University of Chicago’s Stones and Bones (Paleontology) Program

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

University of Chicago’s Stones and Bones (Paleontology) Program

Imagine spending your summer not just lounging on the beach or stuck in a classroom, but actually digging up ancient fossils and working alongside leading scientists in the field of paleontology. If this sounds like your kind of summer, then the University of Chicago’s Stones and Bones (Paleontology) program could be the perfect fit for you.

This blog post will serve as your comprehensive guide to this unique summer experience, covering everything from what the program entails to who it’s designed for and why it could be a game-changer for your academic journey.

The Stones and Bones Experience: More Than Just a Course

The Stones and Bones program at the University of Chicago offers a transformative experience that goes beyond a typical summer course. This four-week intensive program combines academic rigor with hands-on fieldwork, giving you a well-rounded understanding of paleontology. It’s a prime example of collaboration between the University of Chicago Stones and Bones (Paleontology) and the Field Museum, both leaders in science and education.

A students on his desk

The first part of the program takes place in Chicago, in the cutting-edge labs at the University of Chicago. Here, you can dive into both the theoretical and practical sides of paleontology. Unlike traditional classroom settings that often limit learning to lectures, this program offers a multi-dimensional educational experience.

You won’t just read about paleontological methods or watch videos; you’ll actively engage in the scientific process.

Field Museum scientists and university faculty will guide you as you prepare fossil specimens, analyze geological layers, and document your findings scientifically. This phase serves as an intensive training ground, equipping you with essential skills and knowledge for the upcoming fieldwork.

But your journey doesn’t stop in Chicago’s labs and classrooms. The program shifts gears as it moves to its second phase in Wyoming. There, you’ll join an ongoing Field Museum expedition in the Green River Formation, a geological area rich in well-preserved fossils.

This site is one of the world’s most productive fossil locations, offering unmatched opportunities for discovery and research. Here, you can apply the skills and knowledge you gained in Chicago to real-world paleontological work.

Imagine the excitement of unearthing a fossil that has been hidden for millions of years, carefully analyzing its features and perhaps even identifying a previously unknown species. This isn’t just an academic exercise; it’s a journey into the past, offering a rare opportunity to touch and understand the ancient world.

The program is more than an educational course; it’s an adventure into the unknown, closely aligned with the University of Chicago’s Stones and Bones (Paleontology) initiative. It’s about applying theories and methods in a real-world context, solving complex problems, and contributing to our collective understanding of Earth’s history.

Moreover, it can serve as a springboard for future academic and professional pursuits in paleontology. The skills and experiences you gain can prove invaluable as you explore higher education and career opportunities in this captivating field.

In summary, Stones and Bones is not just a summer course but a life-changing experience. It offers a unique blend of academic learning and practical fieldwork, from the advanced labs in Chicago to the fossil-rich landscapes of Wyoming.

The program provides a comprehensive, hands-on education in paleontology that you won’t find anywhere else. It challenges your intellectual curiosity and celebrates the wonders of scientific exploration.

Why Stones and Bones? The Benefits of a Hands-On Education

The University of Chicago has long been a trailblazer in the academic world, and one of its standout offerings is the Stones and Bones program.

This summer course takes you deep into the captivating field of paleontology, but it’s not your typical classroom experience. This blog will break down the many benefits of the program’s hands-on approach, from skill-building to networking, and explain why it’s a game-changer.

Learning by Doing

At the core of Stones and Bones is the philosophy of ‘learning by doing.’ You won’t just sit in a classroom and listen to lectures. Instead, you’ll dive right into fieldwork, participating in every step of the scientific process. This hands-on approach covers everything from discovering fossils to analyzing and documenting your findings.


One of the biggest perks of this approach is the wide array of skills you’ll pick up. You’ll learn how to use specialized excavation tools, document your findings accurately, and analyze data with advanced software. These skills aren’t just useful in paleontology; they’re transferable to many scientific fields, making you a more versatile and employable candidate.

Deepening Your Understanding

Students studying in a room on a desk.

Active participation in the scientific process also enriches your grasp of paleontological methods. You’ll gain practical experience in forming hypotheses, conducting experiments, and interpreting results. This hands-on experience offers a level of understanding that traditional education often lacks.

Networking and Building Professional Relationships

Another strong point of the program is the networking opportunities. The University of Chicago has produced many leading scientists and researchers in paleontology.

You’ll have the unique opportunity to work alongside these experts, absorbing their knowledge and insights. Working closely with established professionals not only boosts your learning but also gives you a head start on building valuable professional connections.

Teamwork and Soft Skills

The program also promotes teamwork, as you’ll collaborate with peers on various projects. This experience helps you develop essential soft skills like communication, teamwork, and problem-solving, which are vital in any professional setting.

World-Class Resources

The University of Chicago Stones and Bones (Paleontology) program benefits from the institution’s top-notch facilities and resources.

You’ll have access to state-of-the-art labs and extensive fossil collections, enhancing your research opportunities. Plus, the university’s focus on interdisciplinary learning allows you to integrate your paleontological studies with other scientific disciplines, providing a well-rounded educational experience.

More Than Just a Summer Course

Stones and Bones is not just a summer course; it’s an educational journey that equips you to become a skilled, well-rounded scientist. The program’s focus on experiential learning offers numerous benefits that go beyond traditional classroom learning.

Whether it’s skill-building, a deeper understanding of paleontological methods, or invaluable networking opportunities, this program sets you up for success in both academia and the professional world.

In a digital age where education often leans theoretical, Stones and Bones stands as a compelling example of the effectiveness of hands-on learning. It’s not just about the subject matter; it’s about shaping the scientists of tomorrow.

Who’s Eligible? Requirements and Criteria

The Stones and Bones program at the University of Chicago offers a unique opportunity to delve into paleontology. But who can join this immersive experience? Let’s break it down.

Eligibility Guidelines

If you’re a high school freshman, sophomore, or junior and at least 14 years old, you’re eligible. The program aims to attract students who can handle its challenging curriculum. While students from all academic backgrounds can apply, those with a strong foundation in biology or geology will find the program especially rewarding.

Why a Strong Background Helps

Having a background in biology or geology isn’t mandatory, but it’s a big plus. If you’ve scored a B or higher in high school classes in these subjects, you’ll have an edge. The program tackles complex scientific topics, and a solid foundation can help you grasp these concepts more effectively.

Dedication is Key

This isn’t your typical summer course. The University of Chicago’s Stones and Bones (Paleontology) program demands a high level of dedication for several reasons.

First, you’ll be doing hands-on fieldwork, which can be physically taxing. Be prepared for long hours and challenging conditions. Second, you’ll also need to engage in independent research, data analysis, and scientific writing.

A female student in front of camera

Why Eligibility Matters

The program’s criteria ensure that only committed students are admitted. This maintains high academic standards and creates a focused learning environment. When everyone is equally committed, it enhances the learning experience, allowing students to learn from each other and their instructors.

The Program’s Unique Features

Being part of this program gives you access to the University of Chicago’s top-notch resources. You’ll work in state-of-the-art labs, explore extensive fossil collections, and learn from leading experts in paleontology. The university’s focus on interdisciplinary learning also lets you combine your paleontological studies with other scientific disciplines.

In summary, the University of Chicago’s Stones and Bones (Paleontology) program offers a rigorous educational experience for high school students passionate about paleontology.The specific criteria ensure that you’re not only interested but also well-prepared and committed to the subject. With world-class resources and a challenging curriculum, this program is more than a summer course—it’s a stepping stone to a future in paleontology.

Mark Your Calendars: Important Dates and Deadlines

Timing is everything when it comes to the Stones and Bones summer course in paleontology. If you missed the application deadline for the Summer 2023 session, don’t worry. This annual program will give you more opportunities to apply.

To stay updated on when the application window opens, keep an eye on the official website. This program is popular, so spots fill up quickly. The course for the Summer 2023 session will run from June 12 to July 7, offering a balanced mix of theory and fieldwork.

Before the course kicks off, you’ll need to attend a mandatory orientation on June 10-11. This orientation is more than just a formality. You’ll get an overview of the course, meet the instructors, and learn about the resources you’ll use. It’s also a great chance to meet your classmates, which can enhance your learning experience.

Classes usually take place from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. This six-hour window isn’t just for lectures; it also includes fieldwork and lab sessions. The schedule aims to give you enough time to absorb complex topics and engage in meaningful discussions.

The program’s timing also fits well with the University of Chicago Stones and Bones (Paleontology) academic calendar, so you won’t have any conflicts with your regular school schedule. This is especially beneficial as it allows you to focus solely on the program.

Lastly, participating in Stones and Bones is more than just a summer course. The skills and connections you’ll make can have a lasting impact on your future, whether you choose to pursue paleontology or another scientific field. So, if you’re considering this unique educational experience, mark these important dates on your calendar and plan ahead.

Beyond the Dig: Academic Credits and Future Opportunities

Completing the Stones and Bones program at the University of Chicago isn’t just a way to fill your summer; it’s a stepping stone to your academic and professional future. One immediate benefit? You’ll earn 200 UChicago units, equal to two full-time courses. These aren’t just numbers; they add real value to your academic profile.

Why Academic Credits Matter

The credits you earn validate the skills and knowledge you’ve gained. They show you how to understand complex methods in paleontology, from digging up fossils to analyzing data. These credits can make you stand out when applying for competitive undergrad programs, scholarships, or research grants.

Your Next Academic Steps

The program aims to be more than a one-time experience. Its rigorous curriculum and fieldwork give you a strong foundation in paleontology.

This can be a huge advantage as you pursue further studies, whether that’s a bachelor’s degree in Earth Sciences or more advanced degrees. You’ll find the transition to these programs easier, improving your chances of academic success.

Research Opportunities Abound.

The program also offers a pathway to future research, including unique opportunities in the University of Chicago’s Stones and Bones (Paleontology) division. As a participant, you’ll network with top experts, some of whom are at the forefront of this specialized field. These connections can lead to unique research opportunities, from undergrad theses to postgraduate projects.

Portrait of young nerdy student studying with textbooks and write quotations on a book

Internships and Practical Experience

The program’s focus on practical skills, especially in the University of Chicago’s Stones and Bones department, makes you a strong candidate for internships in the field.

You could find yourself working in museums, research institutions, or even environmental consulting firms. These internships let you apply your skills in real-world settings, enriching your career prospects.

Building Your Professional Network

Last but not least, the program helps you build a valuable network. You’ll collaborate with peers and professionals who can offer letters of recommendation, research partnerships, or job leads. Networking during the program can set you up with a supportive community for your entire career.

The Stones and Bones program offers more than just hands-on experience in paleontology. It’s a comprehensive platform that can propel your academic and professional journey. From earning academic credits to opening doors for future research and internships, the program is a launchpad for success in paleontology or related fields.

So, if you’re considering this unique opportunity, keep an eye on important dates and plan ahead to make the most of it.

How Can Stones and Bones Shape Your Career Path?

When considering a career in paleontology or related scientific fields, this unique program serves as an invaluable asset. It goes beyond the scope of a typical summer course, acting as a career accelerator. Let’s explore how this program can help you professionally.

Skills for the Job Market: More than Theories

This program aims to provide you with a diverse skill set that goes beyond textbook knowledge. You’ll get hands-on experience in various areas, from mastering excavation tools to conducting data analysis.

These skills are not just useful in paleontology; they’re also transferable to other scientific sectors like environmental science and data science. In today’s job market, versatility is key, and this program gives you that edge.

Building Your Professional Portfolio

One of the program’s highlights is the opportunity for portfolio building through the University of Chicago’s Stones and Bones (Paleontology) initiative. You’ll participate in activities ranging from fossil discoveries to research projects.

Each activity adds to a professional portfolio that showcases your skills and experience. This portfolio can be a strong asset when applying for jobs or advanced academic programs.

Networking: Connect with Industry Leaders

Networking is often an overlooked aspect of career growth. Given the program’s strong ties with the scientific community, you’ll have the chance to meet leading experts in various fields. These interactions can offer you valuable insights and may lead to future collaborations or job offers.

Broaden Your Career Options

The program is known for its interdisciplinary approach. The skills you gain are not limited to paleontology; they are applicable to various scientific disciplines like geology, biology, and environmental science. This broadens your career options and makes you a versatile scientist.

Career Guidance: Personalized Mentorship

Beyond the technical training, the program also offers career guidance and mentorship. These sessions allow you to discuss your career goals and uncertainties with experienced professionals.

Whether you’re sure about your career path or still exploring, these mentorship sessions offer valuable insights and actionable plans.

A Comprehensive Approach to Your Career

Young girl student smiling against university.

In summary, this program offers a well-rounded approach to professional development. It’s not just an educational experience; it’s a stepping stone to your future career.

From skill development and portfolio building to networking and career guidance, every aspect is designed to prepare you for success.

So, if you’re considering a career in paleontology or any related scientific field, this program should be your first choice. It offers a complete package: a comprehensive curriculum, hands-on experience, and a focus on both academic and professional growth.

Conclusion: Unearth Your Passion and Potential

The University of Chicago Stones and Bones (Paleontology) program is more than just a summer course; it’s a transformative experience that offers a unique blend of academic rigor and real-world application.

Whether you’re a budding paleontologist or simply fascinated by the history of life on Earth, this program offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to deepen your knowledge, hone your skills, and get a head start on your future career.

So why settle for an ordinary summer when you can have an extraordinary one? With the Stones and Bones program, the possibilities are as limitless as the ancient worlds you’ll be exploring.


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