Most high school students spend their summer hanging out at the mall or chilling at the shore. But each year a handful of students from NYC high schools spend their break peering through fancy microscopes at The Institute for Ultrafast Spectroscopy and Lasers (IUSL) of the City University of New York at The City College of New York.
Why do these kids bypass the beach to be part of the Photonics Internship program? “They’re passionate about science and eager to learn about optics and physics,” says Dr. Robert Alfano, a scientific innovator whose work unites the divergent fields of medicine, biology and high-speed laser physics. Alfano, a Distinguished Professor of Science and Engineering at The City College of New York, is the Director of the IUSL and has led the internship program since its inception.
Over the years, more than 100 high school students who were trained using the state of art methods at IUSL have gone on to some of the best colleges and universities. So it’s no wonder the competition for the intern spots is fierce. Alfano says being smart is a given. He looks for kids who understand that “The only way to make, build and do great things in science is to get your hands dirty in the lab.”
Interns learn how to be optical scientists. They work on real projects with teams of undergrad and PhD students studying photonic and laser technologies for scientific, engineering, medical, and industrial applications. Some lucky interns get their names on published papers. All interns enter the premier national science research competition for high school students, the Siemens Competition. One year a CCNY intern, David Bauer, won the prestigious competition and a $100,000 prize (part of which he used to fund his CCNY undergrad degree).
This year two interns were selected to be Siemens Semifinalists: Matthew Shao Chen of Great Neck South High School and Karen Wu of Brooklyn Technical High School.
Students participating in the 2017 Photonics Internship program came from many NYC area high schools including Riverdale Country School, Brooklyn Tech, and the Bronx School of Science.