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  • Natalia Goloborodko

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  • Natalia Goloborodko

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Campus Comes Alive with Innovative Programs During Summer Session

Though many people may imagine that UC San Diego looks empty during the summer session, the university actually bustles with alternative activity. In addition to the two summer sessions for UC students, a multitude of summer camps and programs take over campus. This includes programs for pre-college students that aim to educate young minds and direct them to a future at a four-year university such as UC San Diego.

Harvey Mudd Upward Bound Program

This summer, James Nieh, a UC San Diego professor of biology, is working with students from the Harvey Mudd Upward Bound program in his bee lab on campus. Upward Bound reaches out to high school students by accepting only high school teenagers who are potential first generation college students or low income, college bound individuals. It creates a supportive learning environment and educates its students to become culturally and socially aware.

“The idea has always been that we would like students to become interested in four-year colleges or universities and potentially beyond in terms of research careers,” said Nieh. ”Our main focus has been to get them to transition, whether they’re in high schools or in community colleges, to a four-year college or university. In many cases, that’s been UC San Diego.”

Upward Bound is a highly structured program. Students often wake up at 5 or 6 a.m., have breakfast, attend class and perform their research. This method of regimentation is meant to give the students an immersive experience to instill study and lifelong learning habits. The teens separate into groups to perform their long-term, engaging field work, such as that with Nieh’s bees.

Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

Tucked behind the Campus Services Complex next to a large canyon at UC San Diego is the James Nieh Bee Lab. Honeycombs dripping with honey fill about a dozen artificial colonies. They are built with cement walls and stand on two rows of tables. Bees buzz around Nieh and his students, who are fully equipped with beekeeper suits as they convene around these homes.

Nieh and his team of students are trying to determine the role a particular pheromone, a behavior modifying agent, plays in how bees communicate with one another. The pheromone is an alarm pheromone. The students apply a synthetic version of this pheromone to a small piece of fabric, which acts as an invader to the colony. They document how often the bees touch the fabric and for how long. This pheromone is naturally found in a bee’s mandible, or mouthpart.

The students attempt to figure out whether bees are repelled or attracted to it and whether it actually functions as an alarm pheromone or not. Though they predicted that the bees would be repelled, they watch as the bees repeatedly touch the invader. One bee attempts to drag the fabric into the hive, and Dinh Giang, 16, is forced to take it back with a pair of tweezers. Two other bees begin to fight over the fabric and tumble off the table into a little catcher.

“I came here because it will help me get into college and because I want to make a good example for my little brother,” says 15-year-old Eduardo Marquez as he observes the buzzing insects. “If he sees that I went through it and went to college, he will know he can do it too.”

“The goal of Harvey Mudd Upward bound program is to get these students to college,” said Nieh. “They want to have them graduate with a college degree. [There are] so many pieces of that. One piece is the intellectual fascination and the experience of doing research, but equally big and probably much bigger is the piece of, how do I study? How do I get good grades? How do I prepare for the SAT? This is what [Upward Bound] is giving them as well.”

Summer PrEP

The Summer Pre-Engineering Program (Summer PrEP), like the Harvey Mudd Upward Bound program, brings new faces to UC San Diego. Each year, the IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Excellence and Advancement) student center selects IDEA scholars from groups that have been traditionally underrepresented to help them through their college journey at the Jacob’s School of Engineering. This year, the IDEA scholars program accepted 34 incoming freshmen and 20 incoming transfer students. The Summer Pre-Engineering Program (Summer PrEP) is a five-day program designed to foster a sense of community among these students, build awareness of campus programs and resources and provide the necessary tools to aid them in their transitions to the four-year institution.

The program aims to help students make friends before they begin school at UC San Diego and provide them with a network of IDEA scholars they can call on for support. Terrance Mayes said he believes this is the biggest impact of Summer PrEP.

“The students build community among themselves, so that when they begin school they’ll feel acclimated,” he said. “They will not feel isolated, and they will feel like they are an important and integral part of the UC San Diego community.”

The 2012 program began August 1, the same day that Pradeep Khosla took the helm of UC San Diego as chancellor. As part of first day’s activities, the new chancellor attended Summer PrEP’s “It’s Raining Red” tomato drop and offered the incoming freshmen advice about the years ahead. For this event, teams of IDEA scholars designed protective structures out of household items such as paper plates and cotton balls for their tomato, which were then dropped from a yellow helium balloon floating 100 feet in the air.

“Common sense and intuition has a very large role to play in engineering,” Chancellor Khosla told one student who used these basic skills, rather than strict mathematical methods, to protect his tomato.

“The fact that he’s chosen to participate in this program says that he cares about issues of diversity and inclusion and about the academic success of all students here on the campus” said Mayes of Khosla’s visit. “For the students in this program to see that the chancellor himself is coming to welcome them to UC San Diego and congratulate them and wish them well in their four to five years will boost their confidence and also boost their sense of belonging to UCSD.”


Another program hosted by UC San Diego in the summertime is The California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science [COSMOS]. COSMOS is a four-week summer program administered through the Jacob’s School of Engineering. It is geared toward entering high school freshmen and exiting high school seniors with demonstrated interest and achievement in math and science. COSMOS aims to inspire the next generation of creative scientists, engineers and mathematicians. The students live on campus and work with UC San Diego’s world-class faculty and researchers studying topics not typically included in high school curricula. COSMOS brings together a group of highly motivated students who contribute to the science, math and engineering communities at the university.

Institute of the Americas Summer Program

Foreign students also claim a niche at UC San Diego in the summertime. This year marked the third summer that The Institute of the Americas hosted a two-week program for students from Latin America on the campus. The classes are taught entirely in Spanish and are designed to educate students about science and environmental studies, with topics ranging from marine biology to brain research to surfing and designing solar-powered cars.

This year’s curriculum focuses on climate change and environment. Students create and evaluate technological responses to climate change, produce biodiesel and work with sand crabs to learn about the effects of ocean acidification. Since high school science instruction in Latin America does not match national standards, programs like these are helpful for students who have demonstrated an interest in science but lack the necessary encouragement and motivation to pursue training in the field. The institute hopes to provide them with this training, so that they can become leaders on issues like climate change and environment in their home countries.

A Vibrant Summer Campus

UC San Diego’s Summer PrEP, Upward Bound COSMOS and the Institute of the Americas are just a few of the programs that fill UC San Diego with pre-college students and incoming freshmen in the summertime. Youngsters occupy every corner of campus to benefit from UC San Diego’s world-class instructors and unbeatable location.

For more information on summer enrichment programs at UC San Diego, please visit:

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