Apprentice Quotes

“My mentors were AMAZING. They went completely above and beyond to teach me, make me comfortable, and they were absolutely brilliant.” – Apprentice
“Work was amazing! And the apprentices were so nerdy and cool! I made great friends AND did great, mind-expanding work--when do both of those happen in real life?” - Apprentice
“I developed lots of new friends and had a great time in the lab.” – Apprentice
“The Apprenticeship Program far exceeded my expectations.” – Apprentice
“I learned a lot about the field of professional chemistry and worked very hard. But it wasn't all work and no play. I was able to learn a lot while meeting a few of the most amazing people ever and having lots of fun doing it.” – Apprentice
“I thoroughly enjoyed my experience. Thank you IEA! There really are no words to express how wonderful I thought this program was.”- Apprentice




The Institute for Educational Advancement's Apprenticeship Program is a residential summer program that provides gifted high school students with an invaluable and intensive learning opportunity working with teams of professionals in medicine, industrial design, science, applied mathematics, law and business at some of the nation's leading universities, corporations, and research facilities. Participants of the Apprenticeship Program apply their talents in real-world environments where they are encouraged to employ creative problem-solving techniques and strive to realize the full intellectual and personal potential of their intelligence.

As an Apprentice, you will:

  • Work with a team of scientists, researchers, artists or industry professionals
  • Apply your knowledge and skills in real world situations
  • Develop leadership, interpersonal, team building and creative problem-solving skills that will translate to any career
  • Develop positive, life-changing associations with other highly gifted and creative students and adults
  • Make new friends with peers who share your interests, desires, and ambitions

Apprentices reside in a college dormitory for the duration of the program. (In 2013, Apprentices resided in a residence hall on the University of Southern California campus.*) This experience gives participants the opportunity to sample college life. The gathering of Apprentices from several different programs in one residential area creates a unique community of highly motivated students where the exchange of ideas is encouraged.

In the evenings and on weekends, Apprentices attend cultural events, participate in recreational activities, and explore the city.

Apprentices are supervised by adults throughout the program. All participants work with mentors and their colleagues during the day and are supervised by IEA staff at all other times.


2014 Program Dates

Los Angeles

3-Week Session: June 22 - July 12

4-Week Session: July 13 - August 9

7-Week Session: June 22 - August 9



Click here to download the 2014 Apprenticeship Program application.


Application Deadline (Postmarked by)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Application fee: $50 (to be credited toward the cost of enrollment)

Sign up for our email list to stay updated on Apprenticeship 2015 as sites and information become available!


Tuition for the 2014 Apprenticeship Program is $3,600 for the three-week program, $4,600 for the four-week program, and $7,000 for the seven-week program. Some sites also have a $25 materials fee.

Refer a friend to any 2014 IEA program and receive a $25 discount off the cost of your Apprenticeship Program tuition when he/she attends! (One referral discount per Apprentice; referred student must identify you as the referrer.)

Financial aid is available to individuals who qualify, and financial concerns should not discourage any student from applying. Enrollment packets will be sent after a student is accepted into the program and will include the application for financial aid.

Tuition includes:

  • Room and board
  • Laboratory fees
  • Course materials
  • Recreational programs
  • Evening entertainment
  • Guest lectures
  • Weekend activities

Tuition does not include transportation to and from the Apprenticeship Program. Travel arrangements and their associated costs are the responsibility of the family of the Apprentice. IEA provides transportation to and from the airport for Apprentices arriving by bus or plane. During the program, IEA provides all program-related transportation.

Upon enrollment, a $350 deposit is due to secure the student's space in the program. The remaining tuition is due prior to the beginning of the program.


2014 Sites & Mentors

Dependency and Delinquency Law at the Edmund D. Edelman Children’s Court (June 22-July 12)

Two students will have the opportunity to explore the legalities of dependency and delinquency law with Judge Michael Nash and Attorney Lilia Alvarez Romo along with their team of research attorneys. Judge Nash has been an unwavering advocate for children for over 10 years. He has created transparency within the world of adoptions through his judgeship since 1990. Within the Los Angeles Juvenile Courts, Apprentices will create motions, evaluate depositions, attend court observations, and learn the intricate procedures of juvenile law. Prerequisites: An interest is legal proceedings and strong written and oral communication skills. The student must be 15 years old or older.


Ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles* (June 22-July 12)

One student will have the opportunity to work with Dr. Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy and Aaron Bittel in the department of Ethnomusicology at UCLA. Dr. Catlin-Jairazbhoy has a background in Classical and non-classical music of South and Southeast Asians and Asian-Americans; field methodology; Ethnographic Film in Ethnomusicology; music and the sacred; and applied and public sector Ethnomusicology. One student will be working in the Ethnomusicology Music Archive for three weeks. The archive houses more than 100,000 audiovisual recordings; a large collection of unique instruments from different parts of the world; a research laboratory with audiovisual, computing and electronic equipment that enables faculty and students to conduct psycho-acoustical research as well as edit and create audiovisual recordings; and a publications program that publishes an occasional journal and audiovisual materials on topics of importance in the field of music. Prerequisites include: Interest and background in music and music theory as well as strong written and verbal communication skills. Applicants must be 15 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.



Industrial Design at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena (June 22-July 12)

The industrial design profession encompasses the fields of product, transportation, entertainment, concept and environmental design. Automobiles, sporting goods, electronics, toys and games, clothing, housewares, medical products, entertainment, technology and furniture are just some of the products that industrial designers create. During this three-week program, Apprentices will participate in design projects and learn design methodologies including research, concept development, refinement and final design and presentation. Students are introduced to basic sketching and modeling techniques and attend presentations by professional designers. Prerequisites: basic skills in sketching or alternative art form, an interest in pursuing art and demonstrated patience, time-management and self-motivation.


Media Relations and Social Media at the USC Marshall School of Business* (June 22-July 12)

Under the guidance of Associate Dean Evie Lazzarino, one Apprentice will gain an introductory view into the world of communications at the USC Marshall School of Business by assisting with research, writing news releases and other communications materials, and performing social media tasks, including monitoring Facebook and Twitter. In addition, the student will perform competitive market research and develop and manage informational databases for future study. Duties also include administrative support as needed. Previous knowledge of (or the ability to learn) Google Docs is required and familiarity with Microsoft Office (including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint programs) is preferred. Previous experience with Photoshop, Illustrator, Quark Xpress, and InDesign are helpful but not mandatory. Applicants must be 15 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


Biochemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles* (June 22-August 9)

The regeneration of epidermal cells throughout the body of vertebrates is studied by those in Dr. Alison Frand’s lab. Students will join Dr. Frand’s team to conduct experiments in Biological Chemistry and apply concepts of cell biology and cell production. Apprentices will have the opportunity to learn about the molting cycles of C. elegans and its coordinated tissue development and stem cell division during molting. The implications of Dr. Frand’s research affects more than 140 million people in the world. Prerequisites: Students must have a strong basic knowledge in biology and chemistry and be age 15 or older at the start of the program.


Biology at the University of Southern California* (June 22-August 9)

Two students will have the opportunity to study Molecular and Computational Biology work with Dr. Matthew Dean at University of Southern California. During this seven-week Apprenticeship, the Apprentices will study evolutionary biology using molecular, computational and experimental approaches. One of many projects includes adaptation to urban environments. Mouse populations live side-by-side with humans, often in polluted environments. The selected applicants will be comparing the genomes of “city mice” and “country mice” to try to understand regions of the genome that may allow mice to adapt to urban settings. Click here for more information about Dr. Dean's research. Prerequisites include: Experience in biology and computer sciences as well as strong communication skills. Applicants must be 15 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


Biomedical Research and Engineering at the University of Southern California* (June 22-August 9)

This interdisciplinary opportunity to work for seven weeks with Dr. Ellis Meng and her team of engineers at the Biomedical Microsystems Laboratory at USC offers a hands-on experience with experiment-based data collection and analysis. Dr. Meng was named Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry’s MedTech 40 under 40 in 2012 for her innovations in microtechnology and its application to medicine. The Biomedical Microsystems Laboratory focuses on developing novel micro- and nanotechnologies for biomedical applications. In particular, the group uses biocompatible materials and microelectromechanical systems technology to create devices that address significant but unmet medical needs. The lab currently specializes in tiny implantable devices for treating and monitoring diseases. Prerequisites: Basic knowledge of physics, chemistry, and biology with mastery of algebra. Students must be able to work on a team and be resourceful and creative. Students are required to keep a detailed lab notebook and regularly present their findings in research meetings. Applicants must be 15 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


Cancer Research at a Melanoma Research Clinic (June 22-August 9)

Please email the Apprenticeship Program Coordinator for details. Applicants must be 16 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


Data Science and Mobile App Development at the University of Southern California's Integrated Media Systems Center* (June 22-August 9)

Within USC's Integrated Media Systems Center, one student will have the exciting opportunity to learn, use, and develop various platforms in which Big Data is collected, interpreted, and communicated. Our Apprentice will work closely with a team of computer science scholars and electrical engineers under the guidance of Dr. Cyrus Shahabi, Director of Integrated Media Systems Center, Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, Director of USC’s Information Laboratory, and co-founder of Geosemble Technologies, to research data-driven solutions for real-world application. Dr. Shahabi and his brilliant team will lead our Apprentice as he or she explores geo-spatial metadata-security systems, social media through geocrowdsourcing video data, patterns of patient mobility-health, and/or transportation sensor data. Pre-requisites: Basic working knowledge of computer programming. Student must be resourceful and creative. Applicants must be 15 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


Earth/Space Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles* (June 22-August 9)

Four Apprentices will have the opportunity to work with Dr. Aradhna Tripati, Professor of Earth/Space Sciences, at UCLA. Dr. Tripati’s research group uses the sedimentary record to address fundamental questions about the dynamics of climate change, both past and future. The chosen applicants will work on the development and application of novel geochemical tools to document and understand the evolution of temperature, ice volume, and pH. The research will be focused on applying innovative experimental approaches in order to use the geologic record as a rich laboratory for the study of climate processes. The primary tools used will include the new 'clumped isotope' thermometer and the elemental composition of carbonates. The Apprentices will also integrate geochemical measurements with field-based observations, sedimentologic and micropaleontologic data, and models. Prerequisites: Interest in earth sciences, interest in geology, interest in space sciences, and experience in calculus/pre-calculus. Applicants must be 15 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


Housing Policies and Veteran Homelessness at Inner City Law Center (June 22-August 9)

Within a non-profit legal setting, two students will have the chance to learn about the inner workings of a law center dedicated to social justice. Under the guidance of Lisa Mead, Director of Pro-Bono at the Inner City Law Center and formerly USC Gould School of Law Dean of Students, the selected applicants will join a team of attorneys, paralegals, and law clerks to help realize equity within various housing environments for veterans and local Los Angeles communities. Success stories highlight the invaluable impact this non-profit has on disenfranchised communities. Students will have the opportunity to attend seminars, observe civil and criminal court trials, and have direct insight to the legalities of social justice. Students will help the legal staff through analyzing research, reviewing court documents, and performing administrative tasks as needed. Prerequisites: Interest in social justice and the law, cultural sensitivities, strong written and oral communication skills, strong attention to detail, and willingness to help others.


Interactive Learning About the Universe With the WorldWide Telescope at the California Institute of Technology* (June 22-August 9)

This is an astronomy popularization project for two Apprentices, in the group led by Prof. S. G. Djorgovski at Caltech.

The WorldWide Telescope (WWT) is a sky browser developed by Microsoft Research. It allows a user to explore the sky at a variety of scales and wavelengths and to learn about interesting celestial objects. One nice feature of the WWT is that anyone can create "tours"—multi-media presentations that use it as a platform to showcase or explain particular kinds of astronomical objects, phenomena, etc. (for example, galaxies, supernova remnants, and so on). These tours can then be used as a great educational and public outreach devices.

The goal of this project is to create a number of such tours that can be shared publicly. The presentation level should be about what a high school student would understand—think of it as explaining some astronomical bit to your friends—and it should be both fun to make and fun to watch.

Prerequisites: A passion for astronomy is required, as well as some basic knowledge thereof (e.g., at a popular book level). Programming experience is a plus. Applicants must be 16 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


Shock Wave Focusing at the University of Southern California* (June 22-August 9)

During this seven-week program, one Apprentice will work with Dr. Eliasson and her research team to study shock focusing with applications to sport science. In a laboratory experiment, a projectile from a gas gun impacts onto a sample that contains a water-filled cavity. A shock wave is generated in the water and will transmit to the surrounding solid structure. The goal of this research is to understand how shock wave propagation in water-filled cavities influence the dynamic response of a surrounding structure.The experiments involve high-speed photography and post-processing of material samples. The Apprentice will assist in the shock experiments and will also work on post-processing high-speed photographs as well as the impacted structure. Applicants must be 15 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


Astrophysics at the California Institute of Technology* (July 13-August 9)

Students will have the opportunity to work within Dr. Christian Ott’s research in astrophysics and gravitational pull alongside graduate student Sarah Gossan. One Apprentice will explore the universe and analyze the data that results from the explosion of stars. Dr. Ott’s research is aimed at answering questions about the nature of space and time, the gravitational attraction at atomically small and cosmologically large distances, and the use of gravitational waves to explore the universe. Prerequisites: Student should have basic knowledge in statistics and demonstrate interest in studying cosmology. Applicants must be 16 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


Biomathematics and Life Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles* (July 13-August 9)

During this four-week program, one student will have the opportunity to work with Dr. Van Savage in the department of Life Sciences at UCLA. The Apprentice will use mathematical approaches to understand the causes and consequences of the extraordinary diversity in form and function that exist in biological systems. This site involves independent research as well as data analysis to discover how organismal physiology influences biological structure and dynamics. Suggested prerequisites: strong writing and communication skills, experience in Microsoft Office, strong biology and physics skills, and interest in web design and database language. Applicants must be 15 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


Clinical Pharmacy at University of Southern California* (July 13-August 9)

One Apprentice will have the opportunity to work with USC’s Center for Health Professions and School of Pharmacy. Under the guidance of Associate Professor Mel Baron, PharmD, MPA, one student will complete research on health literacy in the community as well as clinical pharmacy. The Apprentice should have the ability to multi-task on several projects as well as drive to work independently. The goals of this project will be for students to gain an understanding of how to improve health education for patients of all socioeconomic backgrounds. The Apprentice will also complete a pharmaceutical consultation with Professor Baron. Applicants must be 15 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Los Angeles* (July 13-August 9)

Two students will work with Dr. Pamela Yeh in this four-week program at UCLA. Dr. Yeh is an evolutionary biologist, and she focuses on evolution of drug resistance in bacteria. Specifically, she is interested in understanding how we can use drug combinations to slow down the evolution of increased antibiotic resistance and to decrease the likelihood of future evolution of resistance. Applicants must be 15 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


Neuroscience of Memory at the University of California, Los Angeles* (July 13-August 9)

For four weeks, students will have the exciting opportunity to join Dr. David Glanzman and his research team in analyzing the mechanisms of memory retention. His laboratory is interested in the cell biology of learning and memory in simple organisms, such as the marine snail Aplysia and the zebrafish. Apprentices will help to unravel the mechanisms that underlie memory reconsolidation and memory erasure in these organisms within a lab setting. Prerequisites: Students must be 15 years of age or older at the start of this project.


Pediatric Medical Research at Children's Hospital Los Angeles (July 13-August 9)

During this four week program, two Apprentices will work in the laboratory of Dr. Henri Ford and Dr. Jeffrey Upperman of Pediatric Surgery at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. Students will study the pathogenesis of necrotizing enterocolitis, a devastating intestinal disease of premature infants. The students will work with experts in intestinal physiology, molecular biology, and functional genomics. The focus of the research activity is to look at molecular pathways that predispose the intestinal barrier to destruction. Students will present their findings at the end of the program to Mentors and their colleagues. Prerequisites: courses completed in biology and/or other sciences, interest in medicine, demonstrated leadership, and organization and time-management skills. Applicants must be 16 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


2015 sites will be added as they are confirmed. Please check the Apprenticeship page regularly for the most updated list of sites and mentors or sign up for our email list to stay up to date on our future Apprenticeship offerings!

* The Apprenticeship Program is not sponsored or endorsed by California Institute of Technology; University of California, Los Angeles; or University of Southern California.


Past Sites & Mentors

Digital Printing at Avery Research Center

One Apprentice worked with Dr. Radha Sen in the Digital Printing Lab at Avery Research Center. The interaction of digital inkjet ink and vinyl film is an important area of investigation at Avery. A major commercial product they offer involves very large graphic films that are used to wrap trucks, buses, airplanes, and even buildings! In addition, more and more companies are utilizing state-of-the-art digital printers to render compelling images these days.

The Apprentice was involved with developing techniques to measure ink absorption and ink spreading on a vinyl film. He also correlated the methods developed to actual print quality by using different wide-format printers and test beds available in the printing lab. Over the course of the program, the Apprentice was exposed to digital printing, different analytical methods to probe ink and film interactions, and some level of graphics design.


Scientific Measurement of Laminate Materials at the Avery Research Center

At Avery Dennison, a majority of the products are based on paper, film or specialty coatings on top of these substrates. The surface topography, roughness, and surface chemistry of commercial paper and film products are closely related with a number of their key performance properties.  It has been determined that the subtle differences in roughness of the substrate can affect printing, adhesion, release and other manufacturing processes.

Currently, the surface science group at Avery Research Center uses several instruments and techniques for measuring surface roughness including AFM (atomic force microscopy), SMM (scanning microwave microscopy), Confocal microscopy, and the Dektak 8 Advanced Development Profiler. They have recently acquired a new instrument called the GFM MikroCAD 3D measuring system, which has the unique capability of measuring a relatively large area of non-reflective substrate.

In this three week program, one Apprentice focused on learning the basic principles of roughness measurement techniques with the GFM MikroCAD 3D measuring system. The Apprentice studied common materials encountered at Avery, such as polymer film, adhesive, and paper.  During the program, the Apprentice learned about common artifacts for the GFM MikroCAD 3D measuring system and gained an understanding of the advantages and limitations of this system.  The Apprentice extensively explored the surface roughness and morphology of common industrial materials and compared their physical differences.  The Apprentice also analyzed his findings and assisted in establishing correlations between the surface roughness with some of the important industrial processes such as printing, coating, and adhesion.


Applied Physics at the National Science Foundation Center for the Science and Engineering of Materials at the California Institute of Technology*

During this three week program, an Apprentice worked with the Atwater Research Group, whose members are engaged in interdisciplinary materials and device research, spanning photonics and electronics, with applications in Si-based photonics, plasmonics, renewable energy and mechanically active thin film devices. Prerequisites: course completion in physics and/or other sciences, and interest in science and ingenuity. Applicants must be 16 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


Laboratory Studies of Air Pollution Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology*

An Apprentice worked with Professor Mitchio Okumura and his group to study the fundamental reactions that lead to air pollution. The experiments involve the use of physics-based methods such as laser spectroscopy to unravel the mechanisms of reactions that break down volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The Apprentice may do work involving chemical modeling, running quantum chemistry calculations, preparing data acquisition software and electronics, performing data analysis, and assisting in experiments. Prerequisites: strong background in chemistry, physics and math, enthusiasm for science. Knowledge of electronics or computer programming can be helpful but is not essential. Applicants must be 16 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


Materials for Sustainable Energy at the National Science Foundation Center for the Science and Engineering of Materials at the California Institute of Technology*

In this program, two Apprentices worked with Dr. Sossina Haile. The Apprentices participated in the synthesis of new materials for fuel cells, specifically new cathode materials for solid oxide fuel cells. The objective was to discover a material that has both high performance and excellent long term stability. Prerequisites: course completion in one year high school chemistry. Applicants must be 16 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


Materials Science I at the National Science Foundation Center for the Science and Engineering of Materials at the California Institute of Technology*

During this four week program, an Apprentice worked with advanced graduate student Scott Roberts in the lab of Dr. William Johnson. Dr. Johnson's group conducts research on non-equilibrium and metastable materials. During the past decade, his team has developed unusual metallic alloys that fail to crystallize during solidification at low cooling rates, thus forming "bulk" glasses. Research on the liquid alloys includes fundamental studies of rheology, atomic diffusion, crystallization kinetics, liquid/liquid phase separation, and the glass transition. Research on the solid "glassy" materials includes studies of elastic properties, and mechanisms of deformation, flow, and fracture. The group has developed composite materials that employ a metallic glass matrix to achieve unusual combinations of properties for structural engineering applications. Prerequisites: course completion of physics and/or other sciences, basic algebra, an interest in engineering, curiosity, enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. Applicants were required to be 16 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


Materials Science II at the National Science Foundation Center for the Science and Engineering of Materials at the California Institute of Technology*

In this three week program, an Apprentice worked with Dr. Julia Greer exploring the nanomechanical characterization of materials, material properties at nano-scale, and the collective behavior of individual defects and material microstructure. Prerequisites: one year of physics, calculus, chemistry, preferably an AP level science class. Applicants must be 16 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


Materials Science III at the National Science Foundation Center for the Science and Engineering of Materials at the California Institute of Technology*

An Apprentice worked with Dr. Guruswami Ravichandran during this program. Dr. Ravichandran's research focuses on the mechanics of materials, including active materials and structures (ferroelectrics, shape memory alloys, MEMS), biomaterials, bulk metallic glasses, composite materials and dynamic deformation and failure behavior of solids. Prerequisites: one year of physics at the high school level. Applicants must be 16 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


Materials Science IV at the National Science Foundation Center for the Science and Engineering of Materials at the California Institute of Technology*

During this three week program, an Apprentice worked with Dr. David Tirrell. The Apprenticeship project combined organic, biological, and materials chemistry to make new polymeric systems of controlled molecular and supramolecular architectures. Two kinds of systems were under active investigation: artificial proteins made by expression of artificial genes in microbial cells, and flexible polymeric nanowires and nanotubes made by a membrane templating approach. In each case, the Apprentice focused not only on architectural control but also on the functional properties of the macromolecular system of interest. Applicants must be 16 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


Mechanical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology*

One Apprentice had the opportunity to work with Dr. Jose Andrade, Associate Professor of Civil and Mechanical Engineering, at Caltech. Professor Andrade's research focuses on developing a fundamental understanding of the multi-scale and multi-physical behavior of porous media, with application to geologic and engineered infrastructure materials. The chosen applicant researched the following with Dr. Andrade and his team: granular materials, geo-mechanics, carbon sequestration, and multi-scale modeling. Prerequisites: Interest in mechanical engineering and geology, ability to work with a research team, ability to multi-task, and experience in earth sciences and calculus.


Neuroscience and Biology at California Institute of Technology*

One student had the opportunity to work on current research in Caltech’s Biology Department with several Post-Doctorate Fellows. Research interests in the laboratory focus on understanding how emotional behavior is encoded in the brain at the level of specific neuronal circuits and the specific neuronal subtypes that comprise them. Research helped to understand the structure and dynamic properties of these circuits and how they give rise to the outward behavioral expressions of emotions such as fear, anxiety, or anger. Prerequisites included: Experience in physics, calculus, Honors Biology, and chemistry. The applicant must have been at least 16 years of age with an interest in neuroscience. The applicant must have had strong written and oral communication skills.


Scientific Computing at the California Institute of Technology*

An Apprentice worked with Dr. Brent Fultz and his group on computational materials physics. For four weeks, the Apprentice learned how a large, object-oriented software development project is run and helped in a number of ways, based upon his or her interest. Past Apprentices installed, tested and compared graphics programs; tested installation procedures for different computers; looked for inconsistencies in instructions; and provided the research team with valuable opinions. For more information on Dr. Fultz’s research on Distributed Data Analysis for Neutron Scattering Experiments, please click here. Prerequisites: prior programming experience. Applicants must be 16 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


Liver Stem Cell Maintenance at Children's Hospital Los Angeles

During this four week program, one Apprentice worked in the laboratory of Dr. Kasper Wang, M.D. of Pediatric Surgery at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. The student studied the maintenance stem cell population native to the liver. The main focus of the research was on characterization of molecular signaling pathways that lead to the expansion of liver stem cells. The student presented findings at the end of the program to Mentors and fellow researchers. Prerequisites: courses completed in biology and/or other science, interest in scientific research, and demonstration of organizational and time management skills.


Law and Order at the Los Angeles Superior Court

Apprentices worked at courthouses within Los Angeles County for four weeks assisting Superior Court administration and other courthouse staff with their daily duties. Apprentices sat in on trials, had opportunities to speak with the judges about their careers and education, and gained an insider’s peek into the reality of the justice system. A variety of lectures and hands-on tasks provided an in-depth overview of the legal system in action. Apprentices even had the opportunity to meet and speak with high profile Los Angeles attorneys and representatives from the District Attorney’s and Public Defender’s offices. Prerequisites: interest in government and politics, demonstrated leadership, patience, and self-motivation. Applicants were required to be 16 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


Entomology at the San Diego Natural History Museum

Two Apprentices worked together with the Entomology staff to identify, classify, and preserve insects collected for a local arthropod biodiversity study. The experience began with general, order-level sorting of arthropods collected from pit and pan traps to develop familiarity with insect anatomy and classification. Upon developing proficiency with this task the Apprentices were assigned a specific group of insects to “work up.” This involved working with guides, written keys, and literature sources to identify, as specifically as possible, the specimens in the assigned group. Data from the sorted specimens will be entered into the project research data base. Training and guidance, as needed, were provided. Prerequisites: Interest in science, natural history or insects. Required patience, dexterity, attention to detail, penchant for perfection and tolerance for dust and dirt. Must be able to follow precise directions and work independently once trained.


Bioinformatics at San Diego State University

Two Apprentices worked with Dr. Rob Edwards in his Bioinformatics research lab using computers to understand bacteria. Some bacteria cause diseases like strep throat or cholera, but other bacteria are helpful, making antibiotics or food. The research team uses DNA sequencing to explore the genomes of different bacteria, and then analyze those genomes using computer programs written in Python, Perl, and Java. Research in Dr. Edwards’ lab includes making web sites that other researchers use to upload and explore their data, and so the Apprentices learned to write programs and help other people around the world.


Environmental Engineering at San Diego State University

Apprentices worked with Dr. Tyler Radniecki on two environmental engineering projects. The first project was to determine how silver nanoparticles inhibit the beneficial ammonia oxidizing bacteria, Nitrosomonas eurpaea (responsible for removing nitrogen from wastewater and cycling nitrogen in the environment) and what conditions enhance or prevent this inhibition. The ultimate goal was to determine how to design both wastewater treatment processes and designs of the nanoparticle to prevent the inhibition of important beneficial bacteria such as N. europaea. Apprentices grew the bacteria and test its activity when exposed to silver nanoparticles under various environmental conditions. They also learned how to make growth curves, measure nitrite concentrations, determine bacteria activity and use these findings to characterize what happens to the silver nanoparticles under different environmental conditions.

Apprentices also worked on examining the increase in antibiotic resistance in bacteria exposed to trace environmental concentrations of antibiotics. Apprentices worked in the lab with pure cultures of non-pathogenic bacteria. They grew the bacteria in test media that contains various dilute concentrations of antibiotics and determined the gain of antibiotic resistance by quantifying the MIC (minimum inhibitory concentration – the concentration of antibiotics that inhibits all visible growth) using micro-dilution assays. The Apprentices learned how to measure growth of the bacteria by measuring optical densities and by measuring oxygen consumption rates. By using a wide variety of bacteria, the students identified how the differences in the bacteria (e.g. their membrane compositions or their preferred food source) influenced the rate of gain of antibiotic resistance. Students also helped collect samples to have the antibiotic concentration measured by liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry, mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) analysis. The results of this work will help policy makers more accurately quantify the risks of antibiotics in the environment.


Optical Trapping (Physics) at San Diego State University

The goal of producing and controlling exact forces on small particles using lasers was first achieved in 1970 by Arthur Ashkin. In the following years, he refined his model until he began to observe the phenomenon that is known today as optical trapping. Optical traps are instruments that function by focusing an intense laser beam to an extremely specified point at which a particle is placed, thus “trapping” it in space--rendering it stable in three dimensions. This discovery opened a plethora of research possibilities, serving as a foundation for many applications. Examples in Biology include holding and manipulating DNA strands by their ends, examining E. Coli bacteria without the use of a physical implement, and many other situations where it is advantageous to work with light instead of physical tools. We successfully have developed SDSU’s first optical trap in the physics department. Using a focused infrared beam of light, we are able to trap and manipulate micron sized silica beads. Further, by combining this with the femtosecond vortex beams currently being produced in our laboratory, we will be able to construct a microfluidic pump--a device which has the ability to transport, using light alone, a series of particles along a pre-specified path of significant length. This project will explore optical trapping theory and experiments.  One Apprentice worked with Dr. Matt Anderson to learn about lasers and laser safety, optics and optical alignment, trapping, imaging, and manipulation.


Study of Carbon Dioxide Emissions at San Diego State University

One Apprentice worked with Dr. Buyuksonmez in the Composting Laboratory at San Diego State University. The Apprentice focused on the waste management and Greenhouse gas emissions resulting from waste management processes. The Apprentice investigated the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions with bio-slurry applied on the composting windrows.


The Biophysics of Hearing at the University of California, Los Angeles*

The sense of hearing plays an important role in our lives, as it helps us to locate objects in space, orient ourselves in our environments, and communicate with each other. The acuity of our hearing is largely the result of remarkable properties of hair cells, specialized cells of the inner ear that detect mechanical stimuli and transduce them into electrical signals. These cells display extreme sensitivity – they can detect mechanical displacements smaller than 1 nm – and yet can withstand loud sounds, covering a range of about 6 orders of magnitude. Despite being immersed in a dissipative fluid environment, hair cells can amplify incoming mechanical stimuli, sustain prolonged oscillations, and even lead to the spontaneous emission of sound. The Bozovic Laboratory at the University of California, Los Angeles examines the mechanical forces that hair bundles exert in response to a stimulus, to understand the underlying biophysics.

One Apprentice worked with members of the Bozovic Lab to image hair bundles from different auditory organs, to study their size and orientation. Many of these systems have very intricate regulation of stiffness and number of stereocilia within one hair cell, and a careful characterization will help us understand how these mechanical properties relate to the cell’s frequency tuning and function. Applicants must be 16 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


Seagrass Ecology at the University of California, Los Angeles*


One Apprentice worked in Dr. Peggy Fong’s Lab on her seagrass ecology research project to examine the impact macroalgae had on seagrass density and growth as well as associated invertebrate diversity. The Apprentice assisted with preparing and setting up experiments, taking samples from the bay, and processing collected samples in the lab at UCLA. The Apprentice gained lab experience as well as the opportunity to assist with research in the field at Morro Bay collecting samples from the seagrass bed. The Apprentice had the opportunity to get into the water to do this, but also was able to collect samples at low tide by walking out to the cages that they will assist in building and setting up for the experiment. The Apprentice was required to write up a report about their research and present their findings to the lab group and other IEA program participants. Applicants must be 16 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


Air Pollution Research at the Aerosol Lab of the University of Southern California*

One Apprentice worked with Dr. Sioutas and his research group in the Aerosol Lab at the University of Southern California.  The major objective of his group’s work at the USC Aerosol Lab is to investigate the underlying mechanisms that produce the health effects associated with exposure to air pollutants generated by a variety of sources, such as traffic (including light and heavy duty vehicles, natural gas buses, and biodiesel vehicles), harbor and airport operations, power plants, and photochemically induced atmospheric reactions.  Members of the research group focus their work on particulate matter (PM) and its gaseous precursors in the atmosphere.  Through their research efforts, they seek to understand how toxic mechanisms and resulting health effects attributable to these air pollutants vary with their source, chemical composition and physical characteristics. Facilities at the USC Aerosol Lab (2,000 sq. ft.) include state of the art instrumentation worth approximately $1.5M for testing and developing new sampling equipment.  Additionally, an Engineering workshop was available, equipped with state-of-the-art computer-aided machining and design facilities. 

The group’s work has been motivated by the emerging scientific literature linking mortality and morbidity to exposure to PM.  The Apprentice in the Aerosol Lab was involved in the following research activities:

1) Investigation of the physical and chemical properties of pollutants emitted from different sources (traffic, power plants, airports, harbors, atmospheric reactions).

2) Assessment of relative toxicity of pollution sources using as realistic atmospheres and exposure levels as possible, using technologies developed by the group at USC.

3) Investigations of the chemical and toxicological properties of PM and co-pollutants emitted from newer vehicles that are designed to meet the 2007 emission standards of the state of California. These vehicles include low sulfur diesel equipped with catalytic filters, biodiesel, compressed natural gas buses, and gasoline vehicles.

4) Assessment of the contributions of the main outdoor pollution sources to indoor air exposure and toxicity.


Examining the Neural Substrate of Social Emotions at the University of Southern California*

One Apprentice worked with Glenn Fox, a member of Antonio Damasio's research team in a groundbreaking project on how the brain processes social information and social relationships. Specifically, he was a part of one of the first full-fledged investigations into the emotion of gratitude. The Apprentice was also involved in creating stimuli to use in the team's MRI scanner and helping to design experiments related to the topic. The Apprentice also gained experience working with magnetic resonance images of brains and formed a part of the team's data processing pipelinefrom the brain scanning session, to the analysis of large data sets. Prerequisites: biology or psychology, some prior programming experiencedoes not need to be extensive, but experience with Java, C, Matlab or even html is extremely useful. Applicants must be 16 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site. 


Genetics of Type 2 Diabetes at the Keck School of Medicine of USC*

During this four week program, an Apprentice worked in the laboratory of Dr. Richard Watanabe in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. The student studied the relationship between genetic variation and implications for risk for type-2 diabetes and diabetes-related traits, like glucose and insulin levels. The student was exposed to a broad spectrum of disciplines including statistics, computing, molecular biology, human genetics, and physiology and the integration of these diverse disciplines. Prerequisites: courses in the biological sciences, familiarity with computers and computing required, courses in advanced mathematics preferred, strong interest in medicine and applied mathematics, demonstrated leadership, organization and time-management skills.


Granular Material Failure and Flow in the Geomechanics Imaging Lab at the University of Southern California*

During this four week program, one student apprenticed with Dr. Amy Rechenmacher in the Geomechanics Imaging Lab at USC and was involved in an experimental study of jamming and flow in granular materials. Granular materials, such as sand grains in a landslide and grains in a silo, manifest unusual behavior: when stable, they behave as solids, but upon the initiation of failure, they flow like liquids.  This jamming-unjamming “phase” transition currently is not well understood. Granular materials primarily transmit force via “force chains”, or connective networks of only a handful of particles. Force chains are short lived, and their collapse induces vortices, and in turn turbulent flow. As a means of advancing understanding of granular material behavior, Dr. Rechenmacher and her colleagues conduct tests on sands and glass beads in an apparatus bounded by glass walls to enable image-based recording of the granular flow fields, and they use Digital Image Correlation (DIC) to track particle-scale movements, providing the means to characterize and understand force chain and vortex behavior. The Apprentice contributed to this testing and image and data analysis during his time in the lab. Prerequisites: strong working knowledge of Microsoft Excel. 


Health Policy at the University of Southern California*

One student had the privilege of working with Associate Professor & Associate Director Dr. Zissimopolous at the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics. The student had an opportunity to conduct research under the guidance of Dr. Zissimopolous and participate in translating research findings to inform policymakers, the business community and the general public through outlets including social media and research briefs. The chosen student worked on a research project with the USC team under the broader topic area of health economics and policy. Prerequisites: Strong writing and communication skills with an overall interest in health policy. Student must have taken Biology and have interest in Statistics.


Scientific Reasoning at the University of Southern California*

One Apprentice worked with Dr. Roger Ghanem and his group on developing methodologies for ascertaining the validity of predictions made by computer simulations. For four weeks the Apprentice read literature on methods by which predictions have been validated since the early days of science. The Apprentice learned about describing uncertainties in models and experiments, as well as the elements of statistical thinking. The Apprentice also learned to use software tools for statistical data analysis. The Apprentice directed their readings to applications related to Dr. Ghanem's research in the areas of carbon sequestration and nuclear safety. Prerequisites: good communication and writing skills, good mathematics skills. 


* The Apprenticeship Program is not sponsored or endorsed by California Institute of Technology; University of California, Los Angeles; or University of Southern California.

IEA welcomes your comments, questions, and suggestions!

Please email us at




Program Feedback

Each year, IEA conducts an extensive evaluation of the Apprenticeship Program. Below are some of the comments received.


Student Survey Responses

“It was great to be able to develop friendships, not only with other Apprentices, but with my mentor, and also to work on real-life problems in a professional setting.”


“I would not trade my summer for anything. The friends I made at work and camp were so genuine and caring and I hope I will see them again. The hospital was AMAZING!”


“I am thankful for the opportunity to take part in this program and to work in a professional environment in an exciting field. It is great to have been at a place like Caltech, which is always on the edge of technological discovery. I had a wonderful time at IEA. The experience I gained from meeting different people from across the nation, as well as from working as an apprentice, is unlike any other I have ever had. I am now more passionate about physics than ever, and I would like to continue studying it in college - hopefully at Caltech. The staff at IEA is doing an amazing job to make this program possible. I appreciate your efforts, and I hope that IEA continues to provide opportunities for high school kids to realize their dreams.”


"I met a lot of really amazing, intelligent and talented new friends. It was both a humbling and inspiring experience, which helped me understand myself a lot better in some ways."


"I gained new friends, the 'college experience', and profound knowledge in the field of mechanical engineering. This is important because these opportunities come very rarely."


"Working in a high school lab is one thing, but being able to work in a professional environment with real scientists on legitimate jobs really gave me a feel for being a professional scientist."


"Overall, this was such an amazing experience. I loved every bit of it: from the hands-on experience in the lab working with DNA, to amazing weekend excursions with such awesome people. I was not expecting to receive such an amazing opportunity to explore the field of molecular biology in a lab this summer, but thanks to this program, I did."


"I thoroughly enjoyed my experience. Thank you IEA! There really are no words to express how wonderful I thought this program was."


"I learned a lot about the field of professional chemistry and worked very hard. But it wasn't all work and no play. I was able to learn a lot while meeting a few of the most amazing people ever and having lots of fun doing it."


Parent Survey Responses

"Being exceptionally gifted, [my son] mostly felt bored at school. He was, however, sufficiently challenged at this Apprenticeship Program that he said he wouldn't mind if the program were run longer than 3 weeks. He definitely was engaged."


“My daughter gained a lot of confidence both in dealing with adults and peers. We were amazed at how well she appeared to function at work like a college educated adult.”


“Nothing can compare to hands-on experience in a world class environment…[a] truly unique program; I could not have scripted it any better!”


“My son stepped out of his comfort zone to work in the lab and gained valuable insight in the field. He had the opportunity to do several college tours. He met kids he really liked. He enjoyed seeing LA & surrounding areas.”


“My daughter gained a lot of knowledge and confidence in working in a corporate environment, and learned to confidently approach and talk to senior executives.”


Mentor Survey Responses

“I enjoyed my interaction with [the Apprentice], and I believe that the program is worthwhile, so the interaction was rewarding in a personal way.”


“I gained a renewed passion from working with my Apprentice and the collaboration made the experiment a lot easier than before.”


“We have seen our program procedures through a new set of eyes.”


"This was the first chance I have had to mentor someone in a professional setting, and I found that it was rewarding and enjoyable. It also put into perspective for me the important role of educational outreach at research universities.”


 Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Who should apply to the Apprenticeship Program?

A. You should apply to the Apprenticeship Program if you are interested in gaining hands-on experience working in the field you wish to pursue, if you are excited about the opportunity to experience dorm-living and a taste of college life, and if you want to be surrounded by your intellectual and creative peers. This program is different from other programs in that you are able to work side-by-side with professionals on the work they are currently doing versus attending classes. Apprentices must be current 9th-11th graders and must be under the age of 18 for the duration of the program.


Q. Am I eligible to apply?

A. You are eligible to apply if you are currently a high school freshman, sophomore, or junior and you meet the prerequisites for your preferred site(s).


Q. Is financial aid available?

A. Financial aid is available. Upon acceptance into the program, an enrollment packet will be sent out to families (which includes financial aid forms). All of this information will be included in the enrollment packet.


Q. I’m an artist. How do I know if I qualify as a gifted student?

A. There is no test score that determines whether you are a gifted artist. As part of our comprehensive application, we require samples of your work to gauge your skill and perspective as an artist. It is important that you submit works you think are the best representation of your artistic abilities.


Q. I was an Apprentice last year. Do I complete all elements of the application this year?

A. No. As a returning Apprentice, you are only required to complete the General Application (Sections 1 & 2), Section 3: Quick Takes, Section 5: Site Selections & Requirements, and Section 8: Student & Guardian Signatures. You must also attach any transcripts from new coursework.


Q. What is the deadline to apply?

A. The deadline to apply for the 2014 Apprenticeship Program is April 7, 2014.


Q. When will we be notified of our acceptance and placement into the Apprenticeship Program?

A. Apprentices will be notified of their acceptance into the program and site assignment in early May. 


Q. How likely is it that I will get into my preferred site?

A. All of our sites are highly competitive. Please be intentional when deciding which samples of work you wish to include with your comprehensive application. The more your work demonstrates ability in your field of choice, the better your chances of being placed in your preferred site.


Q. Do you have sites outside of California?

A. We are always willing to open sites where the demand is strong. In previous years, we have had sites across the country, including sites in Carlisle, PA, and Atlanta, GA.




IEA welcomes your comments, questions, and suggestions!

Please email us at