1. Laser and bio-safety training
In the first week of the program, participating students attend a half-day mandatory training session on laser, biological, and general laboratory safety, before they are allowed to work in the laboratory. This extensive course explains the proper handling of chemicals and biological samples, protection from biohazards and high-power lasers, fire drills, and more. Emergency contact phone numbers are provided. While the students become fully trained to handle biological samples and are exposed to many aspects of biomedicine through didactic lectures and shadowing sessions, they are not allowed to work with live animals or human tissues, and they do not have access to patients because it would require time-consuming processes such as amendments on protocols and additional training and tests for students.
2. Summer Lectures
Since 2003,we have been organizing the Summer Biomedical Optics Lecture Series for summer students in WCP. We continue to offer 12 to 14 lectures. The lectures are intended to give students a broad overview of the principles and applications of biomedical optics as well as introduce selected topics in greater depth to highlight the impact of engineering innovation on biomedical sciences and clinical medicine. Lectures are given every Monday and Wednesday (attendance is mandatory), and breakfast is served to students.
In addition to the core lectures, students are encouraged to attend various seminars in MIT and Harvard, as well as WCP. In particular, WCP offers seminars on Tuesdays at noon, which are open to people who are interested in learning fundamental principles and specific topics in biomedical optics. Following the noon seminars, pizza lunch is provided to the attendees (supported by WCP).
4. Community building and Social activities
Community-building activities play a central role in ensuring that students both enjoy their time here and develop friendships and acquaintances that will continue beyond the summer program. We take a proactive approach to building community over the short summer period. Summer program participants form a cohesive community that is strengthened by their close contact in a variety of settings. We organize a variety of bi-weekly social activities to help students build a sense of community and to form close friendships (See pictures above). During the Orientation Day, we introduce mentors and staff members to the students and provide them with helpful materials, including a collection of tour guides and a list of various social and cultural events in the city of Boston and on the campuses of MIT and Harvard. Our official social program begins with ‘Dinner Out’ as an icebreaker during the first week. Other notable activities include a barbecue picnic in July with staff members and mentors, a Boston Pops Orchestra Concert on July 4th, and a softball game as a part of All-Wellman Summer Party. Independently, the students are encouraged to develop their own social activities during the weekends. Furthermore, interested students can arrange a visit to different labs in MIT and Harvard as well as to other schools in the Boston area. By the end of the summer, the participating students form close friendships, and many of former students maintain their contacts through Facebook.
5. Proposal Writing and Final Report
In the third week of the program, after initial meetings with their research mentors, students develop a one-page research proposal for their summer project. The goal is to guide students in thinking through their research process so that they can reasonably articulate what they are going to do, how they intend to do it, why they are going to do it, what is likely to be concluded, and what additional work is necessary to conclude their projects. The proposal ensures that students and mentors establish a well-defined plan for the student’s summer research experience. In their proposals, students delineate a clear purpose and measurable aims for their research, possible alternative approaches, and expected results. Students write a five-page research report that includes a detailed explanation of their research goals, approach, and findings. Their faculty mentor and instructor review the draft and provide feedback and students submit their final reports in the final week.
6. Poster Preparation
To help the students improve their communications skills, we organize workshops on writing and research presentation. A group of experienced postdoctoral fellows and faculty members in collaboration with MIT’s Writing and Humanistic Studies Department provide two interactive sessions. Note that students submit a rough draft of their posters in PowerPoint format to the communication instructor and peers during a workshop. The group provides substantive feedback on the content, design, and delivery of the presentation. The goal is for students to articulate a coherent presentation, including the purpose of the project, the methods, the primary findings, a plausible interpretation of those findings, and the potential implications of the findings. In this process, students learn how to present their research findings in different formats using graphical, publishing, and presentation software.
7. Research Presentation
In the final week, students present the results of their summer research to their faculty mentors, post-docs, and other students (see the photo). Each student gives a 10-minute poster presentation to invited judges. The judges select one student from each group who gives the best presentation for the Yao Su Student Research Award, which includes a certificate and $100 gift card from the endowment fund. After the poster session, the mentors award a certificate to their students in person.
8. Attending Professional Conferences
Students are encouraged to present their reports at their home institution and submit posters to professional conferences. In the past, several students have presented their posters at the Annual Meeting of the Biomedical Engineering Society and SPIE BIOS meetings.
9. Student-and-faculty interactions
The variety of social and research events we organize throughout the summer ensures that the students and faculty build strong mentor-mentee relationships that can last even after the program ends. Our faculty mentors have maintained long-term relationships with many of their former students and, moreover, have provided recommendation letters for their applications to graduate schools, medical schools, scholarships, and beyond. In fact, 10 students have come back to WCP after receiving their undergraduate degrees as graduate students, postdocs, or research assistants.