Austin Crawley spent part of his summer at the Engineering Summer Academy at the University of Pennsylvania.
Why did you choose to participate in a summer program or go to overnight camp?
Each year I participate in a summer program for enrichment. The summer before my senior year, I wanted to experience a summer program at a university that provided strong academic classes, lab participation, team-building activities, and programs to help me explore careers in the field of engineering. In my overall development and preparation for college, I needed to experience life away from home at a university where I’m learning first-hand how to be productive on campus while making my own decisions. I was also looking for an opportunity to meet new people throughout the program and build relationships with a diverse group of students that have the same passions.
How did you decide which program or camp was right for you?
During the fall of my junior year, I took a campus tour of the University of Pennsylvania and heard about their Engineering Summer Academy at Penn program (ESAP). This program offers an intensive three-week overnight experience with hands-on lab and research experience while earning college credit. Of the six courses offered, I decided on Biotechnology. This course teaches some of the fundamentals of molecular biology and students have the opportunity to work on molecular cloning experiments in the lab. My passion in engineering and biology has been driven by my interest in renewable energy and the affects on the environment. I wanted to learn the general principles, logic, potential capabilities and applications of biotechnology as it relates to genetic engineering and steps required in the production of various compounds through biotechnology.
What was a typical day in your summer program or at camp?
My daily activities included lecture classes in the morning, lab work in the afternoon, and homework assignments or working on my research project in the evening. Some days, we went on field trips. On the weekends, we had planned trips and team building activities, like soccer, an ice cream social, local restaurants, and amusement park. I really enjoyed the interaction with the Penn professors and the engineering graduate students that helped with our research project. I have to admit the work was intense but working in the labs felt great. The most enjoyable aspect of the program was the opportunity to work with a graduate student on their specific research. My graduate student was working on using machine-learning to diagnose breast cancer. So a small group of us would come together and brainstorm in a conference room on campus and think about what exactly we were going to do. My team decided to focus our research on using unsupervised machine learning algorithms to more accurately diagnose subtypes of breast cancer. We researched machine learning, breast cancer and the numerous different types of subtypes. I personally enjoy research so this was easily one of the best ways for me to really grasp both the impact of the science we do in the classroom and what it actually means.
What was the most memorable moment of your summer?
The most memorable moments were the interaction with the Penn professors, engineering graduate students and working in the labs. We got an amazing opportunity to talk to and interview a local pathologist in the area and took a more hands on approach to learning what breast cancer is and how breast cancer spreads. I also really enjoyed the field trip to a start-up tech company. This company specializes in bio printing (basically printing organs etc.) We learned a bit about bio printing as well as how they went from an idea in a lab to a company. This is very important to me as that is one of my overall goals and dreams, being able to start a company based on my research and this would be the best job ever.
What advice do you have for teens looking at summer programs or camps?
My advice is to try to experience an overnight college experience before your senior year. You will learn a lot about yourself, gain independence, and will make the transition to leaving for college easier for you and your family.