At the UNM campus in Albuquerque, 36 high school students from across the country (including seven from New Mexico) spent two weeks on research projects led by Laboratory volunteers at the Joint Science and Technology Institute West camp.
Running from June 12 to 23 and funded by the federal Defense Threat Reduction Agency through the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, the free camp aims to inspire and engage high school students in STEM careers, with a particular focus on students from under-represented communities.
"The students work in groups of six, and we give them a real mentored research experience," says Laboratory researcher Ricardo Martí-Arbona who co-ordinated the more than 50 LANL volunteers. "It could be virology, materials science, coding or another topic, but the aim is to show them that they can become the future STEM workforce."
“The New Mexico high schoolers also get a lot out of working with the students from elsewhere in the country - it really broadens their horizons,” says Martí-Arbona.
The first JSTI camp was held in Aberdeen, MD in 2012, and expanded to Albuquerque (with LANL support) in 2019.
Mentor Migun Shakya is in his third year of working at the JSTI camp on bioscience projects. "I enjoy interacting with the young students," he says. "It's rewarding to communicate some of your knowledge, and I've stayed connected with some of the students afterwards."
Back in person at a new venue
Meanwhile, the Summer Physics Camp for Young Women was back in person at its new venue at New Mexico School for the Arts in Santa Fe from June 5 to 16. Now in its seventh year, the free camp served 32 New Mexico students from 16 different school districts (with an additional location serving eight students in Hawaii who joined the Santa Fe campers via Zoom).
The camp organizers welcomed students from the counties of Santa Fe, San Miguel, Rio Arriba, Bernalillo, Los Alamos, Sandoval, McKinley, Lea and Mora and students from eight of the 19 New Mexico pueblos (Zuni Pueblo, Jemez Pueblo, Pueblo de San Idelfonso, Tesuque Pueblo, Ohkay Owingeh, Navajo Nation, Pueblo of Santa Clara, and Pueblo of Pojoaque)
"Our selection criteria are based on diversity, equity and inclusion, and we look for students for whom the camp can be a life-changing opportunity" says camp organizer and Laboratory researcher Anna Llobet Megias.
With the help of nearly 120 volunteers from Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, and the New Mexico Consortium, the students enjoyed intensive sessions covering a range of topics including physics, computer science, astrophysics, robotics, machine learning and professional development, led by role models who help students identify career pathways the students may not have been exposed to before.
Past camps have proven to inspire and be a pipeline for students, with 24 camp alumni interning at the Laboratory this summer, working with dedicated mentors across a range of different groups.
The Summer Physics Camp's sponsors this year were: Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, LANL Foundation, NM Consortium, ACS, IEE, APS Four Corners, N3B, SAGE- Moore Foundation, Hawaii Museum of Science and Technology, and Tech Source.
Both camps included tours of facilities at the Laboratory, the Summer Physics Camp students visiting the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center (LANSCE) and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory-Pulsed Field Facility, and the JSTI students combining their own trip to LANSCE with a visit to the Bradbury Science Museum.