Nestled amid some of the world's most esteemed research institutions, Winsor is in a unique position to foster a passion for scientific exploration in its students. Leveraging access to the tremendous local resources, the Summer Science Internship Program is an opportunity for students to apply what they have learned to the real world and gain experience to inform their academic and professional pursuits.
"Most students hope first and foremost to learn more about what it might be like to pursue a career in science," notes Kim Ramos, science teacher behind the program that is open to Class VI and VII applicants. "Of course, they also hope to be an integral part of a research project and perhaps to find some significant results. In some cases, students have even been fortunate enough to co-author peer-reviewed publications."
Juliet Isselbacher '18 participated in the program in 2016 and 2017, and she says the experience helped her realize the true nature of lab work - and was essential in driving her plans for future study. "Technically, I knew that discoveries demand careful planning over weeks, months, years—even decades. Yet I had always imagined the glamour of an epiphany. During my time at the lab, I learned first hand that in research, there's no rush of revelation. Discoveries reveal themselves in bits and pieces—and perhaps this makes the final picture all the more gratifying."
"This program taught me more than I could have imagined," reflects Alison Poussaint '18, who also held internships in 2016 and 2017. "I learned new skills and techniques, but also how to be a professional in the medical field. I learned how to take ultrasounds...and how to see the connection between the controls and patients. It allowed me to grow as a learner and develop my skills as a scientist."
From the program's more informal beginnings over a decade ago, "we have fostered relationships with many scientists throughout the Boston area," notes Ms. Ramos. "Many of the mentors have a genuine connection to Winsor, whether as a past or present parent, an alumnae, or in some other capacity."
Dr. Frederick Ausubel Ph.D. P'08 is a molecular biologist at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and also a past Winsor parent. Dr. Ausubel has mentored several Winsor students in the program and sees the real value "in helping students decide whether they are interested in pursuing careers as laboratory scientists. It is one thing to read about science in a textbook. But unless you have actually had the experience yourself of working in a laboratory, it is difficult to imagine what it is like on a day-to-day basis."
In addition to what the students gain from the experience, there are benefits to the mentors, researchers and laboratories that host them throughout the summer. "I love having young people in the laboratory, as they bring a wide-eyed wonder to the experience that makes everyone else more excited about the work they're doing," notes Dr. Raymond Chung P'18, Director of Hepatology at MGH who has mentored Winsor students in the program the past 3 years.
Following the completion of the program, each student sets about the disciplined work of summarizing her experience, writing a research paper and preparing to share her findings with faculty, families, friends and other students at the Winsor Science Internship and Research Night in January. And whether the findings reinforce a commitment to an area of study, or illuminate a new direction or area of interest, the benefits of the program are indisputable.
"It's a great opportunity to turn young minds on to the joy of science," Notes Dr. Chung. It's also "a fantastic exercise in independence," adds Juliet.
To be eligible to participate in the Summer Science Internship Program, students must be 16 by the start of the summer program, and must go through an interview process – an aspect of the program that helps prepare the girls for the real world. Beyond clearly demonstrating a disciplined interest in science, and a willingness to work 30-40 hours per week, there is an expectation that the girls will demonstrate maturity and "represent Winsor well outside the Winsor community". At the end of the program, participants must summarize and present their projects.