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The Biomedical Research Academy at UPenn

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

campus of the University of Pennsylvania

The Biomedical Research Academy at UPenn

Embarking on a journey to unravel the intricacies of cellular, molecular, and genetic aspects of biology, the Biomedical Research Academy at UPenn stands as a beacon for students aspiring to delve into the heart of biomedical research.

This immersive experience, comprising daily lectures, faculty research talks, hands-on laboratory experiments, and minor group investigations, offers a profound understanding of the fundamental principles shaping the landscape of modern biology.

Program Lectures

At the heart of the Biomedical Research Academy at UPenn are engaging lectures delivered by distinguished scientists, clinicians, and faculty members from the Department of Biology and Penn’s School of Medicine.

These experts cover various topics, including genome sequencing, CRISPR/Cas-9, vaccines, antibiotic resistance, and bioethics. What sets these lectures apart is their immediate relevance — Penn researchers share recent discoveries from their labs, fostering a real-time connection to the dynamic world of biomedical research.

Journal Club

The Biomedical Research Academy’s unique approach extends beyond lectures to include a collaborative learning experience as a journal club. Students are organized into small groups, each led by a seasoned Penn researcher or faculty member.

Together, they dissect and discuss peer-reviewed research articles, honing their abilities to read, interpret, analyze, and critique primary research. This hands-on engagement empowers students to navigate the scientific literature with confidence, a skill crucial in the realm of biomedical research.

Very old building in University of Pennsylvania

Laboratory Experiments

The laboratory component of the academy takes students into the very spaces where groundbreaking discoveries occur — the undergraduate labs. Here, using accessible techniques such as PCR, gel electrophoresis, restriction analysis, bacterial transformation, and ELISA, students embark on a journey of exploration.

Activities include determining their blood type, investigating gene expression in bacteria, and analyzing a simulated disease outbreak. This hands-on experience demystifies complex scientific processes and provides students with a tangible connection to the methodologies driving biomedical breakthroughs.

A Fully Emersed Residential Experience

It’s worth noting that the Biomedical Research Academy at UPenn is a fully residential program emphasizing an immersive learning environment. By removing the option for commuting or online participation, the academy fosters a sense of community and collaboration among students.

Living and learning together, participants form connections that extend beyond the classroom, creating a supportive network that mirrors the collaborative nature of the scientific community.

Ultimately, the Biomedical Research Academy offers a comprehensive and accessible pathway for students to explore the dynamic world of biomedical research. Through engaging lectures, collaborative journal clubs, and hands-on laboratory experiences, participants gain knowledge and valuable skills that set them on a trajectory toward a future in the ever-evolving field of biology.

Program Requirements

To apply, you need one year of high school biology. It’s also recommended to have one year of high school chemistry.

If you’re using the Living Earth or Living Environment course as your one-year biology prerequisite, make sure to include the course description with your transcripts. The admissions committee will review it as part of your application.

Meeting the Faculty: Kieran Dilks, PhD – Program Co-Director

Meet Kieran Dilks, PhD, the Program Co-Director. Dr. Dilks teaches high school in Haddonfield, New Jersey, and is a part-time biology instructor at the University of Pennsylvania. He has a deep passion for the subject and enjoys inspiring the next generation of biomedical researchers.

Dr. Dilks earned his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 2006, then worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University from 2006 to 2007. Since then, he has shared his knowledge and enthusiasm for biology in high school and university settings.

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Application Details

Application deadlines for Summer Academies, Penn Summer Prep, and Pre-College Programs:

  • December 1: Summer program applications open
  • January 31: Deadline for Pre-College Programs
  • February 15: Deadline for Summer Academies
  • February 15: Deadline for Penn Summer Prep Program
  • April 1 – April 15: Application decision release window

Overview of Admissions

Applications can only be submitted through our online system for various programs, including undergraduate, graduate, continuing education, and summer high school programs. Please be aware that the language in the application system may refer to other programs.

Admissions Snapshot

  • Applications are only accepted through our online system, which is used for various programs, including summer high school programs.
  • Successful applicants typically have a minimum 3.3 high school GPA.
  • We value writing that demonstrates technical skill and intellectual depth.
  • Strong recommendations and a range of extracurricular interests are important aspects of a successful application.

Application Checklist

Here is a comprehensive list of what you should consider if you want your application to be successful.

  • Complete the online application.
  • Submit application essays in a single document, each essay not exceeding 400 words. Discuss your academic and personal goals, how studying at Penn during the summer aligns with these goals, and explore the specific program and other aspects of studying at Penn during the summer. If you’re a non-native English speaker, share your English educational background and experience.
  • Provide high school transcripts (official or unofficial accepted). Include one full academic year of grades, and if unavailable, submit mid-term or interim reports, or middle/junior high school transcripts. Pass/Fail grades are acceptable, and additional documentation may be requested for the Admissions Committee review. Email transcripts to lps-admissions@sas.upenn.edu if necessary, and upload a note in the application system indicating the email submission.
  • Include one recommendation letter, submitted electronically through the application system or emailed to [email protected]. Ensure the letter is no more than one year old and references the specific program you’re applying to.
  • Non-native English speakers may provide English proficiency test scores (TOEFL, IELTS, SAT, PSAT, ACT, or Duolingo English Test). Waiving this requirement is possible (see below).
  • Standardized test scores are not mandatory for application.
  • Pay a non-refundable $75 application fee online with a credit card. Waiving this requirement is an option (see below).

Where to submit

To apply, use the online application system. Send extra materials, like transcripts, via email to [email protected]. Remember to include the first and last name you used in your application.

English-Proficiency Test Scores

For non-native English speakers, a test score is needed to confirm English proficiency unless you attend an English-medium school; then, this requirement is optional. For Pre-College Programs, you must attend an English-medium school for 2+ years by the time of enrollment to waive this requirement.

If scores are needed, acceptable tests include TOEFL, IELTS, Duolingo English Test (DET), PSAT, SAT, or ACT. Upload score reports to the application system or email them to [email protected] as attachments.

Minimum Scores for Consideration

  • TOEFL: 100 (iBT), 250 (CBT), or 600 (PBT)
  • IELTS: 7
  • Duolingo English Test (DET): 120

At-home TOEFL test scores are accepted for the 2022-2023 admissions year. Check standardized testing websites for available exam options in your home country.

Application Fee Waiver

If you’re an applicant from the School District of Philadelphia attending a public or charter school or affiliated with specific organizations, you qualify for an application fee waiver. Simply indicate your affiliation with the School District of Philadelphia during your application, and the fee will be automatically waived.

You must obtain a fee waiver code for applicants associated with eligible organizations like Achievement First, Amerigo Education, Minds Matter, Philadelphia Futures, or the Schuler Scholars Foundation.

Students outdoors

Before submitting your application, email [email protected] (attention: Mary Bustamante). Include your full name, the program you’re applying to, and the name of your sponsoring organization.

If your organization is interested in exploring a partnership with their office, contact [email protected] to arrange an informational meeting.

Summer Academies Tuition Details

  • American Sign Language and Deaf Culture Academy (Remote Learning Only): $5,500
  • Biomedical Research Academy, Chemistry Research Academy, Coding Academy, Experimental Physics Research Academy, Global Culture and Media Academy, Mathematics Academy, Neuroscience Research Academy, Social Justice Research Academy: $9,700

Penn Summer Scholarship Eligibility

Suppose you attend a School District of Philadelphia public or charter high school. In that case, you might qualify to attend a Penn Summer Academy and Biomedical Research Academy at UPenn free of charge with a Penn Summer Scholarship.

On-Campus Program Fees Include:

  • Use of Penn academic facilities
  • On-campus housing
  • Three meals a day Monday–Friday
  • Two meals on Sunday (no meals Saturday due to excursions/activities)
  • Extracurricular activities and trips
  • Student supervision

On-Campus Program Fees DO NOT Include:

  • Non-refundable $75 application fee
  • Travel to/from campus
  • Airport transfers
  • Gym access (may be available for an additional fee)
  • Linens
  • Class materials
  • Meals eaten off-campus
  • Medical expenses
  • Laundry
  • Souvenirs
  • Personal spending money

Withdrawal Policy

For Summer Academies, Prep Program, and Pre-College Programs: A nonrefundable deposit of $1,500 is needed to reserve a student’s spot in the program officially.

Program fees, minus the nonrefundable deposit of $1,500, are refundable until May 15. There is no adjustment in tuition for late arrivals or early departures.

All withdrawals must be in writing and emailed to [email protected] and [email protected].

Frequently Asked Questions about Summer Programs

1. Will I earn a college credit?

Only Pre-College Program attendees earn college credit and a corresponding University of Pennsylvania transcript. Penn Summer Prep and Summer Academies participants receive a certificate of completion but do not obtain an official University transcript.

2. Do alumni of Summer Programs receive preferential consideration for admission to Penn’s undergraduate programs?

Participation in Penn SAS High School Programs and Biomedical Research Academy at UPenn does not guarantee admission to a Penn undergraduate program. Penn undergraduate admission is highly competitive, considering various factors. These summer programs, coupled with a robust high school record, offer valuable insights into your academic potential.

3. How is Penn affiliated with Summer Discovery?

Penn SAS High School Programs collaborates with Summer Discovery for over a decade. While Summer Discovery manages community-building aspects, the University of Pennsylvania oversees academic programming, application processes, advising, and course enrollment.

Both entities work together seamlessly to provide the best possible summer experience.

4. When can I expect to be notified of the admissions decision?

Decisions for applications received by program deadlines will be released between April 1 and April 15. Admissions decisions will be available on your online application account, and you will be notified via email.

5. Is applying to multiple programs possible?

Yes! Apply to as many programs as you like; each program requires its own application. Initial applications cost $75, and subsequent applications are $10. Summer 2024 applications open on December 1, 2023.

6. Are financial aid and scholarships available?

Financial aid is unavailable, but 529 college savings plan accounts can be used for payment. Limited scholarships are provided to School District of Philadelphia students for Penn Summer Prep and Summer Academies.

Young curly student woman wearing backpack glasses holding books

Seek external funding for financial assistance; no scholarships are available for Pre-College Programs.

7. What if an academy is closed?

Summer Academies maintain waitlists; if a space opens, it goes to the next student on the list. Waitlist positions are not disclosed.

How Summer Academies in Penn Benefit an Incoming College Student

Joining Penn Summer Academies as an incoming college student offers a range of benefits that can significantly enhance your academic and personal growth. Here’s why you should consider this enriching experience:

1. Early Exposure to College Life: Participating in Penn Summer Academies provides a valuable preview of college life. You’ll get acquainted with the campus, facilities, and overall academic atmosphere, helping you feel more comfortable and prepared when you officially begin your college journey.

2. Academic Exploration: The academies cover diverse subjects, allowing you to explore potential majors or areas of interest. This hands-on experience can help you make more informed decisions about your academic path, ensuring you enter college with a clearer understanding of your goals.

3. College-Level Courses: Engaging in college-level courses during the summer provides a unique opportunity to experience the rigor and expectations of higher education. It helps you adapt to the pace of college academics and prepares you for the challenges.

4. Networking Opportunities: Connecting with students with similar academic interests fosters a sense of community. These relationships can extend beyond the summer program, creating a valuable network that may prove beneficial throughout your college years and beyond.

5. Skill Development: Penn Summer Academies often incorporate practical, hands-on activities and research projects, allowing you to develop critical skills such as problem-solving, teamwork, and communication. These skills are beneficial academically and highly transferable to various aspects of your personal and professional life.

6. Enhanced Confidence: Completing a summer academy at a prestigious institution like Penn can boost your confidence. It proves your ability to thrive in a college environment and can serve as a positive reference point as you navigate your academic journey.

7. Exposure to Penn’s Academic Excellence: Being part of Penn Summer Academies exposes you to the academic excellence and resources of the University of Pennsylvania. It allows you to learn from distinguished faculty members and benefit from state-of-the-art facilities, contributing to a high-quality educational experience.

8. Cultural and Social Enrichment: Beyond academics, Penn Summer Academies often include cultural and social activities. This exposure allows you to engage with a diverse group of peers, fostering cultural awareness and expanding your social horizons.

9. Preparation for College Admission: Participation in a renowned summer program adds a valuable dimension to your college application. It demonstrates initiative, a commitment to learning, and the ability to thrive in a challenging academic environment, which can positively influence the admission process.

10. Fun and Enjoyment: Lastly, Penn Summer Academies offer a chance to have fun while learning. Combining engaging academic experiences and social activities creates a balanced and enjoyable summer, setting a positive tone for your college years.

In summary, joining Penn Summer Academies as an incoming college student is a multifaceted opportunity beyond academics. It’s a chance to explore, grow, and prepare for the exciting challenges of higher education in a supportive and dynamic environment.

If you’re set on getting into a world-class college but aren’t sure how to make it happen, we can help! AdmissionSight is a leading college entrance expert with over a decade of experience helping students just like you get into the schools of their dreams.

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