PGSS is going on-line for 2020

Dear PGSS alumni and friends,


We at PGSS Campaign hope that you and your family are doing well during this challenging time.

I\’m writing to let you know about a big change to PGSS this summer.  Sadly, but prudently, Carnegie Mellon has announced that there will be no on-campus student programs this summer, due to the pandemic.  Together with program director Barry Luokkala, we have made the decision to put on an online version of PGSS this summer. 

This year\’s program will run from June 28 – August 1.

This is a great opportunity to salvage the PGSS experience for this year\’s class, but it\’s going to take a lot of work.  Everything we know about how to do a successful program has been designed for the five-week, on-campus model.  We\’re going to have to be creative to give students the kind of experience we\’re aiming for: an environment where students develop close relationships with peers who share their passion for science, and who learn a lot from each other.

To that end, I am writing to ask for volunteers to help with a few things:

1. Since we are not meeting on campus and using the Mellon College laboratories, team projects will be very different than usual.  We especially want to maintain this piece of the program, but we\’ll have to do it without physical laboratories.   On the other hand, because we\’re not confined to Pittsburgh, we can draw on the expertise of all of our alumni and friends to come up with good ideas for team research projects, ideally from someone who would enjoy the opportunity to advise a project via videoconferencing and email.   If you have a good idea for a scientific research project that would be feasible for a team of high-school students, Barry would really appreciate hearing your idea on this form. Even better if you are willing to volunteer to spend at least 6 hours per week advising the students on the project.  (Note that you may earn an honorarium as the formal team-project adviser, if you apply for a PGSS faculty position here, on the CMU website.  If you wish to volunteer without being paid, we will gratefully accept your volunteer hours.)

2. Since we are not going to have the students together in the dorm, we are going to have to replace all of the usual social events and informal interactions that students enjoy together.   I\’m therefore proposing to head a committee of alumni who will be compiling a list of ideas for the online equivalent of our residence-life staff.  For example, we may choose to have the students play board games together via online interfaces, or do an online scavenger hunt together, or solve puzzles together.  We may ask students to do interesting icebreaker exercises at the beginning of the program, and figure out ways to rotate students into different online breakout rooms so that they can have the experience of meeting each other in a fun and hopefully science-oriented way.  I\’m looking for volunteers who would like to brainstorm with us.  If you\’re interested in participating on this committee, please let us know via this same form, and I will schedule some meetings for us.

3. We\’ll also need volunteers to help us test out our new exercises and technology.  If you\’re willing to be a guinea pig for short periods of time, I\’m hoping to get about 50 alumni volunteers to help us stress-test our online technologies and interactive exercises once we\’ve got them developed.  If you\’re willing to serve as such a volunteer a couple of times in May and June, please let us know via this same form and ask to be put on our list of volunteers.

We\’re sad that the 2020 students won\’t get the usual on-campus experience, but with your help we will make the online experience as valuable as possible.  We\’re hoping we will learn new things from conducting the program this way that might enhance the on-campus program once we return to a more normal world.  Note that the volunteer/suggestion form that I referred to in the previous three paragraphs also includes a box for making additional suggestions to improve the program, so please send us your ideas even if you\’re not able to commit to volunteer for one of the above activities.  We welcome ideas of all sorts.

Thanks for all your support of PGSS.  As you know well by now, this program could not exist without alumni support.

Stay safe and healthy,

David Reiley \’86
President, PGSS Campaign, Inc.