Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

June 8, 2006

Summer at Pitt

“Summertime, and the living is easy,” the song goes, but the words don’t necessarily apply to Pitt. While most traditional students and many faculty have vacated Pitt’s five campuses until the fall, plenty of activity remains.

From behind-the-scenes work of preparing annual reports and closing out the fiscal year’s books to unit-sponsored workshops and academic forums, from Generation Y students tasting the college environment for the first time to sports and cultural activities and just plain cool stuff, Pitt’s five campuses are much more alive over the summer than the casual observer might think.

Here’s just a sampling of what’s happening at Pitt this summer.

Since 1984, Pitt has been home to two of the eight Pennsylvania Governor’s Schools of Excellence, which are funded by the state Department of Education.

More than 1,700 academically talented and highly motivated high school students have participated in the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for International Studies, a specially designed, five-week residential experience.

Housed at the University Center for International Studies, the program provides an integrated introduction to the social sciences and world language and culture studies.

Students attend classes led by Pitt professors and visiting faculty in University facilities, reside in one of the dormitories and eat meals in the cafeterias. They also have access to many of Pitt´s computer labs, libraries and athletics facilities.

The program is staffed by upper-level undergraduates, graduate students and young area professionals, most of whom have lived, worked or studied abroad.

Similarly, the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Health Care, housed at UPMC, is a five-week program for high school juniors held in June and July for about 110 students from across the state who are interested in learning more about health care and health care careers.

The program focuses on exposing students to the health care delivery system, learning about the importance of primary care and understanding how to serve as a community advocate to address Pennsylvania’s health care needs.

A wide range of health care professionals volunteer their services as instructors and mentors.

Trained staff, including residence life counselors and graduate student team consultants, supervise the students and act as facilitators for projects and discussions.

Several departments in the School of Arts and Sciences (A&S) feature summer programs geared toward high schoolers. For example, area high school students are working on “The Gene Team” with graduate and undergraduate students from the Department of Biological Sciences.

The eight-week program matches teams of high school students with high school biology teachers to perform genetic screens for new mutations on bacteria, yeast and nematodes.

The chemistry department sponsored a High School Chemistry Olympics, with more than 225 high school students from 37 area schools competing for medals and cash awards in a one-day Chemistry Olympics competition held last month.

Competing in first-year, second-year and organic chemistry categories, students in teams of three were graded and ranked on their performance on conducting experiments, reporting the results and answering questions on chemistry.

The Technology Leadership Institute in the Department of Computer Science draws high schoolers interested in careers in information technology, computer science or other technical fields for a free six-week program that includes lessons on web design and computer science topics.

Researchers in Pitt’s many labs often continue their work in summer. Sixteen different A&S research programs are active this summer, including eight federally funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs, said Peggy Heely of the A&S Office of Experiential Learning.

Among Pitt’s REUs are programs in the departments of chemistry, physics and neuroscience and in the School of Medicine.

In addition to lab work, students participate in an ethics forum and a symposium at which their research is presented.

The programs attract a number of non-Pitt students, many of whom come from schools without extensive research programs. “It gives [students] a deep-seated appreciation of what research is all about,” said Joe Grabowski, coordinator of the chemistry department’s 10-week summer REU program.

Students are paired in labs with faculty mentors to work on a research problem.

“The main goal is to let the student experience research when they have no other academic distractions,” Grabowski said. And, while it’s difficult to solve a complex research problem in only 10 weeks, the program often does enable the students to become co-authors on peer-reviewed scientific publications, he added.

The University Honors College also sponsors summer research projects through its Brackenridge undergraduate fellowship program, which supports Pitt students in any field who are conducting independent research projects.

Brackenridge fellows are selected on the basis of their academic record and the originality and promise of their proposal.

The program includes a weekly roundtable discussion of progress as well as informal workshops. Participants receive a stipend of $3,000.

This summer, the School of Information Sciences (SIS) is welcoming international students to study in on-campus summer courses — albeit remotely.

SIS is offering a summer course to students at the Beijing Institute of Technology’s School of Software. Thirteen students in Beijing will take Introduction to Telecommunications with SIS professor Martin Weiss. The Beijing students partner long-distance on class projects with their Pitt counterparts.

Pitt’s regional campuses also are abuzz during the summer.

For kids entering 3rd to 8th grade in the fall, the Johnstown campus offers the Learning, Enrichment and Recreation Network (LEARN) program, which is celebrating its 25th year. The day camp runs July 10-14. LEARN introduces the physical and social sciences, arts and humanities, current events and technology.

Pitt-Johnstown’s summer overnight conferences program is booked solid, according to Joyce Radovanic, assistant director of Auxiliary Services at UPJ.

UPJ student groups such as the girls and boys basketball teams, the wrestling and volleyball teams and cheerleaders, as well as area high school football teams hold camps on the UPJ campus.

Other Pitt groups, such as the School of Pharmacy, Pitt Emerging Leaders, the Honors College Brackenridge research group and the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute also book UPJ’s facilities for retreats or conferences, Radovanic said.

Outside groups for conferences are welcome as well. This year’s guests include the Christian Church of North America, PFR Youth Ministries and the North American Vegetarian Society.

At Pitt-Greensburg, student-oriented programs include:

• Science Camp, July 10-14, which is open to students who will be high school sophomores in 2006-07; this year’s topic is forensic science.

• Archaeology Field School, which runs June 12-July 18. Students do hands-on excavation at a farm in or near Ligonier.

• Band camps, which run July 30-Aug. 11. The Pittsburgh Central Catholic and the Brentwood bands will be at UPG this summer.

• Various sports camps. Basketball, soccer and cheerleading camps are held throughout the summer.

• Senior Summer School, which runs July 16-29. The program offers active and adventurous seniors, baby boomers and retirees an opportunity to enhance their summers through leisure, education and discovery.

Pitt-Titusville hosts two summer enrichment programs for students in grades 5-8.

Selected high school biology teachers will learn about technological advances and current issues in several week-long Department of Biological Sciences workshops.

The first workshop will take place at Pitt’s Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology, where teachers will learn about experimental design and data analysis in ecology and how to use model systems in the classroom. On the Pittsburgh campus, the topic of a second week-long session will be computing for biologists.

Through the Center for American Music’s summer institute, high school teachers across the country will have access to a growing number of lesson plans in which historic American songs figure into the study of social studies, language or music.

The five-week Voices Across Time program, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, exposes 25 teachers from across the nation to workshops, performances and seminars on topics ranging from Appalachian music to hip hop.

Teachers attending the program create lesson plans focused on a particular song. Their growing body of work is posted on line at for classroom use.

The program was first presented at Pitt in 2004 and is targeted to continue every two years, said project administrator Kathy Haines of the Center for American Music.

This year’s institute will feature a performance of Civil War era music by acoustic duo Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, whose music was featured in Ken Burns’s PBS Civil War documentary series. Among the planned field trips are visits to Gettysburg to coincide with study on conflict, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to align with discussion about social action, said Haines.

The Center for Minority Health Summer Research Career Institute, housed in the Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH), is committed to increasing the number of minority investigators “in the pipeline” who land faculty appointments and funding through the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies.

The institute, GSPH officials said, is designed to help new investigators identify the key elements required to establish an academic research career. The institute will provide essential training, building on the “survival skills in research” model developed at Pitt.

School of Education Dean Alan Lesgold noted that certain school programs have important summer components. “For example, our distance program for teaching the visually impaired has an on-campus summer component, so teachers can get this special capability without having to stop their current teaching jobs.

“More generally, summer is prime time for many of our graduate students, who are teachers or principals during the year,” he added.

This summer is particularly busy for the Pittsburgh Public Schools as they establish a number of new relationships with the education school, Lesgold said. “The leadership training for that effort will heavily involve the LRDC Institute for Learning, which includes some professors in the School of Education.”

A service learning mission to the mountains of Peru has just completed under the direction of education faculty member Maureen Porter.

The Pittsburgh summer East Asian language study program offers intensive Japanese language training on the Pittsburgh campus. This summer there are 14 students in first-year Japanese and 14 in the second-year program for a total of four sections.

“The goal of our Japanese language program is mostly conversation. We certainly include the reading and writing, but the emphasis is definitely on speaking, so we have to keep the sections small,” said program coordinator David Mills.

Attending class from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. each weekday for 10 weeks yields the equivalent of two semesters of language instruction. In addition to the full days, there’s homework and out-of-class preparation required for the 10-credit program.

“We tell [students] do not plan to have another job for the summer,” said Mills, adding, that while the format is a challenge, it offers the benefit of enabling students to concentrate on one subject.

Students divide their time between “fact” classes taught in English to help them learn the mechanics of the language, and “act” classes in which they perfect their conversational skills. Cultural training also is offered. Most participants are local college students with an occasional high school student or adult learner in the mix, Mills said. This summer, several students from Texas have come to Pittsburgh for the program.

“We’ve increasingly gotten students from schools outside the area as our reputation grows,” Mills said.

Each summer, Pitt-Bradford turns into Little Brazil, according to campus spokesperson Pat Cercone.

About 200 people from LIMIAR USA, an organization of families who have adopted children from Brazil, come to UPB for four days in July to reconnect and celebrate Brazilian culture. Campus food services prepares Brazilian food according to the group’s specifications and performances by Brazilian musicians and artists are scheduled.

In August, the Bradford campus will host its first Folk Music Festival with bluegrass and folk music classes, jams and concerts.

Also in August, Pitt-Bradford becomes home to the Pitt Marching Band. For 20 years the band has come to UPB for a retreat where members can concentrate on music and marching. At the end of each session is a popular public performance, one of the highlights of the year for the Bradford community.

The Greensburg campus will hold a dulcimer festival June 2-4. Yep: An entire weekend devoted to dulcimer-lovers.

Also at Pitt-Greensburg June 18-25 will be Cave Canem, an annual retreat for African-American poets and storytellers.

The education school’s Department of Health and Physical Activity runs summer programs aimed at area youth.

Free Saturday youth recreation programs are offered at Trees Hall to area youths ages 6-16. Players from the baseball, volleyball, soccer and dance teams, as well as some of the coaches, participate along with faculty, staff and students from the department.

Pitt-Johnstown will host the Junior Naturalist Outdoor Adventure Camp June 26-30 for youth ages 8-12.

Developed by American Adventure Sports, the program spans the campus’s 600+ acres. Children will explore, learn team-building skills and challenge themselves with adventure.

Working with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the camp cultivates an active lifestyle and love for nature through participation in outdoor sports, conservation education and environmental enhancement.

Outdoor activities will include rock climbing, orienteering, canoeing and water safety, wilderness first aid, Frisbee golf and “leave no trace” camping, team building and conservation education.

On June 22-25, Pitt-Bradford is hosting the Penn’s Woods Jeep Jamboree, a gathering of 200 Jeep owners from all over the country for trail riding, bonfires and a Jeep rodeo. Jeepers!

Also at UPB, July 7-11, is the Knitting Inspirations Camp, where 20-30 knitters each year come to campus to learn new techniques.

UPG will host a croquet tournament on June 11. This benefit for the Greensburg YMCA is organized by the Greensburg Croquet Club.

This month, a simulation of search and rescue robotics developed by Jijun Wang and Michael Lewis of the School of Information Sciences will be featured at RoboCup 2006, the international robot soccer championships. The simulation, based on the Unreal game engine, uses realistic graphics and accurate physics to duplicate the problems and challenges faced by operators of real search and rescue robots.

The demonstration will use exact models of portable disaster arenas designed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology to replicate the hazards and difficulties encountered by robots in real disaster environments, such as an office building damaged in the Kobe earthquake. to provide a range of environments. (More details are available at:

On June 10, Pitt-Bradford is dedicating a bronze monument to the Taylor/Piper Cub, a world-famous airplane once was made in a factory that is now the site of the campus. Associated activities include a skydiving jump by world-record setting UPB alumnus, Frank Matrone.

—Peter Hart & Kimberly K. Barlow

Leave a Reply