interests,” Program Director Michaile Rainey said.

“We are trying to combat the shortage of women in engineering ... we think that this is an environment that is safe, that’s nurturing, that builds community,” Rainey added. “We also have counsellors who are undergraduates here in engineering and [the girls] can kind of see what their aspirations can ultimately reveal for themselves ... it’s really more about the pipeline.”

iD Tech Camps

Another day camp in the science industry is bringing students as young as 7 years old to campus.

iD Tech Camps are run at 90 college campuses across the country for six week-long sessions. Students ages 7 to 17 can choose to spend the week on either coding and app development, robotics, game design, 3D modeling, digital photography or web design and filmmaking. Students put together a project to show their parents at the end of each week.

At Penn, the camp is located in Houston Hall, though campers also go play games on the lawn near the Button.

“It’s incredible, the impact it makes,” said Karen Thurm Safran, the vice president of marketing and business development at iD Tech. “They go back to school learning skills that can actually help them with school.”

Summer Mentorship Program

Not focused on any one discipline, the Summer Mentorship Program is a four-week opportunity for minority and first-generation rising high school sophomores and juniors in the Philadelphia area to be exposed to the opportunities of higher education.

Four out of the five days in the week, students visit five of Penn’s schools: The School of Dental Medicine, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, The Law School, the Perelman School of Medicine and the School of Nursing.

Each school provides its own programming to give students a chance to discovering what studying the discipline is like. For example, in Engineering, students learn to refurbish computers, install software and perform basic web design, in the Law School, students read court documents, testimonies and briefings and in the Medical school, students learn about various neurological diseases and brain traumas.

The remaining day of the week is spent in the SMP office, where students are provided with resources on the college admissions process, including essay writing workshops and SAT prep.

Program Director Gail Oberton said students think the program is “amazing” and many are motivated to apply to Penn afterwards.

“To date, for our SMP alum since 2009, our college enrollment rate is 89 percent,” she said. “And out of that cohort of 2009 we have approximately over 30 students who have attended or graduated from Penn.”

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