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Mentor Immersion Experiences


Fall 2024 Mentorships will be announced on June 4, 2024.

We are glad you are interested in Mentor Immersion, our virtual mentorship program, at PTY!

In the sections below, students and families may view the mentorship experience titles, descriptions, meeting times, as well as availability. All meeting times are in Central Time.

Please note that the synchronous, weekly, virtual meeting times vary by experience. The meeting time for each mentorship experience is listed with the description in the sections below. Meetings times may change after the start of the mentorship. However, times will only be changed if an unanimous decision can be reached by the mentor and mentees for a change.

Course Availability Key:

full, no longer accepting applications
full, waiting list only
available, limited space
available

Course availability will be updated on a weekly basis during open application periods. However, availability can change quickly during peak application times and availability in certain experiences may not always be accurately reflected on this page during peak times. If your content area of interest is currently listed as “waiting list only,” click here to learn more about the waiting list process. Please contact our office at 615-322-8261 or pty.peabody@vanderbilt.edu if you have questions about availability or the length of the waiting list for a particular mentorship experience.

**Note: For all PTY mentorships, multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

If you would like to be one of the first to know when the next Mentor Immersion Cohort is announced, join our mailing list!

Please select a session below to jump to the mentorship experience descriptions and meeting times for that session. Please note that mentorship experiences and mentors are subject to change.

 

View Previous Mentorship Experiences

Mentor Immersion (Summer 2024) – Rising Grades 11-12

Choose an experience title below based on your grade level to view the description and meeting time. All meeting times are in Central Time. Students can expect approximately 3-6 hours per week of additional meaningful work outside of the live sessions during the mentorship experience. Mentorships and/or mentors are subject to change. Learn More | Applications are no longer being accepted for the Summer 2024 cohort.

May 13, 2024 – August 12, 2024

Deciphering Gene Expression: Epigenetics in Development and Disease

Deciphering Gene Expression: Epigenetics in Development and Disease (May 13, 2024 – August 12, 2024) – [status: full, no longer accepting applications]
Meeting Time: Mondays and Thursdays from 6:00PM to 8:00PM CST
Instructor: Anna Johnson | View Instructor Bio

Each cell in our body contains the same DNA, yet variation in how that genetic information is expressed allows them to perform widely different functions. A key source of this regulated expression is the so-called “histone code.” Billions of base pairs of DNA in each nucleus are packaged around proteins called histones, which also serve as signposts to direct expression of genes in their vicinity. In this mentorship, you will explore the genetic architecture and gene expression in both normal and disease states and discuss how the proteins that “read and write” histone modifications interact with each other and the environment during multicellular development, including what happens when their behavior becomes dysregulated. In addition, you will learn how to dissect primary scientific literature, utilize public genomic datasets, and effectively communicate findings to your peers by writing and defending a mock scientific proposal.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

How the Human Body Heals: An Introduction to Tissue Engineering

How the Human Body Heals: An Introduction to Tissue Engineering (May 13, 2024 – August 12, 2024) – [status: full, no longer accepting applications]
Meeting Time: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6:00PM to 8:00PM CT

Instructors: Duby Okonkwo | View Instructor Bio

Have you ever had a paper cut or a scraped knee? Have you ever wondered how it healed or why some heal with a scar and others do not? Traditionally, we think of our organs, such as the heart, bone, and skin, as different entities, but they are all products of a single cell, called a zygote, that is the starting point for all of us. No matter how different our cells may be in look and function, they still all share the same exact DNA. Similarly, our organs are well differentiated to serve a purpose for our whole body, but they still share some similarities, including the basic principles of healing. Healing does not always succeed, which is the case of damaged heart muscle after a myocardial infarction (heart attack), but other times, as in the case of skin cuts, healing is able to proceed mostly without difficulty. Understanding both the similarities as well as differences that lead to this is essential for designing effective therapies to help when the body cannot heal itself.

This mentorship, led by a Vanderbilt M.D./Ph.D. student, will address the roles of different organs and how they serve the human body introducing you to the various, clever ways that we use our knowledge about the physiology of organs to try to promote healing. You will explore examples of how organs sustain injury in the course of performing their role and the basics of how healing either progresses or stalls, comparing organs that heal well to those that do not, highlighting key similarities and differences. By investigating the different tissue engineering strategies that are used when healing fails, such as whole organ engineering for organ donation, including the challenges that these strategies face, you will gain the skills and tools for gathering information for biomedical research. This mentorship will culminate in a final project where you will choose an organ of interest, discuss the organ’s physiology, highlight a common condition that affects the organ, and finally propose a hypothetical treatment for the condition based on your understanding of the physiology.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness

Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness (May 13, 2024 – August 12, 2024) – [status: no longer accepting applications]
Meeting Time: Wednesdays and Thursdays, 5:00PM to 7:00PM CST
Instructor: Ashleigh Maxcey, Ph.D. | View Instructor Bio

How do we define and achieve happiness? What increases the human capacity for joy, meaning, and hope? What are the traits of a positive institution? Positive psychology is the study of exceeding baseline human potential. This immersion experience is an opportunity for young people to understand and implement habits that have the capacity to increase their joy, meaning, and hope in our post-covid world rich in anxiety and depression. By the end of the mentorship, you will leave with a better understanding of the happiness tools that work for you, the peer-reviewed science behind the study of high achievement, the intersection of wellbeing and career paths, components of positive institutions, cultural differences in the pursuit of joy, and strategies to incorporate these lessons into college life and beyond.

From successful leaders to compelling politicians to empathetic doctors, every future career path is enhanced using this science of happiness. This immersion experience will culminate in a professional presentation where you will select a particular institution or target population of interest and cater a Happiness 101 implementation plan on tangible directions, supported by empirical research, to introduce and implement positive psychology practices for their unique situation.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

Studies in Clinical Psychology: Principles and Applications of Research Science

Studies in Clinical Psychology: Principles and Applications of Research Science (May 13, 2024 – August 12, 2024) – [status: full, no longer accepting applications]
Meeting Time: Mondays and Wednesdays, 6:00PM to 8:00PM CT

Instructors: Pietra Bruni, Ph.D.| View Instructor Bio

This mentorship will address the intersection between clinical and research psychology and focus on the exciting and complex work that happens in the field of research science. Clinical psychologists are focused on causes, treatments, and prevention of different types of disorders. Clinical psychologists who are involved in research science ask questions like — How do we learn about the way people think, feel, and behave? How can psychopathology be studied in an ethical way? What approaches are used for disseminating research findings, and how are findings utilized in clinical settings? Throughout the mentorship, you will gain a foundational understanding of content knowledge crucial to the field, so that you can begin the process of designing and developing your own research project. You can expect advanced lectures, labs, extensive study, an introduction to clinical resources used in the field, and guest lectures from fellow clinicians and research scientists.

Coupled with this content knowledge will be discussions on research design methods. How do you design a study? What are ethical practices for involving people? What is a good question? How do you get approval to conduct a study? How do you analyze and interpret data? Ultimately, you will use your research science understanding to create an independent project (with input from your mentor) as you synthesize literature in the field about a current clinical psychology question. The possibilities for your own project are endless and could be related to a specific psychopathology, social-connectedness during the Covid pandemic, the gut-brain connection, or another area of inquiry based on your interests. You will develop a researchable question, propose sound methods to address this question, and begin the exciting process of finding answers to your questions! This mentorship is designed to challenge you to see the world the way a clinical research scientist does—pushing you to explore your interests in both creative and empirically meaningful ways. As research projects are a part of every academic discipline, the skills learned in this mentorship will help prepare you for success in college level courses while still in high school. Come ready to explore the diverse fields of clinical psychology and research science.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

June 10, 2024 – September 9, 2024

Art Meets Science: Microscopy as a Tool and Art Form

Art Meets Science: Microscopy as a Tool and Art Form (June 10, 2024 – September 9, 2024) – [status: no longer accepting applications]
Meeting Time: Mondays and Thursdays from 6:00PM to 8:00PM CST
Instructor: Maggie Fye | View Instructor Bio

Art and science are always taught separately, but the reality is that these two fields have been intertwined for nearly all of history. From star charts to amoebae illustrations to macro photography, art has served as a tool to help us record scientific data. And science, in turn, has inspired art in a number of ways. In this mentorship, you will explore the ways that the field of microscopy has used art to record data, as well as generates data that looks a lot like art. You will learn the basics of light and fluorescence microscopy, observe how microscopy gets used in a real lab setting, explore the history of recording microscope data as art, observe a typical microscopy image competition, and make your own foldscopes to develop your own final project incorporating both art and science. If you are interested in the intersections of art and science, the fields of microscopy and cell biology, and are exploring career paths in either science or art, this mentorship is for you!

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

Behavioral Medicine & Clinical Psychology: Understanding the Connection Between Health Ready and Well-Being

Behavioral Medicine & Clinical Psychology: Understanding the Connection Between Health Ready and Well-Being (June 10, 2024 – September 9, 2024) – [status: full, no longer accepting applications]
Meeting Time: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:00PM to 8:00PM CST
Instructor: Pietra Bruni, Ph.D. | View Instructor Bio

Physical and emotional health are not two separate systems, as many scientists previously believed, but are closely intertwined. This interaction is known as the Mind-Body connection, a relationship so important that it’s responsible for impacting nearly all of our bodily experiences! Our memory, energy levels, behavior, mood, sleep, and even our appetite are controlled by this dynamic and ever-evolving relationship. This mentorship will address the link between clinical health psychology and behavioral medicine, focusing on the exciting and complex work that happens at the intersection of mind and medicine. While clinical psychologists are primarily focused on causes, treatments, and prevention of different types of disorders, those with a clinical health specialty have particular expertise working in the medical field to promote health and wellbeing. Functioning as a member of an interdisciplinary treatment team, this subspecialty is known as Behavioral Medicine—a perspective that acknowledges the interplay of biological, psychological, medical, and social factors. Since behavioral medicine encompasses a deeply interdisciplinary approach that pulls from various disciplines (such as biology, immunology, neurology, and psychophysiology), you will begin the mentorship by learning about the nervous system and related physiological structures. From there, you will expand your knowledge of the biopsychosocial model, synthesizing relevant literature from the field and learning more about cutting-edge health research. Specific topics that will be explored include the impact of stress on the body, the gut-brain connection, how neuroplasticity can re-wire our brain, the role of behavioral genetics, and more. This advanced content deep-dive will culminate in identifying your own research question (to be answered through data collection or advanced literature review) and resulting in an independent research project that you design and execute yourself.

Throughout this mentorship, you can expect advanced lectures, labs, extensive study, an introduction to clinical health resources used in the medical field, and guest lectures from fellow clinicians and research scientists. For high school students with a dual interest in psychology and medicine, this mentorship is for you! Together, we will bridge the gap between brain/ body relationships and explore the diverse fields of clinical psychology and behavioral medicine.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

Concept to Clinic: How Drugs are Made

Concept to Clinic: How Drugs are Made (June 10, 2024 – September 9, 2024) – [status: full, no longer accepting applications]
Meeting Time: Sundays and Wednesdays from 7:00PM to 9:00PM CST
Instructor: Christopher Hansen | View Instructor Bio

From basic science, like pathology and chemistry, to clinical work, like trials, the route by which new medication is made requires experts across various areas of science and business. The interdisciplinary expertise surrounding the field of drug development makes it a fascinating and ever-changing business for those who find their career in it. The drug development pipeline, the common route by which most medication is approved in the United States, is a wide concept where experts in medicinal chemistry, pathophysiology, molecular pharmacology, animal science, and medicine come together to tackle the world’s toughest problem – disease. Throughout the mentorship, students will “develop” a novel drug to treat a disease. They will learn about the scientific data, legality, and market strategies they need to get their “drug” off the benchtop and into the clinic. Lectures will cover topics like scientific vocabulary, FDA-approval processes, basic biology, chemistry, and anatomy, and research topics, techniques, and data types. Students will immerse themselves in the development process through independent research on pathophysiology, current clinical progress, and medical needs pertaining to a disease of their choice. Students will learn how to read scientific literature, interpret common types of data, and convey complex ideas to the general public. By the end of the mentorship, students will appreciate the intricacies of the drug development process, the science needed to be successful in it, and the legal, economic, and sociological implications that confound it.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

What’s in a Memory: Exploring the Science Underlying Human Cognition

What’s in a Memory: Exploring the Science Underlying Human Cognition (June 10, 2024 – September 9, 2024) – [status: available]
Meeting Time: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:00PM to 8:00PM CST
Instructor: Hailey Kresge | View Instructor Bio

Think about one of your favorite memories: What details can you remember about this event? How do you feel when you think about this memory? Why is it that you can remember this event exactly as it occurred, but you may have trouble remembering what you had for lunch last week or whether you locked the front door this morning? This mentorship will explore the answers to all these questions and more by addressing the central question, “What’s in a Memory?” Led by a Vanderbilt M.D./Ph.D. candidate, you will delve into the field of cognitive neuroscience, a subfield of neuroscience that studies biological processes that underlie human cognition, specifically focusing on the relationship between brain structures, activity, and cognitive functions. Through a combination of lectures, case-based learning, independent readings, group activities, and guest lectures from trainees and professionals studying cognition, you will investigate the mechanisms underlying human memory and cognition, scientific methods to study cognition, and clinical conditions that affect cognition, such as Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. By the end of the program, you will (1) be knowledgeable about the different domains of cognition and corresponding brain regions, (2) be able to compare and contrast various methods to study cognition, (3) be able to identify and discuss the basic pathogenesis of clinical conditions affecting cognition, and (4) become familiar with possible career opportunities focused on cognition. Join this experience to explore the science of memory and cognition analyzing clinical cases based on real-life patient scenarios just like neuropsychologists and neuroscientists!

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

 

Mentor Immersion (Spring) – Rising Grades 10-12

View our past experiences during Spring 2024.

January 19, 2024 to May 23, 2024

Behavioral Medicine & Clinical Psychology: Understanding the Connection Between Health and Well-Being

Behavioral Medicine & Clinical Psychology: Understanding the Connection Between Health and Well-Being
Tuesdays, 6:00PM -8:30PM CST (January 19, 2024 to May 23, 2024)
Instructor: Pietra Bruni | View Instructor Bio

Physical and emotional health are not two separate systems, as many scientists previously believed, but are closely intertwined. This interaction is known as the Mind-Body connection, a relationship so important that it’s responsible for impacting nearly all of our bodily experiences! Our memory, energy levels, behavior, mood, sleep, and even our appetite are controlled by this dynamic and ever-evolving relationship. Led by a Vanderbilt clinical psychology PhD candidate, this mentorship will address the link between clinical health psychology and behavioral medicine, focusing on the exciting and complex work that happens at the intersection of mind and medicine. While clinical psychologists are primarily focused on causes, treatments, and prevention of different types of disorders, those with a clinical health specialty have particular expertise working in the medical field to promote health and wellbeing. Functioning as a member of an interdisciplinary treatment team, this subspecialty is known as Behavioral Medicine—a perspective that acknowledges the interplay of biological, psychological, medical, and social factors. Since behavioral medicine encompasses a deeply interdisciplinary approach that pulls from various disciplines (such as biology, immunology, neurology, and psychophysiology), we will begin our mentorship by learning about the nervous system and related physiological structures. From there, students will expand their knowledge of the biopsychosocial model, synthesizing relevant literature from the field and learning more about cutting-edge health research. Specific topics that will be explored include the impact of stress on the body, the gut-brain connection, how neuroplasticity can re-wire our brain, the role of behavioral genetics, and more. This advanced content deep-dive will culminate in students identifying their own research question (to be answered through data collection or advanced literature review) and resulting in an independent research project that they design and execute themselves.

Throughout this mentorship students can expect advanced lectures, labs, extensive study, an introduction to clinical health resources used in the medical field, and guest lectures from fellow clinicians and research scientists. For high school students with a dual interest in psychology and medicine, this mentorship is for you! Together we will bridge the gap between brain/ body relationships and explore the diverse fields of clinical psychology and behavioral medicine.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

Biomedical Informatics: Using Electronic Health Record Data to Improve Human Health

Biomedical Informatics: Using Electronic Health Record Data to Improve Human Health
Thursdays, 6:00-8:30pm CST (January 19, 2024 to May 23, 2024)
Instructor: Alex Becker | View Instructor Bio

Biomedical Informatics is one of the fastest growing fields you’ve probably ever heard of. This field draws upon expertise from computer science, data science, statistics, anthropology, computational biology, genetics, ethics, law, and medicine (to name a few) with the goal of using health data to improve human health. The goal of this mentorship is to introduce students to the field and to give them experience in working on a biomedical informatics research project. To this end, we will (1) define and explore the field of biomedical informatics and its many sub-fields, (2) learn key theories, principles, and frameworks that underpin the field, (3) explore data-driven questions based on literature, (4) generate individual research questions, (5) clean and analyze publicly available healthcare data to answer our research question, and (6) learn to effectively communicate research findings. By the conclusion of the mentorship, students will create a presentation summarizing their research and draft a submission that could potentially be submitted to the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) 2024 Symposium High School Scholars program.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

Brain-Immune Interactions in Alzheimer’s Disease: A Defense System Gone Awry?

Brain-Immune Interactions in Alzheimer’s Disease: A Defense System Gone Awry?
Tuesdays, 5:30-8:00pm CST (January 19, 2024 to May 23, 2024)
Instructor: Katie Robertson | View Instructor Bio

Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by severe memory loss and behavioral impairments, occurring primarily in individuals over 65 years old. As the leading cause of dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease is characterized by a variety of changes in the brain which coincide with the onset of changes in thinking ability. In particular, did you know that the brain contains its own immune system which plays a central role during the progression of this disease? However, many questions remain as to the role of this system in disease and how it may drive or protect against disease. In this mentorship, you will be introduced to fundamental concepts in neuroscience, as well as the emerging topics related to the function of the immune system in the brain, and how these concepts are explored in current scientific research. You will participate in a variety of exercises to engage with current scientific research in brain disease, to think critically to develop your own questions, and to assist you in designing an original research idea as part of your independent project at the end of the program. This mentorship, led by a Vanderbilt Biomedical Ph.D. candidate who studies changes in the brain during the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease, will allow you to gain exposure to both the traditional field of neuroscience and the emerging field of neuro-immunology from the unique vantage point of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

Concept to Clinic: How Drugs are Made

Concept to Clinic: How Drugs are Made
Sundays, 6:30-9:00pm CST (January 19, 2024 to May 23, 2024)
Instructor: Christopher Hansen | View Instructor Bio

From basic science, like pathology and chemistry, to clinical work, like trials, the route by which new medication is made requires experts across various areas of science and business. The interdisciplinary expertise surrounding the field of drug development makes it a fascinating and ever-changing business for those who find their career in it. The drug development pipeline, the common route by which most medication is approved in the United States, is a wide concept where experts in medicinal chemistry, pathophysiology, molecular pharmacology, animal science, and medicine come together to tackle the world’s toughest problem – disease. Throughout the mentorship, students will “develop” a novel drug to treat a disease. They will learn about the scientific data, legality, and market strategies they need to get their “drug” off the benchtop and into the clinic. Lectures will cover topics like scientific vocabulary, FDA-approval processes, basic biology, chemistry, and anatomy, and research topics, techniques, and data types. Students will immerse themselves in the development process through independent research on pathophysiology, current clinical progress, and medical needs pertaining to a disease of their choice. Students will learn how to read scientific literature, interpret common types of data, and convey complex ideas to the general public. By the end of the mentorship, students will appreciate the intricacies of the drug development process, the science needed to be successful in it, and the legal, economic, and sociological implications that confound it.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

Corporate Law, Liability, & Legal Strategy

Corporate Law, Liability, & Legal Strategy
Meeting Time: Saturdays, 11:00AM-1:30PM CST (January 19, 2024 to May 23, 2024)
Instructor: Zach Richards | View Instructor Bio

In 1998, the four largest tobacco companies in the United States paid $206 billion to settle lawsuits claiming that these companies violated various consumer protection laws in marketing and selling cigarettes despite knowing of the medical harms associated with smoking. In 2014, a large oil and gas companypaid over $20 billion to settle legal claims relating to a 2010 oil spill and the environmental damage it caused to the Gulf Coast. Just last year, a well-known social media companypaid $809.5 million to settle claims raised by its shareholders that the company had been over-reporting its user count since 2016.

In the world of corporate law, it goes without saying that the stakes are high. In this mentorship, students will learn about the legal infrastructure, laws, rules, regulations, and strategies that guide business leaders, lawmakers, and legal advocates in the world of business. Students will read real cases, listen to oral arguments, and together, we will examine both hypothetical and real case studies invoking these laws and rules. Through these exercises, students will learn about subjects every first-year law student—or 1L—studies in American law schools. These include subjects like Separation of Powers, Civil Procedure, Property, Contracts, and Torts, but students will also learn about more advanced legal subjects like Antitrust, Consumer Protection, Fiduciary Duty, and Tax Law. We will answer questions like, “When is a company liable for monopolizing?” “When is an employer liable for their employees’ conduct?” “Can a business be sued in Florida if it is headquartered in Ohio?” Most importantly, however, students will walk away with an ability to recognize several issues impacting businesses and be able to propose informed legal solutions to address those problems. As a final project in this mentorship, and with the guidance of the mentor, students will research and write an original piece of scholarship and an accompanying presentation on a legal issue of their choice which currently impacts the business world.

This mentorship is great for anyone who enjoys reading or writing, anyone interested in politics or law, or anyone who wants to better understand the rules and regulations surrounding business and commerce.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness

Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness
Tuesdays, 6:00-8:30pm CST (January 19, 2024 to May 23, 2024)
Instructor: Ashleigh Maxcey | View Instructor Bio

How do we define and achieve happiness? What increases the human capacity for joy, meaning, and hope? What are the traits of a positive institution? Positive psychology is the study of exceeding baseline human potential. This immersion experience is an opportunity for young people to understand and implement habits that have the capacity to increase their joy, meaning, and hope in our post-covid world rich in anxiety and depression. Students will leave this individualized experience with a better understanding of the happiness tools that work for them, the peer-reviewed science behind the study of high achievement, the intersection of wellbeing and career paths, components of positive institutions, cultural differences in the pursuit of joy, and strategies to incorporate these lessons into college life and beyond.

From successful leaders to compelling politicians to empathetic doctors, every future career path is enhanced using this science of happiness. This immersion experience will culminate in a professional presentation. Students will select a particular institution or target population of interest and cater a Happiness 101 implementation plan on tangible directions, supported by empirical research, to introduce and implement positive psychology practices in their unique situation.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

The Histone Code: Understanding the Epigenome in Development and Disease

The Histone Code: Understanding the Epigenome in Development and Disease
Mondays, 6:00-8:30PM CST (January 19, 2024 to May 23, 2024)
Instructor: Anna Johnson | View Instructor Bio

Each cell in our body contains the same DNA, yet variation in how that genetic information is expressed allows them to perform widely different functions. A key source of this regulated expression is the so-called “histone code.” Billions of base pairs of DNA in each nucleus are packaged around proteins called histones, which also serve as signposts to direct expression of genes in their vicinity. In this mentorship, students will learn about genetic architecture and gene expression in both normal and disease states. We will discuss how the proteins that “read and write” histone modifications interact with each other and the environment during multicellular development as well as what happens when their behavior becomes dysregulated. Throughout this mentorship, students will learn how to dissect primary scientific literature, utilize public genomic datasets, and effectively communicate findings to their peers by writing and defending a mock scientific proposal.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

Mentor Immersion (Fall) – Rising Grades 10-12

View our past experiences during Fall 2023.

August 21, 2023 to December 18, 2023

Behavioral Medicine & Clinical Psychology: Understanding the Connection Between Health and Well-Being (2 Sections)

Behavioral Medicine & Clinical Psychology: Understanding the Connection Between Health and Well-Being
Section 1 Meeting Time: Wednesdays, 6:00PM -8:30PM CST (August 21, 2023 to December 18, 2023)
Section 2 Meeting Time: Tuesdays, 6:00-8:30pm CST (August 21, 2023 to December 18, 2023)
Instructor: Pietra Bruni | View Instructor Bio

Physical and emotional health are not two separate systems, as many scientists previously believed, but are closely intertwined. This interaction is known as the Mind-Body connection, a relationship so important that it’s responsible for impacting nearly all of our bodily experiences! Our memory, energy levels, behavior, mood, sleep, and even our appetite are controlled by this dynamic and ever-evolving relationship.

Led by a Vanderbilt clinical psychology PhD candidate, this mentorship will address the link between clinical health psychology and behavioral medicine, focusing on the exciting and complex work that happens at the intersection of mind and medicine. While clinical psychologists are primarily focused on causes, treatments, and prevention of different types of disorders, those with a clinical health specialty have particular expertise working in the medical field to promote health and wellbeing. Functioning as a member of an interdisciplinary treatment team, this subspecialty is known as Behavioral Medicine—a perspective that acknowledges the interplay of biological, psychological, medical, and social factors. Since behavioral medicine encompasses a deeply interdisciplinary approach that pulls from various disciplines (such as biology, immunology, neurology, and psychophysiology), we will begin our mentorship by learning about the nervous system and related physiological structures. From there, students will expand their knowledge of the biopsychosocial model, synthesizing relevant literature from the field and learning more about cutting-edge health research. Specific topics that will be explored include the impact of stress on the body, the gut-brain connection, how neuroplasticity can re-wire our brain, the role of behavioral genetics, and more. This advanced content deep-dive will culminate in students identifying their own research question (to be answered through data collection or advanced literature review) and resulting in an independent research project that they design and execute themselves.

Throughout this mentorship students can expect advanced lectures, labs, extensive study, an introduction to clinical health resources used in the medical field, and guest lectures from fellow clinicians and research scientists. For high school students with a dual interest in psychology and medicine, this mentorship is for you! Together we will bridge the gap between brain/ body relationships and explore the diverse fields of clinical psychology and behavioral medicine.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

Biomedical Engineering Approaches to Cancer Immunotherapy

Biomedical Engineering Approaches to Cancer Immunotherapy
Meeting Time: Mondays, 5:30PM-8:00PM CST (August 21, 2023 to December 18, 2023)
Instructor: Sydney Henriques | View Instructor Bio

This mentorship will introduce you to the fields of biomedical engineering and cancer immunology, with a particular focus on learning how to make connections and bridge the fields together in order to advance the clinical landscape of cancer immunotherapies. In the first section of this mentorship, we will cover design considerations for developing nanoparticle-based cancer therapies. You will gain a fundamental understanding of how the physical properties of nanoparticles affect their biodistribution and targeting, and how these properties influence their interactions in the body. Next, you will learn commonly used techniques associated with clinical research applications within the immunology and medical fields. You will learn how to effectively write up detailed protocols and understand the reasoning and underlying principles for each step. You will then learn how to conduct a literature search and identify quality references on cancer vaccine design. Finally, students will apply what they learn to complete a final project where they design a new cancer immunotherapy. Overall, this mentorship will teach you how to take an interdisciplinary approach to fighting cancer.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

Corporate Law, Liability, & Legal Strategy

Corporate Law, Liability, & Legal Strategy
Meeting Time: Saturdays, 11AM-1:30pPM CST (August 21, 2023 to December 18, 2023)
Instructor: Zach Richards | View Instructor Bio

In 1998, the four largest tobacco companies in the United States paid $206 billion to settle lawsuits claiming that these companies violated various consumer protection laws in marketing and selling cigarettes despite knowing of the medical harms associated with smoking. In 2014, BP paid over $20 billion to settle legal claims relating to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the environmental damage it caused to the Gulf Coast. Just last year, Twitter paid $809.5 million to settle claims raised by its shareholders that the company had been over-reporting its user count since 2016.

In the world of corporate law, it goes without saying that the stakes are high. In this mentorship, students will learn about the legal infrastructure, laws, rules, regulations, and strategies that guide business leaders, lawmakers, and legal advocates in the world of business. Students will read real cases, listen to oral arguments, and together, we will examine both hypothetical and real case studies invoking these laws and rules. Through these exercises, students will learn about subjects every first-year law student—or 1L—studies in American law schools. These include subjects like Separation of Powers, Civil Procedure, Property, Contracts, and Torts, but students will also learn about more advanced legal subjects like Antitrust, Consumer Protection, Fiduciary Duty, and Tax Law. We will answer questions like, “When is a company liable for monopolizing?” “When is an employer liable for their employees’ conduct?” “Can a business be sued in Florida if it is headquartered in Ohio?” Most importantly, however, students will walk away with an ability to recognize several issues impacting businesses and be able to propose informed legal solutions to address those problems. As a final project in this mentorship, and with the guidance of the mentor, students will research and write an original piece of scholarship and an accompanying presentation on a legal issue of their choice which currently impacts the business world.

This mentorship is great for anyone who enjoys reading or writing, anyone interested in politics or law, or anyone who wants to better understand the rules and regulations surrounding business and commerce.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

Human Justice and Theory of Change

Human Justice and Theory of Change
Meeting Time: Thursdays, 6:00PM-8:30PM CST (August 21, 2023 to December 18, 2023)
Instructor: Rho Townsley | View Instructor Bio

Can and do human societies change? This may seem to be a question with an obvious answer. But is it? We find ourselves asking the same questions as civilizations and societies roll over and over. So how do humans enact change and how do our conceptions of justice influence social and political change? Is it through theory and philosophy? Activism and social movements? Art and culture? Discovery and scientific exchange? Governance and law? Love and war?

This mentorship is an interdisciplinary opportunity to consider different ideas of human justice through the exploration of what makes and molds human society and political community. We will specifically anchor ourselves in political theory, philosophy, and cultural expressions such as art and literature in order to consider the ways that humans not only come into community and governance together but manage to remain so. This will mean an investigation of power, rights, citizenship, political violence, law, family, resistance, discipline, development, and distribution. Open to students from all disciplines, this mentorship will challenge you to think about the deep themes of what makes us human, how we determine ways to exist together, and whether, how, when, and why societies transform.

Additionally, we will work together on learning rigorous research skills, finding and sharing resources, developing ideas for projects, and becoming comfortable with giving and receiving feedback across disciplinary boundaries. If you are interested in how humans formulate ideas of justice, decide societal rules, and if and how they bend or create different societies, if you want to develop cross-disciplinary research, writing, and critical thinking skills, if you want to be exposed to foundations of political theory that you can and will use, no matter your personal scholastic pursuit – welcome!

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

Medicine & Science: Introduction to Solving Clinical Problems with Scientific Methods

Medicine & Science: Introduction to Solving Clinical Problems with Scientific Methods
Meeting Time: Sundays, 2:00PM-4:30PM CST (August 21, 2023 to December 18, 2023)
Instructor: Ariel Thorson | View Instructor Bio

This mentorship is designed to give students exposure to clinical medicine and scientific research. We will discuss Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, both their presentation and their pathogenesis. We will then discuss the molecular basis for diabetes medications, which will build the foundation for understanding clinical medicine. We will have a journal club where students learn and practice how to present research articles, a skill that will be invaluable for a future in medicine or science. Using their knowledge of the molecular basis of diabetes, students will then be able to propose potential new targets for the treatment of diabetes. We will review common techniques and methods used in labs to investigate these questions. Finally, the mentorship will end with a presentation on their proposed treatment, complete with a mechanistic basis for their proposal and a method they would use to go about investigating this mechanism.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

Nanoscience Meets Neuroscience: Decoding Mental Health Disorders

Nanoscience Meets Neuroscience: Decoding Mental Health Disorders
Meeting Time: Tuesdays, 6:00PM-8:30PM CST (August 21, 2023 to December 18, 2023)
Instructor: Laurel Bellocchio | View Instructor Bio

What happens in our brains when we suffer from a mental health disorder? Why do some medications work for some people, but not for others? There are thousands of publications about mental health research, but there is still so much we don’t understand. While there are many factors that influence how we behave, we are interested in diving deep to the molecular level, specifically the nanoscale. This mentorship will be an overview of (1) how the exciting and fast-moving field of nanoscience technology works in biological applications, (2) what we know about diagnosing and treating an array of mental health disorders, and (3) the intersection of these two areas of research and the work that has been done to answer these previous fundamental questions. By the end of this mentorship, you will also have learned a variety of translatable scientific skills, including reading and interpreting scientific literature, critical thinking skills for novel problems, and speaking about scientific topics with others of a variety of backgrounds. This class will encompass topics from a variety of science and engineering disciplines, giving you a truly interdisciplinary experience.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.


Rising Expert: Mini Immersion (Fall 2023) – Grades 7-9

October 14 to November 17, 2023

Choose an experience title below based on your grade level to view the description and meeting time. All meeting times are in Central Time. Students can expect approximately 1-2 hours per week of additional meaningful work outside of the live sessions during the mentorship experience. Mentorships and/or mentors are subject to change. Learn More

7th-8th Grade

Battery Chemistry: Powering the Future

Battery Chemistry: Powering the Future (7th-8th grades)
Meeting Time: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5:00 to 7:00 PM CST
Instructors:
Olivia Owens | View Instructor Bio

In August of 2022, the California Air Resources Board passed a plan that requires all new passenger cars and light trucks sold in the state to be electric vehicles or plug-in electric hybrids by 2035. A current tech startup founder is banking on the future of flight being airplanes with yes, batteries. In a world that is becoming increasingly dependent on batteries, there is no better time to learn the science behind the magic.

During this mini mentorship, you will learn the battery basics: the underlying chemistry, important design considerations, and how they have evolved over time. After we understand how they work, we will dive headfirst into the limitations that batteries face. Why don’t we have phone batteries that can last a week? What is the lithium-ion battery crisis and how can we solve it? We will discuss what leading experts in the field are working towards, discover the challenges they face, and work together to devise strategies for solving these issues. By the end of this mentorship, you will have an in-depth understanding of how batteries work, be able to discuss the world’s battery crisis, and present potential solutions to the class like a chemist!

Psychological Science Research: Solving the Human Puzzle

Psychological Science Research: Solving the Human Puzzle (7th-8th grades)
Meeting Time: Wednesdays and Thursdays, 5:00 to 7:00 PM CST
Instructors:
Zach Stuckelman, Ph.D. | View Instructor Bio

Would you say yes if someone asked you to work on the world’s greatest, most perplexing puzzle for a living? Psychological science researchers have asked this question! What is this puzzle? Humans! Psychological researchers study how humans think, learn, feel, and why they act in a certain way. If the human puzzle intrigues you, you may be interested in studying psychology and becoming a psychological science researcher. This mini mentorship experience will allow you the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of researching within psychological science so that you have the knowledge to develop a research proposal that interests YOU the most (cognitive, social, or developmental) while receiving a personalized mentorship to make your introduction to psychological research successful and impactful. The final project will be your own research proposal that reflects what psychological researchers are asked to do at the career level. Together, we will learn how to view, interpret, and critique others’ research by studying existing scientific literature and studies. We will then use our budding understanding of psychological research to write research questions, form hypotheses, and design a novel study!

Science Communication and Policy - How to Break Through the Noise

Science Communication and Policy – How to Break Through the Noise (7th-8th grades)
Meeting Time: Mondays and Thursdays, 6:00PM to 8:00PM CST
Instructors:
Loren Lapointe, Ph.D. | View Instructor Bio

You have one minute to speak to a congressman about a science-related issue dear to your heart, what do you do to make your point loud and clear, and how do you support it with evidence? How does current science communication impact our society’s beliefs, values, and understandings? And, how does this impact policy? How do you take scientific information and communicate it to a broad audience with different levels of scientific understanding?

In this mini mentorship, we will address these questions and more as we investigate the topic of science communication. Why is science communication important to all science enthusiasts? Pursuing a career in science does not follow one path anymore. Many science-based careers start the same way in a traditional undergraduate curriculum with lecture and lab coursework, followed by some type of post-baccalaureate study in the form of a master’s degree, MD, or a PhD. Regardless of the path someone takes in the sciences, to be successful in the field you have to know how to synthesize scientific material and communicate it to a variety of audiences. Science communication influences many aspects of society and policy, so becoming an effective communicator of science-knowledge is important for all individuals interested in science-based careers. In this mini mentorship, we will learn how to take science content and communicate it in effective and efficient ways. Get ready to apply your critical thinking skills and communication abilities as we investigate what it truly looks like to be an effective interpreter and communicator of all things science!

8th-9th Grade

Exploring Adolescent Brain Development: A Mini Immersion in Neuroscience

Exploring Adolescent Brain Development: A Mini Immersion in Neuroscience (8th-9th grades)
Meeting Time: Saturdays, 2:00PM-4:00PM and Mondays, 6:30PM-8:30PM
Instructors: Thao Le | View Instructor Bio

Join us for an exciting mini-mentorship that explores the fascinating world of neuroscience and adolescent brain development. Led by a Vanderbilt MD-PhD student with a passion for psychiatry and research, students will learn about the unique opportunities and challenges facing adolescent brains as they navigate through a period of intense growth and change. Drawing from the latest research in neuroscience, students will gain an understanding of how the brain develops and how experiences, both positive and negative, can shape its growth. By the end of the mentorship, students will have a deeper understanding of the brain, its development during adolescence, and the exciting career paths in neuroscience and medicine.

Introduction to Legal Studies: A Crash Course in Law

Introduction to Legal Studies: A Crash Course in Law (8th-9th grades)
Meeting Time: Tuesdays, 5:00PM-7:00PM CST and Sundays, 6:00PM-8:00PM CST
Instructors:
Kaleigh Ruiz | View Instructor Bio

While the law impacts every citizen on a day-to-day basis and shapes the governing rhythm of American life, few truly understand what “the law” is and how it is actually practiced. In this mentorship, you will embark on an intensive overview of legal studies through engaging foundational topics that are often at the core of the 1L (first year) law school experience. These critical topics include criminal law, torts, contracts, property, and constitutional law. By the end of the mentorship, you will begin to develop an emerging understanding of the major areas of law, learn how to read a legal case, and begin to think like a lawyer. If you are considering a career in law, politics, government, or want to get a sense of a law school approach to education, this is the mentorship for you!

Mentor Immersion (Summer 2023) – Rising Grades 11-12

View our past experiences during Summer 2023.

May 15, 2023 – August 13, 2023

Behavioral Medicine & Clinical Psychology: Understanding the Connection Between Health and Wellbeing

Behavioral Medicine & Clinical Psychology: Understanding the Connection Between Health and Wellbeing
Meeting Time: Mondays and Wednesdays from 5:00PM to 7:00PM CST (May 15, 2023 – August 13, 2023)- (Status: full, no longer accepting applications)

Instructor: Pietra Bruni | View Instructor Bio

Physical and emotional health are not two separate systems, as many people previously believed, but they are closely intertwined. This is known as the Mind-Body connection, a relationship so important that it’s responsible for impacting nearly all of our bodily experiences! Our memory, energy levels, behavior, mood, sleep, and even our appetite are controlled by this dynamic and ever-evolving relationship.

Led by a senior Vanderbilt clinical psychology PhD student, this mentorship will address the link between clinical health psychology and behavioral medicine, focusing on the exciting and complex work that happens at the intersection of mind and medicine. While clinical psychologists are primarily focused on causes, treatments, and prevention of different types of disorders, those with a clinical health specialty have a particular expertise working in the medical field to promote health and wellbeing. Functioning as a member of an interdisciplinary treatment team, this subspecialty is known as Behavioral Medicine—a perspective that acknowledges the interplay of biological, psychological, medical, and social factors. Since behavioral medicine encompasses a deeply interdisciplinary approach which pulls from various disciplines (such as biology, immunology, neurology, and psychophysiology), we will begin our mentorship by learning about the nervous system and related physiological structures. From there, students will expand their knowledge of the biopsychosocial model, synthesizing relevant literature from the field and learning more about cutting-edge health research. Specific topics that will be explored include the impact of stress on the body, the gut-brain connection, how neuroplasticity can re-wire our brain, the role of behavioral genetics, and more. This advanced content deep-dive will culminate in students identifying their own research question (to be answered through data collection or advanced literature review) and resulting in an independent research project that they design and execute themselves.

Throughout this mentorship students can expect advanced lectures, labs, extensive study, an introduction to clinical health resources used in the medical field, and guest lectures from fellow clinicians and research scientists. For high school students with a dual interest in psychology and medicine, this mentorship is for you! Together we will bridge the gap between brain/ body relationships and explore the diverse fields of clinical psychology and behavioral medicine.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

Science Communication and Policy - How to Break Through the Noise

Science Communication and Policy – How to Break Through the Noise (May 15, 2023 – August 13, 2023)
Meeting Time: Mondays and Thursdays, 6:00PM to 8:00PM CST – (Status: no longer accepting applications)

Instructor: Loren Lapointe, Ph.D. | View Instructor Bio

You have one minute to speak to a congressman about a science-related issue dear to your heart, what do you do to make your point loud and clear, and how do you support it with evidence? How does current science communication impact our society’s beliefs, values, and understandings? And, how does this impact policy? How do you take scientific information and communicate it to a broad audience with different levels of scientific understanding?

In this mentorship, we will address these questions and more as we investigate the topic of science communication. Why is science communication important to all science enthusiasts? Pursuing a career in science does not follow one path anymore. Many science-based careers start the same way in a traditional undergraduate curriculum with lecture and lab coursework, followed by some type of post-baccalaureate study in the form of a master’s degree, MD, or a PhD. Regardless of the path someone takes in the sciences, to be successful in the field you have to know how to synthesize scientific material and communicate it to a variety of audiences. Science communication influences many aspects of society and policy, so becoming an effective communicator of science-knowledge is important for all individuals interested in science-based careers. In this mentorship, we will learn how to take science content and communicate it in effective and efficient ways. Get ready to apply your critical thinking skills and communication abilities as we investigate what it truly looks like to be an effective interpreter and communicator of all things science!

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

Neuroscience and Society

Neuroscience and Society
Meeting Time: Saturdays, 3:00PM to 5:00PM CT and Mondays, 7:00PM to 9:00PM CT – (Status: full, no longer accepting applications)

Instructors: Thao Le, Doctoral Candidate | View Instructor Bio

Neuroscience is an interdisciplinary study of the structure and function of the nervous system. Remarkable progress in the understanding of the nervous system and the human brain affects many aspects of our lives, from healthcare and education to law and economics. This mentorship introduces students to the field neuroscience and its relevance to society by examining how research in neuroscience reflects and shapes societal values and discourse. Students will learn about the building blocks of the brain as well as how they work together to affect bodily function, emotions, cognition, memory, and behavior. Recent advances in neuroscience along with their applications and potential societal implications will be studied and discussed.

Throughout the mentorship, students will have the opportunity to critically evaluate primary literature, learn from case studies, and conduct their final projects on neuroscience-based topic of interest. Examples of potential topics include adolescent brain development and juvenile justice, advances in understanding and treating mental illness, neurobiology of addiction, use of neuroimaging and artificial intelligence in forensics or marketing, cognitive enhancement, educational neuroscience, etc. Led by a current Vanderbilt MD-PhD student interested in psychiatry, this mentorship will also give students a glimpse into the life of a physician-scientist in training and the many career paths in medicine and biomedical research.

June 12, 2023 – September 12, 2023

Cancer Drug Discovery: Exploring the Intersections of Cancer Biology and Pharmacology

Cancer Drug Discovery: Exploring the Intersections of Cancer Biology and Pharmacology (June 12, 2023 – September 12, 2023)
Meeting Time: Mondays and Wednesdays from 5:00PM to 7:00PM CST – (Status: full, no longer accepting applications)

Instructor: Kensey Bergdorf-Smith, Ph.D. | View Instructor Bio

Where do new cancer therapies come from? Will there ever be a cure for cancer? How do we know how much or what kind of chemotherapy to give someone? In this mentorship experience, we will address the cancer biology and pharmacologic principles behind the answers to these questions and more. Our exploration of these questions will begin with an introduction to signal transduction and the biology behind cancer. After we understand the biology and physiology of cancer as a disease, we will apply this knowledge to analyze how particular drugs work in the fight against cancer. Once we have a firm understanding of cancer pharmacology, we will then research how different model systems and methods are used to identify and test the effectiveness of potential new drug candidates before they make it into clinical trials.The material covered in the mentorship will be used to lay the foundation for your final project – an opportunity to apply your new biological and pharmacological understanding to either (1) propose a new process to use in the field to identify ineffective or harmful drugs before they go to clinical trials, or (2) to outline a new potential therapy.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

From Lab to Life: How Psychology Research Connects to our Development as People

From Lab to Life: How Psychology Research Connects to our Development as People (June 12, 2023 – September 12, 2023)
Meeting Time: Mondays and Thursdays from 5:00PM to 7:00PM CST – (Status: full, no longer accepting applications)

Instructor: Zachary Stuckelman, Ph.D. | View Instructor Bio

Developmental psychology researchers investigate all things related to human behavior from the simple motor reactions we have as infants to how we learn second languages as both children and adults to the impact of emotions on our performance in school or work. This mentorship is focused on introducing you to the field of social science research, specifically through the lens of developmental psychology and child development including how psychologists study human development and what the field of developmental psychology has helped us learn about ourselves and others. We will start the mentorship by introducing a variety of theories concerning how we develop our psychology (i.e., our emotions, our personalities, our preferences, etc.). We will then map various research methods involved in studying development and how they apply beyond the research lab context to our lives. We also will evaluate various statistical methods to understand how we transfer raw data in the social sciences to actual analyzable results. After establishing a foundation in developmental psychology research and methods, you will develop your own research study based on questions asked throughout the class. Through your own data collection and analysis, you will learn how psychology research can be used to explain changes throughout life and the role context plays in development. We will learn how discoveries in this field can impact our everyday life. If you are interested in child development, cognitive development, child studies, development psychology, and the practical implications of research on education, this mentorship is for you.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

Pancreas Biology: Understanding the Physiological Mechanisms of Diabetes Progression

Pancreas Biology: Understanding the Physiological Mechanisms of Diabetes Progression (June 12, 2023 – September 12, 2023)
Meeting Time: Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5:00PM to 7:00PM CST – (Status: no longer accepting applications)

Instructor: Jade Stanley | View Instructor Bio

Over 34 million individuals are diagnosed with diabetes in the United States alone, resulting in diabetes being one of the leading causes of death in the country and world-wide. Diabetes positively correlates with the obesity epidemic and can result in various chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, and ultimately death. Therefore, the urgency of determining a treatment or cure for diabetes is steadily increasing with time. Researchers are constantly trying to search for the causes of diabetes, as well as pinpoint potential treatments and therapeutics for this disease. This mentorship will aim to highlight the fundamental concepts of diabetes and obesity by explaining what diabetes is, how it develops, and what current treatments are available for this disease. We will also delve into the scientific literature to understand what questions researchers are currently asking to understand the mechanisms that underly diabetes progression. Through the literature, we will identify the research techniques, studies, and findings that aim towards the overall mission of discovering a treatment or cure for diabetes. Once we have established a basic understanding of diabetes, we will then identify our own questions we believe are important to explore for diabetes treatment through the lens of pancreatic islets and the molecular mechanisms that are disrupted during diabetes. These questions will be applied to a final project where students will use current techniques and technologies to propose a study for why these mechanisms are disrupted during diabetes.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

Stories That Bind Us: Storytelling as a Tool to Engage Self, Community, and Career

Stories That Bind Us: Storytelling as a Tool to Engage Self, Community, and Career (June 12, 2023 – September 12, 2023)
Meeting Time: Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 5:00PM to 7:00PM CST – (Status: no longer accepting applications)

Instructor: Jermaine Soto | View Instructor Bio

As we move forward in our academic and career paths, we will encounter interactions across a variety of identities and ideological differences. How we navigate these interactions will determine our success in an increasingly diverse society with a global impact. This course will explore the power of stories in helping us better understand ourselves, strengthen our engagement with others, interact with our communities, and prepare us for success in future career paths. Students will engage in different approaches to storytelling and develop skills to enhance the power of stories within their spheres of influence. We will begin by crafting our individual stories via critical self-reflection. Students will engage in the tenets of Intergroup Dialogue to share their stories with and actively listen to others. Students will learn and utilize basic qualitative research methodologies to capture the stories of their communities. Finally, students will experience how stories and storytelling can be used as a tool to enhance their career ambitions and future success. Final projects will be an in-depth story that captures your experiences with the world you live in.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

 

Mentor Immersion (January 2023 to May 2023) – Grades 10-12

January 18, 2023 to May 23, 2023

View our past experiences during Spring 2023.

Biomedical Engineering: An Engineering Approach to Cancer Vaccine Design

Biomedical Engineering: An Engineering Approach to Cancer Vaccine Design
Meeting Time: Mondays, 6:00PM to 8:30PM CT

Instructors: Carcia Carson, Ph.D. | View Instructor Bio

This mentorship will introduce you to the fields of biomedical engineering and cancer immunology, with a particular focus on learning how to make connections and bridge the fields together in order to advance the clinical landscape of cancer immunotherapies. In the first section of this mentorship, we will cover design considerations for developing nanoparticle-based cancer vaccines. You will gain a fundamental understanding of how the physical properties of nanoparticles affect their biodistribution and targeting, and how these properties influence their interactions in the body. Next, you will learn commonly used techniques associated with clinical research applications within the immunology and medical fields. You will learn how to effectively write up detailed protocols and understand the reasoning and underlying principles for each step. You will then learn how to conduct a literature search and identify quality references on cancer vaccine design. Finally, you will apply your knowledge of vaccines, nanoparticles, and cancer to develop a set of experiments that address current challenges faced by the cancer research community. Overall, this mentorship will teach you how to take an interdisciplinary approach to fighting cancer.

Cancer Drug Discovery: Exploring the Intersections of Cancer Biology and Pharmacology

Cancer Drug Discovery: Exploring the Intersections of Cancer Biology and Pharmacology
Meeting Time: Thursdays, 6:00PM to 8:30PM CT

Instructors: Kensey Bergdorf-Smith, Ph.D. | View Instructor Bio

Where do new cancer therapies come from? Will there ever be a cure for cancer? How do we know how much or what kind of chemotherapy to give someone? In this mentorship experience, we will address the cancer biology and pharmacologic principles behind the answers to these questions and more. Our exploration of these questions will begin with an introduction to signal transduction and the biology behind cancer. After we understand the biology and physiology of cancer as a disease, we will apply this knowledge to analyze how particular drugs work in the fight against cancer. Once we have a firm understanding of cancer pharmacology, we will then research how different model systems and methods are used to identify and test the effectiveness of potential new drug candidates before they make it into clinical trials.The material covered in the mentorship will be used to lay the foundation for your final project – an opportunity to apply your new biological and pharmacological understanding to either (1) propose a new process to use in the field to identify ineffective or harmful drugs before they go to clinical trials, or (2) to outline a new potential therapy.

Cancer Metastasis: Understanding How Cancer Spreads

Cancer Metastasis: Understanding How Cancer Spreads
Meeting Time: Mondays, 5:00PM to 7:30PM CT

Instructors: Logan Northcutt, Doctoral Candidate | View Instructor Bio

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the United States and the world. This is primarily due to cancer spreading to other parts of the body and causing complications, which is called metastasis. Metastases, the plural form of metastasis, most commonly develop when cancer cells break away from the main tumor and enter the body’s bloodstream or lymphatic system. Scientists are continually seeking new answers to key questions related to metastases.

In this mentorship, we will begin to explore cancer metastasis by surveying the scientific basics of cancer and its origins in the body. From there, we will learn how cancer spreads to other parts of the body and evaluate current therapies used to treat cancer. Through reading primary research, participating in group discussions, and learning from guest speakers who share their work and research, you will be challenged to develop your own answers to key questions in cancer research. At the conclusion of the mentorship experience, you will synthesize your learning to develop a mock scientific research proposal for a cancer-related project and present it to your colleagues.

Neuroscience and Society

Neuroscience and Society
Meeting Time: Sundays, 2:00PM to 4:30PM CT

Instructors: Thao Le, Doctoral Candidate | View Instructor Bio

Neuroscience is an interdisciplinary study of the structure and function of the nervous system. Recent progress in understanding the nervous system and human behavior impacts many aspects of our lives from healthcare and education to law and economics. This mentorship introduces students to the field of neuroscience and contextualizes that knowledge through the investigation of how neuroscience research reflects and shapes societal values and discourse. To do this, we will first learn about the basic anatomy and physiology of the nervous system, followed by an introduction to approaches and techniques in neuroscience research. We will delve into recent advances in the field, examine their current applications, and discuss their potential societal implications.

Throughout the mentorship, students will have the opportunity to critically evaluate primary literature, learn from case studies, and conduct their final projects on a neuroscience-based topic of interest. Examples of potential topics include adolescent brain development and juvenile justice, advances in understanding and treating mental illness, neurobiology of addiction, use of neuroimaging and artificial intelligence in forensics or marketing, cognitive enhancement, and educational neuroscience. Led by a current Vanderbilt MD-PhD student who focuses on psychiatry, this mentorship will also give students a glimpse into the life of a physician-scientist in training and the many career paths in medicine and science.

Rhetorical Advocacy and Criticism

Rhetorical Advocacy and Criticism
Meeting Time: Wednesdays, 5:00PM to 7:30PM CT

Instructors: John Koch, Ph.D. | View Instructor Bio

Words have power. They can influence attitudes, behaviors, and responses. When thoughtfully crafted, words can be used to unite and to create change. Through the analysis of historical speeches and other texts, we will explore how to apply rhetorical criticism and how to improve our own arguments and speeches to influence political, economic, and social change. We will determine the rhetorical techniques that politicians and other agents of change have employed to create powerful messages. In this mentorship, you will engage in designing college-level paper and speech projects. In doing so, you will become a more involved and informed citizen, a better public speaker, and a critical consumer of information. Under the guidance of a Vanderbilt professor who studies rhetoric and debate, you will learn how to think critically, argue effectively, and mobilize support for the issues that matter to you. If you are interested in communications, law, public policy, or politics, then Rhetorical Advocacy and Criticism is the mentorship for you.

Note: This class will involve scholarly consideration of politics and the public sphere. Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data (or lack thereof) as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.