1. When does the NanoExplorers program start and end?
This year (2013) the deadline for submitting an application packet is April 12, 2013. Applicants selected for the program will be notified by email on or before April 26, 2013. Acceptance letters must be postmarked by May 13, 2013.
On June 10, we will have an orientation session, a “meet and greet” of sorts. The program starts on the following day, June 11. The program end time varies, but really depends on the student and mentor. There will be a mandatory symposium where program participants present their research on August 20, 2013. In general the NanoExplorers try to finish up what they are working on and the numbers thin out around the time the local area schools come back into session. However, some students continue working after school, or whenever their mentor can work with them. We have had a couple of students come into the program in 10th grade and went on to graduate from UTD having never left the program!
2. If I have been selected for and/or participated in the NanoExplorers program before, do I need to re-apply?
If you want to formally be part of the NanoExplorers program, then YES! Planning for a program that has become this large requires a hard count on how many students we are going to be taking in. Obtaining student IDs, making sure we have enough mentors, arranging the orientation session, and insuring that we have up to date release forms on file all depend on the application process. There are also criteria for successful completion of the program, for example, participating in a colloquium at the end of the summer. You are certainly welcome to contact the mentor you worked with previously to inquire about returning to work in their laboratory, however to formally be part of the NanoExplorers program you must go through the application process.
3. How much time per week do I have to dedicate to the program?
This is a good question, and the most often one asked. The work you do in our labs will be associated with real, funded programs from agencies such as NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the Department of Defense. When you join the program, you are joining our team and will be working with our scientists to meet deliverables. We simply do not have the resources to assign a mentor to a student who has only a small amount of time to spend in the laboratory. As a general rule of thumb, a minimum of 20 hours per week is a fair estimate. If you cannot spend at least that amount of time in the laboratory, you will not be able to appreciably contribute to the project team, and will therefore have a less than rewarding experience.
4. My family is going on vacation at the beginning of the summer. Is it okay if I start late?
Unfortunately the answer to this question is no. One of the most crucial parts of the program is laboratory training and safety during the first few weeks. We only have the resources and manpower to offer this critical training one time, and students are not allowed to work in the laboratory until they’ve had this training.
5. What time do I have to be there in the morning during the summer?
I leave this up to the student and his/her mentor. Most of the NanoExplorers who want to give up a summer working in a laboratory have other extracurricular activities as well. And being scientists at a university, we have strange schedules as well. The amount of time that you can spend in the lab each week, how many days per week you can be on campus, and what times you can be in the lab are all determining factors in who your mentor will be. You and your mentor will work out an agreeable schedule.
6. Is there a stipend?
At this time, there is no stipend for participating in the program. Chemicals, materials, and supplies for scientific research are incredibly expensive, and the limited available funds are used to support this expense.
7. Is housing provided?
At this time, we do not provide housing to accommodate students. All program participants must arrange their own room and board.
8. Who comes to the orientation session, and how do I know when/where it is?
After you are accepted into the program, you will receive a welcome letter from us. It will let you know where to go and the date and time to get there. You can bring your parents if you like! We may put them to work in the lab as well!
9. What happens at the orientation session?
Well, mostly we eat and talk. We had barbeque last year, but who knows. The orientation session is for the incoming class of NanoExplorers to meet the students, faculty, and staff that they will be working with during the summer. The Director of the NanoTech Institute and founder of this program, Professor Ray Baughman, will say a few words. Once he finally quits talking, a few of our key staff scientists and students will give brief introductions of what we do at our Institute, i.e. what they are working on. This is where you take note of anything that sounds interesting to you.
10. How do I get paired up with a mentor?
This is the tricky part, and where your participation is required. The first two years of the program, I spent a lot of time diligently pairing up students with mentors before I had even met them. I found that about two weeks into the program some (a bunch) of the NanoExplorers were looking over their shoulders looking at what others were doing thinking “man, I wish I was doing that”, while whoever they were watching was probably thinking the same thing. We work on a variety of programs that span pretty much every scientific discipline, from biology to chemistry to physics to engineering. I found that most of our NanoExplorers are at the stage where they already have some interest in one or the other and I want them to be able to find that niche here. So, how do you get paired up with a mentor? You find each other! After we are full of barbeque or pizza and after the mentors have told you a little bit about what they work on, we’ll push the chairs out of the room and have a “mingling” session. At this point, you can talk one-on-one with the mentors about projects, your schedule of availability, etc. Before you leave for the day, you will tell ME who you are working with! It may sound crazy, but it has worked for the past four years, so I’m going for a fifth.
11. Can I enter my work in the laboratory during the program into scholarship competitions and school science fairs?
It depends on your project. If you are planning on submitting your work for a competition, speak with your mentor early on about it. Some information may be limited due to pending patents or publications. In the past, our students have been very successful in science fairs and competitions like Intel and Siemens.
12. I applied to the program before and didn’t get accepted. What can I do this year to make sure I get in?
This is probably the most frequently asked FAQ. The application packages are reviewed and ranked by the mentors participating in the program. For the 2012 program, we received over 250 applications for 35 spots. We are limited to 35 spots due to space, insurance, and liability issues, however the number of applicants rises ever year. Most, if not all, of the applicants are highly qualified. The panel of mentors who review the applications consider the questionnaire and letters of recommendation and do their best to choose participants who they feel best fit into the program. Your course background, how much time you have to devote to the program and your interests obviously play a part, but so does the availability of mentors. As an example we get many applicants interested in pursuing pre-med fields like neuroscience, however if we receive 20 applicants interested in working in this area and have only two mentors, we aren’t going to be able to accommodate all of them.
13. What is the best subject to study? What do you look for in the application? Is there a list of mentors available?
See FAQ 12. above. The panel of reviewers considers your questionnaire and letters of recommendation. What courses you have taken, how much time you are willing to dedicate to the program, and what area you would like to study are obviously considered. The last question on the questionnaire regarding your interests and why you want to participate in the program is very important. For example, if your interests are in an area where we don’t currently have mentors, then we probably aren’t going to be able to find a good fit for you. Unfortunately, due to a variety of reasons (student load, teaching load, graduation, etc.), the mentors for the program changes every year and therefore a list isn’t available. And no, we do not give out information regarding the panel that reviews applicants.
14. What happens at the end of the program?
On Tuesday, August 20, 2013, before local area schools start back up, we will have a symposium where program participants present their research. At the end of the symposium, students will be presented with a certificate of completion of the 2013 NanoExplorers Programs.
15. Should I submit my application in a single envelope, or can I submit it in parts? Can my recommendation letters be mailed separately? Can I deliver it in person?
Please submit ALL application documents in a single envelope to:
The University of Texas at Dallas
Dr. Steve Collins
Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute, BE 26
800 West Campbell Road
Richardson, TX 75083-0688
Incomplete application and/or documents mailed separately will not be considered.
**Hand delivered applications WILL NOT be accepted.
Updated: January 7, 2013