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From the Director: Students of Summer

(Photo - Persis Drell with SULI intern Tony Li and his mentor Shizuka Akiyama)Forty years ago Al Ashley, Ernest Coleman, and Sid Drell developed the SLAC Summer Research Program for underrepresented minority undergraduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. At the time I was a middle school student (not at all interested in science or SLAC) but I do remember the launch of the program and how exciting it was. The idea caught on. Over the years, many people at SLAC have contributed enormously, especially Helen Quinn and Mike Woods, who each led the program for many years. When the Department of Energy set up a national Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships, or SULI, about ten years ago, it was partly modeled on SLACís program. Al Ashley received a 2005 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring in recognition of his work to develop the SLAC Summer Research Program and make it successful.

This week we celebrated the 23 SULI students, three STAR participants and one Katherine Pope Fellow who have been at the lab this summer, working with staff on a broad range of projects. The SULI program is designed to provide undergraduate students with a mentorship-intensive research experience. Undergraduate students from around the country come to work at SLAC for eight to nine weeks. At the end of the summer each student submits a paper and presentation about the research he or she completed.

We also started a new summer program this year: Science Teachers and Researchers, or STAR. The STAR program was initiated at SLAC in partnership with the California State University system and private funding from the Bechtel Foundation. STAR is designed to bring talented science undergraduate students interested in a teaching career, as well as practicing teachers, to engage in research at a DOE national laboratory. The three participants conducted research for eight weeks and each prepared a poster of their internship work.

(Photo - Persis Drell with Katherine Pope Fellow Elizabeth Mullen and her SLAC mentor, Owen Long)The Katherine E. Pope Summer Fellowship at SLAC was established in the memory of Katherine E. Pope, an undergraduate student at Smith College in Massachusetts, who was tragically killed when riding a bicycle on her way to work at SLAC in July 2001. This fellowship remembers Pope and encourages other undergraduates with an interest in science, especially physics, to pursue their academic interest at SLAC.

These summer experiences at SLAC change the lives of many who participate in them. While the interns start the summer thinking that their projects are almost insurmountable, almost all achieve more than they thought possible. The most valuable thing they take from the programs is this confidence in their capabilities to tackle further challenges.

Through the years, at both Cornell and here at SLAC, I have met physicists who got their scientific start in these summer programs here at the laboratory. It is especially heartwarming to hear from successful scientists who say that the SLAC summer introduced them to a world of research and was a defining experience in making them a professional scientist.

The students and teachers who joined our community this summer have enriched our lives, as the dedicated mentors who were happily celebrating with the students this week can testify. As our visitors return to their home institutions for the fall term, we wish them well and look forward to meeting them again as they pursue their careers, enriched, we hope, by their summer with us.

Persis Drell, SLAC Today, August 15, 2008   

Above photo (right): Persis Drell with SULI intern Tony Li and his mentor Shizuka Akiyama, at the SULI/STAR celebration lunch Wednesday.

Above photo (left): Persis Drell with Katherine Pope Fellow Elizabeth Mullen and her SLAC mentor, Owen Long.