Logo: University of Southern California

Researching The Future

USC Viterbi offers a summer research program for high school students.
By: Natalia Velez
August 06, 2015 —

Chloe Huang is a SHINE student hosted by the environmental engineering lab. (Photo: Courtesy of Katie Mills)

Many high school students ask themselves where their passion for science can take them in the future. To help them answer this question, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering recently launched SHINE, the Summer High School Intensive in Next-Generation Engineering. The program runs from June 15 to August 7.

The initiative, designed for Los Angeles-based high school students, provides a unique eight-week opportunity to participate in engineering laboratory research focused on real-world problems.

“We developed SHINE because there was very high demand from high school students to come here for summer research,” said Katie Mills, VAST (Viterbi Adopt-a-School Adopt-a-Teacher) Administrator at USC Viterbi. “We saw the opportunity to create a cohort of students joining several professors’ research teams so they could share what they learned, plus we built in mentoring, training, and networking to make the program effective and transformative.”

By working in the labs of an engineering professor, SHINE students apply their STEM coursework while learning cutting-edge research methods. SHINE is different from summer school aimed at high school students. When they apply to SHINE, students get to pick three areas on engineering that most interest them, and are then invited by a professor to join a research team within one of these areas.

“Doing hands-on research is entirely different from taking a class, where all the lessons are planned in advance and the answers are known,” said Maja Matarić, Vice Dean for Research at USC Viterbi. “Working for eight weeks as part of a research team opens minds, builds teamwork and initiative, and develops leadership skills.”

During the summer, SHINE along with several research laboratories at USC Viterbi host students from several graduate, undergraduate and high school programs, many of which involve research addressing engineering’s “Grand Challenges.” This means that not only do SHINE students get an opportunity to join a USC research team, but they also interact with other students who share their passion for engineering.

“Being a part of the SHINE program has shown me what being an engineer is truly like, inside and out of the lab,” said Chloe Huang, who is doing research in an environmental engineering lab. “One of the greatest things about the program has been working with students who come from so many different places,” added Alan Ton, who chose mechanical engineering.

Exposure to engineers at different points of their academic trajectories is a crucial component of the SHINE program. One of SHINE’s main goals is to give high school students the chance to see where their STEM courses can take them in the future.

“Our intention with the SHINE program is to give these students the opportunity to learn more about what engineering research can do for them,” Mills said. “This program is for students who love STEM and want to translate that passion into research that benefits society.”