Secondary Student Training Program at the University Of Iowa

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Team of chemical engineers working together.

Secondary Student Training Program at the University Of Iowa

The Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) Iowa, hosted by the University of Iowa, represents an unparalleled opportunity for students. They will engage in advanced research, gain valuable university experience, and develop a broad spectrum of skills.

This article, “Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) Iowa: 12 Reasons Why You Should Apply,” delves into the myriad benefits of this prestigious program, highlighting how it stands out as a critical stepping stone for students aiming to excel in their academic and professional futures.

What is the Secondary Student Training Program at the University Of Iowa?

The Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) at the University of Iowa is a prestigious pre-college initiative offering a comprehensive research experience to high-achieving high school students in grades 10-11. The Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development administers SSTP to immerse participants in the research world under the guidance of university faculty mentors.

The program spans over five and a half weeks during the summer and is available in residential and online formats to accommodate students from various locations. Participants engage in original research projects across a wide range of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields, culminating in producing a research brief and an academic poster.

Successful program completion provides students with valuable hands-on experience in their chosen field. It awards them three semester hours of university credit, setting a solid foundation for their future academic and professional pursuits.

Who Is Eligible to Apply for SSTP?

Eligibility for the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) Iowa is specifically designed to identify and nurture the talents of high school students demonstrating a strong interest in and research potential.

A group of female students

The program is open to students currently in the 10th or 11th grade at the time of application, reflecting its commitment to providing early research opportunities to academically talented individuals. The competitive application process seeks students who exhibit exceptional academic records, a passion for science and research, and the maturity to handle the demands of a rigorous academic environment.

In addition to domestic students, SSTP Iowa welcomes applications from international students, offering a unique opportunity for culturally diverse and intellectually vibrant cohorts to collaborate and learn from each other.

Prospective participants are evaluated based on the quality of their essays, transcripts, and letters of recommendation, emphasizing aligning their research interests with the expertise of participating faculty mentors.

12 Reasons Why You Should Apply At Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) Iowa

Applying to the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) at the University of Iowa can be a transformative experience for high school students interested in research and science. Here are 12 compelling reasons to consider applying:

1. Hands-On Research Experience

The hands-on research experience provided by the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) Iowa stands out as a pivotal reason for high school students to apply. This program, hosted by the University of Iowa, offers an unparalleled opportunity for students in grades 10 and 11 to dive deep into scientific inquiry and exploration.

Mechanical Engineers working

Participants are not merely observers but active researchers, working alongside university faculty mentors in state-of-the-art laboratories and research facilities. This immersive experience spans various disciplines, from Anatomy & Cell Biology to Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering, allowing students to conduct original research in areas that intrigue them the most​​​​.

What sets the SSTP Iowa apart is the depth of the research experience. Students are not given token projects but are integrated into ongoing research efforts, contributing to meaningful work that can have real-world applications.

2. Wide Range of Research Areas

The wide range of research areas available through the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) Iowa is a significant reason why ambitious high school students gravitate towards this opportunity. Below are some of the research areas available at SSTP Iowa, each with a brief explanation:

  • Anatomy & Cell Biology: This area focuses on the structure, function, and organization of cells and tissues in living organisms, providing insights into the fundamental aspects of life and disease mechanisms.
  • Biology: A broad field that encompasses the study of living organisms and their interactions with the environment, offering a diverse range of sub-disciplines from ecology to genetics.
  • Biomedical Engineering: This interdisciplinary field merges engineering principles with biological and medical sciences, aiming to develop technologies and systems that improve healthcare.
  • Chemistry: The science of matter. Chemistry explores the composition, structure, properties, and changes that matter undergoes, serving as the foundation for many other scientific fields.
  • Civil & Environmental Engineering: Focusing on the design, construction, and maintenance of infrastructure and studying environmental challenges and solutions, this field combines technical prowess with sustainability concerns.
  • Epidemiology: The study of how diseases spread and can be controlled within populations, providing critical insights for public health policies and disease prevention strategies.
  • Geographical & Sustainability Sciences: This area investigates the Earth’s landscapes, environments, and human relationships with them, emphasizing sustainability and conservation efforts.

forensic science student examining a sample in microscope

  • Health & Human Physiology: Concentrating on humans’ physical and biochemical functions in good health, disease states, and the mechanisms that lead to health outcomes.
  • Industrial & Systems Engineering: This discipline focuses on designing, improving, and installing integrated systems of people, materials, information, equipment, and energy to ensure efficient operation.
  • Neurology: The study of disorders that affect the nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord, offering insights into diagnosing and treating these conditions.
  • Neuroscience & Pharmacology: An interdisciplinary field that explores the nervous system’s structure and function, along with the development, actions, and effects of drugs on biological systems.
  • Orthopedics & Rehabilitation: Focused on the musculoskeletal system, this area deals with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disorders that affect bones, muscles, and joints.
  • Pathology: The study of disease and pathology examines the causes, development, and effects of diseases, providing the foundation for understanding health and disease in living organisms.
  • Pediatrics: Concentrating on the medical care of infants, children, and adolescents, this field addresses the physical, behavioral, and mental health issues of younger populations.
  • Pharmacy: This field focuses on the preparation, dispensing, and appropriate use of medication, aiming to ensure safe and effective pharmaceutical care.
  • Psychiatry: A medical specialty dealing with the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders, highlighting the complex interplay between mental health and overall well-being.
  • Psychological & Brain Sciences: An exploration of the mind and behavior, this area delves into cognitive processes, emotional responses, and the underlying neural mechanisms.
  • Psychological & Quantitative Foundations: This field examines the psychological and quantitative methods used to study human behavior, learning, and development, emphasizing research and analysis techniques.
  • Religious Studies: While not a traditional scientific field, this area explores the diverse religious beliefs, practices, and institutions across cultures, offering a unique perspective on human thought and society.

The SSTP at the University of Iowa is distinguished by its diverse research disciplines, encompassing fields from Anatomy & Cell Biology to Neuroscience, Biomedical Engineering, and beyond. This breadth of options ensures that students with varied scientific interests find a niche that resonates with their academic goals and curiosity.

Participating in SSTP Iowa, students aren’t confined to a narrow set of topics. Instead, they can explore an array of subjects, facilitating a broader understanding of the scientific landscape. Whether they are drawn to the complexities of the human brain, the intricacies of environmental engineering, or the challenges of pathologies, SSTP Iowa offers a platform to delve into cutting-edge research.

3. Earn University Credits

One compelling reason to participate in the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) Iowa is the opportunity to earn university credits. This prestigious program, hosted by the University of Iowa, allows high school students to gain invaluable research experience and earn three semester hours of undergraduate credit upon completing the program​​.

a curly girl thinking while holding her pencil and notebook

This distinctive feature offers a tangible academic advantage, providing a head start in the participants’ collegiate journey before they officially begin their undergraduate education.

The ability to earn university credits through SSTP Iowa signifies the program’s rigor and the high level of expectation placed on its participants. Engaging in this intensive research experience, students are treated as emerging scholars, diving deep into their chosen fields of study under the mentorship of university faculty.

4. Enhance Academic Skills

Enhancing academic skills is pivotal for participating in the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) Iowa. This immersive research experience, offered by the University of Iowa, goes beyond the traditional classroom setting to develop critical academic and life skills in its participants.

Group of students studying together in the library.

SSTP Iowa students sharpen their critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and problem-solving abilities​​​​through the rigors of conducting original research under the mentorship of faculty.

Additionally, the program encourages the development of effective communication skills. Participants are involved in complex research activities and are expected to articulate their findings in written form and through oral presentations. This aspect of the program fosters an environment where students learn to convey complex scientific concepts clearly and compellingly to diverse audiences.

5. Mentorship from Experts

Mentorship from experts is a cornerstone of the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) Iowa, providing participants with an invaluable learning and growth opportunity. This program, organized by the University of Iowa, pairs students with faculty mentors leading researchers. These mentors guide students through the complexities of conducting original research, from formulating a hypothesis to presenting their findings​​.

Asian teacher leader and multiethnic diverse young professional creative team students brainstorming discussing project at desk with in office classroom using laptop computer.

The mentorship experience at SSTP Iowa is profound because it offers more than just academic guidance; it provides a model for professional conduct in a scientific setting. Students learn directly from experts about the nuances of research methodologies, the importance of ethical considerations, and how scientific inquiry can contribute to broader knowledge and societal well-being​​.

6. Competitive Advantage for College Applications

Gaining a competitive advantage for college applications is a significant reason why ambitious high school students should consider applying to the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) Iowa. Participation in SSTP Iowa is not just about the immersive research experience; it’s a noteworthy achievement that can set a student apart in the highly competitive college admissions process.

Female student talking to a male interviewer.

Colleges and universities seek applicants committed to their academic interests, especially in STEM fields. By completing SSTP Iowa, students show they have engaged in advanced, college-level research and have the initiative, curiosity, and dedication that leading institutions value.

7. Build a Professional Network

Building a professional network is a vital reason to participate in the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) Iowa. It offers students an early start in forging connections that can support their academic and career aspirations. SSTP Iowa facilitates interactions with esteemed faculty and mentors from the University of Iowa and like-minded peers who share a passion for research and science​​.

Business people discussing documents and ideas at meeting

This program creates a collaborative environment where students can engage with professionals at the forefront of their respective fields. These interactions provide insights into various career paths, the latest research developments, and the challenges and rewards of a career in STEM.

Such connections can be invaluable as students navigate their future academic and professional journeys, offering guidance, mentorship, and internships or collaborative project ​​​​opportunities.

8. Experience College Life

Experiencing college life is an invaluable aspect of the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) Iowa, offering high school students a unique glimpse into life on a university campus. Through SSTP Iowa, participants engage in advanced research, live in residence halls, navigate the campus, and participate in social and academic activities typical of college life.

Group of students working together and talking.

This immersive experience is a practical introduction to the independence and self-discipline required at the university level. Participants manage their schedules, balance research commitments with seminars and recreational activities, and interact with a diverse group of peers, all within the supportive environment of the University of Iowa’s campus. Such an experience can ease the transition from high school to college by familiarizing students with the pace and structure of university life ahead of time​.

9. Development of Personal and Social Skills

Developing personal and social skills is crucial to the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) Iowa, offering participants a comprehensive growth experience beyond academic achievements. SSTP Iowa facilitates a nurturing environment where students not only delve into scientific research but also engage in activities that promote personal development and social interaction​​.

Group of students walking in the campus.

Through collaborative research projects, students learn the importance of teamwork, communication, and leadership. Working closely with peers and mentors fosters a sense of community and mutual respect, which is essential for effective collaboration in any field.

Furthermore, the program’s diverse activities, including seminars and recreational events, encourage students to step out of their comfort zones, enhancing their adaptability and interpersonal skills.

10. Access to State-of-the-Art Facilities

Access to state-of-the-art facilities is a pivotal advantage of participating in the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) Iowa, hosted by the University of Iowa. This distinctive aspect of SSTP Iowa allows students to immerse themselves in cutting-edge research environments, utilizing advanced equipment and resources often unavailable in high school settings​​.

Young biologists working on a lab.

The University of Iowa is renowned for its research infrastructure across various scientific disciplines, from biomedical engineering to environmental sciences. SSTP participants have the unique opportunity to conduct research projects within these facilities, gaining hands-on experience with the tools and technologies that drive contemporary scientific inquiry. This exposure enhances the participants’ research capabilities and deepens their understanding of how scientific advancements are achieved in real-world settings.

11. Financial Aid and Scholarships

Financial aid and scholarships are compelling reasons to apply for the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) Iowa. Understanding the financial aspect of this prestigious program is crucial, as it opens doors for many students who might otherwise be unable to participate due to cost constraints.

Group of students walking in the campus.

The program fee for SSTP Iowa covers room, board, materials, and all scheduled activities, providing a comprehensive pre-college experience. However, the cost might be prohibitive for some families.

Acknowledging this, SSTP Iowa offers financial aid and scholarships to assist students in covering the program fees. Financial aid can cover up to 95% of the cost, making the program accessible to more participants. This commitment to financial accessibility ensures that talented students from various backgrounds can engage in this enriching academic experience.

12. Cultural and Academic Enrichment

Cultural and academic enrichment is vital to the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) Iowa, providing students with a holistic educational experience beyond traditional research and academic learning.

Students walking on the streets.

This enrichment aspect of SSTP Iowa is designed to broaden students’ perspectives, enhance their understanding of diverse cultures, and deepen their appreciation for the interdisciplinary nature of knowledge​​.

Participation in SSTP Iowa exposes students to various seminars, workshops, and social activities that complement their rigorous research endeavors. These programs are carefully curated to encourage students to explore multiple academic disciplines and cultural experiences, fostering a vibrant learning environment that celebrates intellectual curiosity and diversity.

Are International Students Eligible for SSTP?

International students are indeed eligible to apply for the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) at the University of Iowa, making it an inclusive program that welcomes young scholars from around the globe.

This eligibility extends the program’s enriching research opportunities and academic experiences beyond domestic borders, offering a diverse cohort of students to immerse themselves in a rigorous academic environment.

However, it’s important to note that while international students can participate in SSTP Iowa, they are not eligible for financial aid, which means they must be prepared to cover the full cost of the program.

Including international students enriches the program’s cultural diversity and fosters a global perspective among all participants, enhancing the overall learning and networking experience.

How Competitive Is the SSTP Admission Process?

The Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) Iowa admission process is highly competitive, with an acceptance rate emphasizing the program’s selectivity and prestige. Typically, the acceptance rate hovers between 10-15%, indicating that only a tiny fraction of applicants are selected to participate each year.

Female student writing letters of recommendation

This competitive nature underscores the importance of a robust application, which should showcase academic excellence and a genuine interest in research, a match between the applicant’s research interests and the program’s offerings, and the ability to contribute meaningfully to the SSTP community.

The rigorous selection process ensures that participants are among the best and brightest, ready to engage fully with the challenging and rewarding opportunities that SSTP Iowa provides.


The Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) Iowa offers rich experiences that extend far beyond the conventional classroom setting. It provides a platform for students to challenge themselves, explore their passions in STEM fields, and lay a solid foundation for their future academic and career paths.

By offering financial aid and scholarships, SSTP Iowa ensures this unique opportunity is accessible to talented students from all backgrounds, emphasizing the program’s commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion within the academic community.

Whether you’re drawn to the prospect of conducting original research, eager to earn university credits, or looking to immerse yourself in a vibrant learning environment, SSTP Iowa promises an enriching experience that can significantly impact your academic journey and beyond.

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