MADISON – Every summer since 2007, students from some of the smallest high schools in Wisconsin have descended on the Morgridge Institute for Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for some big-time scientific immersion.
The Morgridge Rural Summer Science Camp has allowed more than 500 high academic achievers from across the state to spend a week learning from leaders in stem cell research, a field that UW-Madison helped make famous. The students arrive passionate and motivated in science, but the hope is this deep dive into real research will seal the deal for a future scientific career.
Now, 12 years into the camp, organizers are finding it has been a difference-maker.
“We hear from student alumni and their teachers that the camp has highly influenced their academic path,” says Dan Murphy, Morgridge outreach coordinator and one of the camp organizers. “We also hear that many students chose to apply to UW-Madison after coming to the camps when they previously hadn’t intended to.”
Murphy is embarking on an in-depth survey of the camp experience this summer with the help of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. The survey will measure impacts on both students and high-school teachers attending the camps, which are supported by private donations and are free to participants.
But lots of anecdotal information already exists on the program. Here are three stories from camp alumni now attending UW-Madison.
Alexandra Kissel: 2015 graduate of Darlington High School and 2014 camp attendee. Today, Kissel is a UW-Madison senior pursuing a degree in applied mathematics, engineering and physics (AMEP) and a certificate in computer science.
“The most valuable part of the camp was being introduced to research opportunities on campus. Before attending, I wasn’t even aware that doing research as an undergraduate was possible. Meeting the scientists was inspiring to me. I am a first-generation college student, so I was pleasantly surprised to see how easy it was to meet and talk with the successful scientists and researchers.”
John Klopatek: 2014 graduate of Mercer High School and 2013 camper. Currently a senior at UW-Madison majoring in chemical engineering.
“My future career goal is in the biofuels industry, with the hope of one day opening my own biofuels plant in northern Wisconsin. I strongly believe there’s an untapped market in the creation of biofuels from wood-based product waste, and that expanding this market to northern Wisconsin would significantly boost its economy.”
Hailey Enders: 2016 graduate of Prentice High School and 2015 camper. Currently a UW-Madison junior pursuing a degree in nursing.
“Being from such a small town, I thought it was awesome that students were able to talk to UW-Madison and Morgridge scientists, especially for the students who were very interested in pursuing a degree in science. … The experience of attending the camp definitely ensured that I wanted to pursue a degree in science.”