Stem cells, iPhone apps, and gravitational force cover only some of the topics researched by high school students participating in UC Irvine’s California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science (COSMOS). Sponsored by UC Regents, the UC COSMOS program is a research intensive four-week summer school aimed to inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians. High schoolers apply and if accepted, have the opportunity to study their favorite STEM subjects alongside college professors.
UC COSMOS is offered at four college campuses – UC Irvine, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, and UC San Diego – with each school offering a unique range of course selections. This year, UC Irvine fostered eight course clusters including “The Subatomic World,” “Probability & Statistics,” and even “Tumor Biology”.
At COSMOS, a student will find his or her passion working on a research team. Alex Chang, a Palos Verdes Peninsula senior proudly displayed a model airplane for the “Mobility Engineering” cluster. Alex said, “Before, I wasn’t sure what major I was interested in for college. Thanks to my COSMOS experience, I now want to pursue a career in aerospace and mechanical engineering.” In fact, 66% of COSMOS alumni declare a STEM major once they enroll in college.
The lessons learned at COSMOS go beyond the typical classroom setting. “We bring together diverse types of math and science in a hands-on environment where collaboration and experimentation is really embraced,” explains Jim Simmons, a professor for the “Physical Modeling and Programming” course. “At COSMOS you’re put in a community that thinks and acts like you, which creates a positive environment for students.”
Collaboration and communication play a big role throughout the COSMOS experience. Each research project is designed for groups of three or more students. “My favorite part was collaborating with others,” says Marymount High student Hyewon Lee. “COSMOS isn’t one big, individual assignment. We actually work together to achieve something.”
COSMOS students have fun too. The high schoolers attend an Angels baseball game, go on field trips to the California Science Center, and meet distinguished leaders such as UCI’s chancellor Howard Gillman and California’s former First Lady Gayle Wilson. Students live in campus dorms, eat at dining halls, and use the recreational game room facilities like college students. COSMOS students get a taste of college life while still in high school.
UC COSMOS is an amazing learning experience for students interested in STEM fields. If you’re thinking about applying to COSMOS next year, Jessica Peng of Lynbrook High has some advice: “Definitely apply. It’s an experience of a lifetime! COSMOS enables you to grow as a person, foster new friendships, and develop your interests before heading off to college.”