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


Acceptance Status FAQ

Acceptance emails for the 2019 Secondary Student Training Program go out on Monday! With this information comes lots of questions, so here are answers to some of the most frequent questions we get.

Q: I’m an alternate. Why was I selected as an alternate?
A: Multiple factors determine the selection process for SSTP. We examine transcripts, test scores, letters of recommendations, and essay responses. After selecting students based on these criteria, we begin trying to find research group placements that would be a good match based on declared research interests, previous research experiences, and high school coursework. When all of the pieces fall into place, we are able to offer a placement in a research group for the summer.  In many cases, we are unable to offer students with outstanding application materials a spot in a research group because we are unable to find a suitable lab placement.

Q: I’m an alternate. What number am I on the wait list?
A: We work to match you with your indicated research interest. Because of this, names on the wait list aren’t just ranked 1 – 100. When a student declines their invitation to SSTP, we look for an alternate with similar research interests that might make a good match in the open research group seat.

Q: I’m an alternate. I really want to come to SSTP, but I’ve been invited to join other programs.  What should I do?
A: This is a question only you can answer.  We cannot guarantee that anyone on the wait list will be offered a spot in the SSTP program.

Q: I’ve been accepted. Why can’t I contact my mentor?
A: There are a few reasons we ask that you don’t contact your mentor. First, this is a busy time of year for faculty mentors! They are in the home stretch of their teaching assignments, helping students graduate, working on advisees’ dissertations, etc. In an effort to be respectful of their time, mentors do not formally engage with the program until June 1st.

Q: I’ve been accepted to SSTP! What’s next?
A: First and foremost, we need to know you’re serious about coming, which means you have to make a down payment on tuition. You received information about making this payment in your email. You have 3 options:

1) Make an SSTP payment in full by April 8th,

2) Make the suggested down payment to SSTP by April 8th, or

3) Contact the Belin-Blank Center to set up some sort of payment plan by April 8th.

The most important thing is that you make some sort of contact with us before April 8th to let us know you’re interested in coming to SSTP! If you’ve been accepted to the program and you have not made a financial commitment by April 8th, we reserve the right to offer your placement to another student on the waitlist

7 Tips for a Successful Application

SSTP Extracurriculars 2017-5

Tomorrow at 5pm Central Time, applications will officially open for the 2019 Secondary Student Training Program at the University of Iowa. In preparation, here are 6 quick tips for making your application the best it can be!

  1. Once you’ve started your application, write down your username and password! The $75 application fee applies for each application account you start on the portal, so be sure you can log back in when it’s time to finish your application later.
  2. Contact your references now! The application requires two references from you: First, the academic reference, which should come from a teacher who can speak to your abilities in your desired research fields; Second, the character reference, which should come from a mentor who can speak to your character and maturity as a person. We define mentor broadly. Past applicants have chosen teachers, coaches, counselors, pastors, rabbis, etc. Just make sure that your mentor is not a friend or family member. Once your teacher and mentor have agree to provide references on your behalf, enter their email addresses into the appropriate field in your application. We will then email them a few short questions. They have until February 1st to send us their responses. Late references cannot be accepted, and it’s your responsibility to follow up and ensure that your references respond on time.
  3. Start yApp5our essays now! We ask for two separate pieces of writing from you: First, a 750-word essay describing your research interests and background; And second, a 750-word essay explaining why SSTP is a good fit for you. We recommend writing and editing your essays in a separate document and pasting them into the application platform once you’re satisfied with your work. Please bear in mind that the essay fields in the online platform will save your essays as plain text, meaning that your formatting will not be kept.
  4. Carefully consider your desired research areas. In the application, we will ask you for top three research areas, and we include a list of research areas that other SSTP students have used in the past. If you do not see your desired field, that’s fine! You may write in research areas that we have not listed. If you’re not sure what’s available, be sure to check out our virtual poster session on the SSTP website, where you can view past students’ work. Although not every research area you see there will necessarily be available in 2019, what you see can give you a good idea of the kind of research that students have been able to do in the past.
  5. You may only submit one set of test scores. We recommend the SAT, ACT, PSAT, or PLAN, but if you have not taken one of those four tests, you may also submit state-administered standardized test scores. Since you may only submit one set of scores, we strongly advise against submitting SATII subject test scores. If you are a non-native speaker of English, no problem! You do not have to submit TOEFLs scores or any other proof of English ability. Your English results from the SAT, ACT, etc., will suffice.
  6. SSTP Buchholz Lab 2018-1Review the costs of the program. For students applying from within the US, the total costs will add up to $6,270. US students may also apply for financial aid within the online application platform. For students applying from outside the US, however, no financial aid may be awarded. Additionally, students applying from outside the US must pay an additional $550 fee to cover the costs of insurance and two additional nights of room and board, bringing the total costs of the program for international students to $6820.
  7. When you’re done, save your application and leave it is as! There’s no “submit button.” Whatever you have on your application as of February 1st will be what we use to make admission decisions. Until February 1st, you may return to your application and make edits as often as you like. Applications are considered on a non-rolling basis, so there are no advantages to finishing early other than peace of mind and the assurance that your application is complete. You will be able to see at-a-glance what sections still need your attention using the little red lights. Once they all have turned green, you’re all set.

If you have any questions, you can contact us at During times of high inquiry volume, it may take us up to two business days to respond to your email, so please contact us sooner rather than later to ensure that you receive your response in a timely manner.

We look forward to seeing your application!

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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.



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 and we’ll respond as quickly as possible. See you soon!

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Countdown to SSTP: 2 Roles