Nineteen of the country's best and brightest high school students will study molecular biology at the Western Maryland College Summer Science Institute later this month, as the program celebrates its 20th anniversary.
"There will be lectures about how DNA works and, of course, we'll spend a large amount of time in the lab doing hands-on work analyzing DNA," said Randy Morrison, assistant professor of biology at the college.
This is the second year Morrison will teach at the institute.
"They don't get a chance to do a lot of work with DNA in a high school setting because most high schools don't have the equipment needed to do the work," Morrison said. "While they're here, they will isolate and purify DNA from bacteria and other organisms."
The students - most of whom will enter their junior or senior year of high school in the fall - will also study their own DNA.
Nearly three dozen students applied to the institute this year, from places as far as Washington state and Michigan. The 19 successful candidates were selected based on their academic records and recommendations of high school science teachers, Morrison said.
All of the students who participate in the institute's two one-week sessions will live on campus under the direction of a WMC science student.
"More than an educational experience, this will give them a chance to try out college for a week," Morrison said.
Those who complete the program earn one college credit. It costs $550 per student to attend the institute. That fee includes housing, room and board.
The WMC Summer Science Institute was among the first of its kind in the country, Morrison said.
The program was established by WMC biology professor Mike Brown to give top students an opportunity to go beyond what they were learning in high school.
"These students are going to be our future science majors at colleges across the country," Brown said. "This is just another way to help them get ready."