What is a Residential Program?

Another Secondary Student Training Program at the University of Iowa has come and gone, which means it’s time to start thinking about applying for the 2019 session! A little over two months remain until applications open, so for those of you considering applying, now is a good time to think about what participation in SSTP really means. The Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education at the University of Iowa defines SSTP as “a 5-and-a-half-week residential summer research program,” so to help you figure out just what to expect, we’ll unpack that phrase below.

SSTP Group 2018-4First of all, just how long is SSTP? Officially, five-and-a-half weeks. In 2019, that means the program will begin on Wednesday, June 19th and conclude on Friday, July 26th. Not all of that time, however, is devoted to research. The first four days, from Thursday, June 20th to Sunday, June 23rd, are scheduled for orientation. While some incoming students may already already have some university-level research experience, for others, research will be entirely new. These first fours days are designed to bring everyone up to speed. Also, whatever your particular experience level, all incoming SSTP participants will have to complete numerous research-group specific required training programs to prepare for their research assignments. As a result, these first four days may indeed be the most important of the program, because without completing their required initial training programs, SSTP participants cannot be admitted into their respective research groups.

Starting Monday, June 24th, research begins in earnest. All participants are expected to work in their research groups full-time, i.e. eight (8) hours a day, five (5) days a week, totaling 40 hours per week. Because 5 weeks is such a short time to complete original research, it is vital that all admitted participants commit to full-time work. Research times are dictated by the requirements and limitations of the respective research groups, so students must be available from 8:00am to 5:30pm every weekday. If you anticipate having conflicts during daytime working hours, such as online courses or other outside obligations, SSTP is not an appropriate program for you.

SSTP Poster Session 2018-1The program will wrap up starting on Thursday, July 25th, at which time all student research must be finished. Most of that Thursday will consist of the final poster competition, in which all SSTP participants will present their original research to groups of their peers as well as to impartial outside judging panels. The following morning, participants will then hold a public poster session. That leaves a total of just twenty-two total days of research (research groups will not be open on July 4th in observance of the national holiday), or just under 180 hours! Therefore, participants have to make each moment count in order to ensure that they have sufficient original research to present on the final days. If and when you apply, keep that time frame in mind when you think about the kind of research you want to perform. What projects need fewer than 200 hours to complete? What kind of research avenues will fully-operational university-level research groups have available for you with such a small window? For examples of past projects, please refer to our virtual poster sessions here.

SSTP Buchholz Lab 2018-1In addition to their research, all SSTP participants are also required to enroll in an evening course through the University of Iowa. SSTP faculty mentors have come to expect a high degree of excellence and professionalism from their mentees, and this course is designed to ensure that all SSTP participants live up to their mentors’ high expectations. Even for those students with extensive prior research experience, this course is mandatory.

DSC_0002SSTP isn’t just hard work, though. Some evenings and weekends will be filled with fun group activities, such as athletics, field trips, games, performances, and more. Please bear in mind that these extra-curricular activities are, like the evening class, mandatory. One of the core goals of SSTP is to forge lasting connections between participants who come from all over the world and often represent the very best and brightest in their respective areas of interest. Key to forging those connections is making sure that all participants have the opportunity to get to know each other outside of a purely professional context.

DSC_7458Moreover, all participants are required to stay in a special SSTP residential hall as part of the program. For applicants coming from far away, this requirement will seem clear, but this requirement applies to local applicants as well. If you are from Iowa or Illinois, even if you are within commuting distance of the University of Iowa, you are required to stay in the SSTP residence hall if you accept a placement in the program. Day trips home are permitted only in extenuating circumstances. If you are homesickness-prone, SSTP may not be an appropriate program for you. Furthermore, during your stay in the residential hall, you will be expected to behave as an adult. This means dispalying respect and maturity at all times not just to your mentors, your research group members, and the administrators of the program, but also to your peers and fellow students.

In the end, the SSTP experience will feel a lot like research at the college level. Successful applicants will spend a full work week engaged in research, take required evening classes, participate in extra-curricular activities, and live in a dedicated residence hall. We at the Belin-Blank Center therefore expect a commensurate level of poise and maturity from all of our applicants. To succeed in the program, you must be prepared to comport yourself with the dignity and respect SSTP mentors and administrators have come to expect from all program participants. When we call SSTP a residential program, we mean just that: SSTP is more than just full-time research; it’s a 24/7 commitment for five-and-a-half weeks. Before you start on your application, carefully consider if that commitment is right for you.



Poster Competition!

SSTP Poster Session 2017-2Only a week remains in this year’s Secondary Student Training Program, which means that the students are busing putting the final touches on their research. By next Thursday, each participant in the program will have produced a poster detailing their findings.

To celebrate their accomplishments, the students will first present their work in a final poster competition. On Thursday afternoon, a panel of judges will hear the students’ presentations and view the posters. On Friday morning, the students’ work will then be officially unveiled in a public poster session.

SSTP Poster Session 2017-6

This year, the public poster session will take place in the Iowa Memorial Union Main Lounge from 9:00-10:00am. Everyone interested in SSTP research, and research at the University of Iowa, is warmly invited to attend! Continue reading


Veteran Secondary Student Training Program mentor and University of Iowa Professor Dr. Zubair Shafiq recently received a prestigious award from the National Science Foundation for Faculty Early Career Development. Read more about the award and Dr. Shafiq’s work at the IowaNow blog here.

shafiq005b.jpgLast year, Dr. Shafiq mentored SSTP Alum William Kim for his project on SEO entitled Detecting automatically spun content in the wild via stylometric analysis, the poster for which can be viewed on our website here. In 2016, the year Dr. Shafiq joined the program, he mentored Brandon Wang in his project Detecting insecure Internet of Things (IoT) devices, also available on our virtual poster session page here.

Congratulations to Dr. Shafiq and his research group! We look forward to many great years of research to come.

Countdown to SSTP: 1 Week Left!

The Secondary Student Training Program begins in just seven days, and we’re very excited to be welcoming the class of ’18. If you have any questions, be sure to reach out to summer@belinblank.org and we’ll respond as quickly as possible. See you soon!

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Countdown to SSTP: 2 Roles


Countdown to SSTP: 3 Suggestions from Alums

Less than two weeks remain until the big day! To prepare you, here are a few words of wisdom from past SSTP students:


1. “Ask questions as much as possible! When it came time to create my abstract and poster, my mentor and grad student were great resources.”

SSTP Zhehao Zhu 2017-13.jpg

2. “You have an opportunity to make lasting connections with people from all over the world. Do not waste it.”

SSTP RA Photos 2017-19

3. “I think it is so important to always be challenged and force yourself to question current beliefs.”

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Countdown to SSTP: 4 Buildings to Know!

It’s a big campus here at the University of Iowa, so here’s a quick cheat sheet of must-know buildings to guide you on your first days here.

1. The Blank Honors Center (BHC): Home of the Belin-Blank Center, host of the Secondary Student Training Program. You’ll use this as a kind of nerve hub during your time at the university.

Blank Honors Center

2. Burge Hall: Your residence hall, your dormitory, your home away from home. Hang out in your floor lounge, eat your fill at the Marketplace dining hall, and shoot some hoops in the basketball courts out front! Check it out on our website here.


3. The Campus Recreation and Wellness Center: We’ve got it all, from workout machines to pools to climbing walls! Read about all the wellness opportunities available to your during your stay on our website here.

Image result for wellness center uiowa

4. Last but not least, the Main Campus Library. The university has many libraries, but we’ll hold your seminar classes here. In addition, the library has computers for your use and even a cafeteria! Read all about it here.

Exterior photo of Main Library