PGSS 2023

a.k.a. “Plenty of Games and Social Situations” (Noah Beckish); “Parth Giving Students Smiles” (Felix Yang); “People Getting Subpar Sleep” (Carter Rogers); “Please Get Some Sleep” (Selina Lin, Sav Stackhouse); “Pennsylvania’s Greatest Silliest Students” (Yeana Kim); “Potentially the Greatest Strangest Surprise” or “Passionate Group of Special Studs” (Vanesa Aguay); “Plainly the Greatest Summer Session” or “People Great at Spelling Acronyms” (Parth Parikh); “Parth’s Great Scientific Summit” (Nidhi Ram); “Pennsylvania Group Sleep Study” (Thomas Hasty); “Puns n Giggles with Super Snoozers” (Dorothy Liu); “Pennsylvania’s Greatest Scientific Summit” (Arjun Suryawanshi); “Play Games, Stop Stressing!” (Yanwei Liu); “Pioneering Grateful, Synergetic Students” (Valerie Xu)

A Note from the PGSS Class of ’23

Goofy. Unforgettable. Inspirational. Motivating. Nerdy. And, as said best by TA Christian, acronym. All different words that seem to have little in common other than the fact that they have been used to describe PGSS in 2023. In the same sense, on the rainy morning of July 3rd, 2023, 71 rising high school seniors from across the state of Pennsylvania were dumped into the AC-less Donner House. On the first day, we 71 students thought we had nothing in common other than our acceptance to PGSS (and our imposter syndrome), but now, each and every one of us understands how emphatically untrue that is. On that first day, we thought the Pennsylvania Governor School of the Sciences was a “school”, which it technically is. Well, at least as Merriam-Webster defines it, PGSS is truly “an organization that provides instruction.” But that is a very small slice of the 3.14159 that is the true PGSS experience.

Over the course of the camp, we engaged in everything from square dancing to playing karaoke and gambling off invaluable Barry bucks — things nobody would have expected from a “nerd camp”. As time went on, we began to realize more and more of what PGSS truly was. We began to realize that it was a time of growth, a time of exploration, and a time of discovery. Perhaps most importantly, it was a time when we learned the quintessential life skill of how to fit a train of size 4L into a ferry of size 3L. Oh, the moments were fleeting but the memories… the memories are etched in stone.

So, if you’re reading this as a prospective future govie, don’t think twice about applying. There is no doubt in this world that you won’t enjoy your time at PGSS. And remember: cherish every moment at PGSS. In the weeks after you come back home, it’ll feel like a fever dream that seems too good to have been true.

The rest of this page is just a glimpse into that fever dream! 😀

A Short Phrase Describing PGSS

Jessica Hou

An unforgettable 5 weeks filled with challenging work but invaluable rewards

Carter Rogers

Both the longest and shortest five weeks of my life

Viki Huang

5-weeks of deprived sleep and continuous fun, all-in-one.

Yanwei Liu

A whirlwind of new experiences and cramming as much information as you can into your brain before it explodes

Carter Brown

Nerd people do nerd stuff

Vanesa Aguay

One of those not-what-I-expected and feels-like-a-fever-dream but life-changing kind of experience

Dorothy Liu

Students who gain valuable research experience, muscles, and lifelong friends by doing brain-aching homework, walking everywhere, and being silly gooses

Courses

  • Basic Science to Modern Medicine: The Biology of Cancer, Stem Cells, and Genome Editing with Applications to 21st Century Therapeutics
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Computer Science – Programming Languages and Engineering Tradeoffs
  • Discrete Mathematics
  • Concepts of Modern Physics

Electives

  • Mathematical Finance
  • Laser Technology
  • Foundations of Music: Science and Mathematics
  • How and Why to go Beyond the Discovery of the Higgs Boson
  • You and your Microbiota: the role of the microbiota in physiology and disease
  • Biology: Brain on the Fritz – A survey of neurological diseases
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
  • Computer Science: Introduction to Programming using Python

Labs

  • Biological Techniques Laboratory
  • Organic Chemistry Laboratory
  • Computer Science Workshop
  • Techniques Of Experimental Physics
  • Mathematics Laboratory

Favorite Courses/Electives/Labs

Brain on the Fritz - Dr. McGuire was so much fun as a teacher, I truly felt like I learned about the biology and social aspects of neurological conditions while being able to discuss many potential solutions and their connection to broader society.

Arjun Suryawanshi

I truly enjoyed the elective course on the microbiota because I never knew that the microbiota could be linked to conditions ranging from leaky gut syndrome to autism.

Grace Barlett

Brain on the Fritz - it was an engaging course where we dove into neuroscience and its applications in healthcare and societal perceptions

Valerie Xu

Microbiota because it was incredibly interesting and informative, and there was no homework 🙂

Rachael Saldubehere

Mathematical Finance. Just three words: Zero Coupon Bond

Sooraj Tharumia

Special relativity! Professor Collins had picture-perfect drawings of horses & buggies and his teaching style was engaging even for sleep-deprived students.

Yanwei Liu

Brain on the Fritz - I learned so much and the classroom environment was very welcoming.

Sav Stackhouse

Higgs, It just stood out the most to me

Ben Nguyen

Brain on the Fritz because the brain is a super interesting subject and also Dr. McGuier is awesome.

Dorothy Liu

Math Lab: was able to really explore my love for math further and learned applications that I had never been taught before in regular school classes.

Nidhi Ram

My favorite elective was ``You and Your Microbiota``. In every class you just find out that your microbiota has more and more of an effect on you and it is exciting to follow the research trail.

Thomas Hasty

My favorite PGSS course had to be the Higgs Boson because it entirely surprised me. I thought that quantum physics would be boring since it is too small to see and I had no real reference for it, but I really ended up enjoying learning about it.

John Beeson

Even though the problem sets that went along with the physics core course were brutal, I really enjoyed the class and trying to wrap my head around challenging concepts like time dilation and Lorentz contractions. Professor Collins (the professor who taught the course) also incorporated jokes and stories that made the class all that much more engaging!

Parth Parikh

Modern physics with Professor Collins and learning all about boosting which might come in handy in the future. Besides giving us the book and helpful resources, he made every special relativity class incredibly interesting.

Vanesa Aguay

You and Your Microbiota - Dr. McCartney is a really engaging professor, and I learned a lot about analyzing data from all of the research that was presented to us. It was really interesting to hear how the microbiota is involved in so many different aspects of human health (e.g. disease development, drug response, mental health).

Megan Xie

Brain on the Fritz - super interesting

Yeana Kim

I really enjoyed special relativity. It was a topic that I’ve never heard of and homework was both challenging and fun to work through.

Selina Lin

My favorite PGSS elective was You and Your Microbiota. The course changed the way I thought about health and medicine. Additionally, the course elucidated the many ways in which the bacteria that live in and on your body can affect your day to day wellbeing.

Carter Rogers

My favorite elective was Brain On Fritz because we were able to have really deep and meaningful conversations about different diseases and illnesses that were taboo or misleading in media.

Viki Huang

Mathematical Finance, it made me think about money in a new way.

Noah Beckish

Special relativity, because Professor Collins was hilarious.

Felix Yang

My favorite course was the higgs boson elective because I got to learn about the particle accelerators and what the higgs boson actually is.

Carter Brown

Team Projects

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  • DNA Damage & Ultraviolet Radiation: Efficacy of Various SPF Containing Products on Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • Investigating the Impacts of Environmental Factors on Neuron Function Using L. terrestris and C. elegans
  • Determining the Secondary Structure of a Cyclic Antimicrobial Peptide Using Circular Dichroism
  • Analysis of Atmospheric Trends and Climate Change Impacts Using Pittsburgh Weather Balloon Data
  • A Breath of Fresh Air? Analysis of Outdoor and Indoor Air Quality and Exposure in Pittsburgh
  • Journey Through the Star: A Minimax Exploration of Chinese Checkers
  • Connecting the Dots: Using Turn-Based Game Strategy to Solve Dots and Boxes
  • Paper Soccer: Exploration of Decision Tree Algorithms
  • Long Ago, in a Globular Cluster Far, Far Away: Discovering the Secrets of the Universe with the Messier 13 Globular Cluster
  • Computational Modeling and Simulation of Inductive Traffic Loops for Vehicle Detection and Novel Classification Utilizing Deep Learning
  • Metal Detection Techniques Using Mutual and Self Inductance
  • Light: Wave, Particle or Something Else?
  • Crystal Structure and Differences in Magnetic Behavior in Copper Sulfate and its Hydrates

Social Events

Our Residence Life Director and TAs organized fun and exciting social events that helped foster a tight-knit family by the end of the program. Thanks Cam, Matt, Annie, Ashley, Christian, Nikki, Tripp, Liam, Lora, Krystof, Mike, Léa, Julia, and Haley!

Favorite Social Event

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Favorite Inside Joke

  • Resnik serves pepperoni pizza and cantaloupe on cloudy days. (Grace Barlett)
  • We going to the Museum. (Sooraj Tharumia)
  • Anserine (Harry Feng)
  • *taps on wrong shoulder* (Sav Stackhouse)
  • When Carlos asked if Ashley was “nearfarted” (nearsighted + farsighted) (He was tired) or when Tripp said he would be in “Dorothy A302” (John Beeson)
  • “Mike, I would write something nice for you, but you’d probably make me redo it.” (Thomas Hasty)
  • Hunt Library (Luke Philip)
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Things We Experienced for the First Time

Being able to have a great conversation with quite literally everyone. Everyone was so down to earth and loved learning that it was just a great experience.

Arjun Suryawanshi

I got to work in an actual chemistry lab for the first time.

Carter Brown

Lecture style teaching.

Viki Huang

The lack of grades/class rank - we were able to collaborate on homework and help each other out without the constant pressure of competition

A PGSS Govie

Discrete mathematics

Rachael Saldubehere

I'm normally someone who doesn't go out and hang out with friends, but the social events pushed me out of my secluded social bubble and allowed me to connect with so many brilliant individuals.

A PGSS Govie

Being in an environment with so many passionate, intelligent, and kind peers, TA's and mentors who want you to succeed

Jessica Hou
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Favorite Memory at PGSS

Jessica Hou

1) Being locked outside of Donner because Cam was giving the boys a very serious talk, and
2) Every moment that I spent with friends

Selina Lin

Having sleep overs at mega bed. We crammed 10 mattresses in one room with air conditioning.

Noah Beckish

Tripping and getting up at the Goofy Olympics backwards race

Felix Yang

Losing all of my Barry Bucks at Casino Night

Parth Parikh

During Improv Night, we played a game where pairs of people would start acting and freeze when someone from the audience yelled ``Freeze!`` At that point, the audience member would replace one of the two people acting and change the scenario being acted out. When we played the game, the... interesting storyline twists were definitely one of the highlights of my PGSS experience!

Yeana Kim

Having sleepovers to try to get homework done together

Megan Xie

Getting a negative R-squared value in the team project but then working together to troubleshoot

John Beeson

My favorite memory from PGSS had to be walking to Squirrel Hill and back while talking with my friends. We would go out for dinner, get ice cream at Coldstone, and talk together for hours.

Luke Philip

Countless 3 AM hallway conversations discussing the world’s biggest problems

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Final Words

If you're a future applicant reading this, stop the overthinking and go apply immediately. If you're a future govie, I know the program may seem intimidating and you'll definitely experience imposter syndrome. But know that this experience is suppose to challenge you to another level and it can be extremely rewarding. This place is a no judgement zone, so if you don't know anything, it's okay!

Dorothy Liu

would recommend the program to any students that are genuinely interested in learning, and exploring a wide range of STEM topics

Harry Feng

PGSS may really be a giant sleep study to see how severe acute sleep deprivation affects the performance of high achieving students. To be serious though, PGSS felt like a very real and authentic dive into what science really is.

Thomas Hasty

At PGSS, not only did I learn so many things not taught at my school, but I also met some of the most brilliant, kind, and enthusiastic people who stayed up and crammed homework with me, and who will become lifelong friends.

Megan Xie

Every junior should apply

Felix Yang

I wish i pay attention in physics so that i could make time-dilation work

Ben Nguyen

pgss was amazing, i met really great people and loved the experience 🙂

Nidhi Ram

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the following people and corporations who made PGSS possible:

  • Dr. Barry Luokkala & Ms. Melissa Lessure
  • Professors & Faculty
  • TAs & RLD Cam
  • CMU & Mellon College of Science
  • PGSS Campaign, Inc.
  • Supporters of PGSS

And now the famously infamous memes...

page created by Megan Xie, Parth Parikh, Dorothy Liu, Felix Yang, and Sanjana Balaji