Acceptance Status FAQ’s

Acceptance emails for the Summer 2017 Secondary Student Training Program go out today! 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: Many, many things go in to the selection process for SSTP. We look at course grades, 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 research interests, any previous research experience, and high school coursework. When all of the pieces fall into place, we are able to offer those students a match in a research group for the summer. Sometimes, we are unable to match a student’s research interest, or the level of coursework does not match the requirements of the research mentor. In those cases, we are unable to invite students to come to SSTP.  Additionally, we have many, many more applications then we do available research spots.  In some cases we are still unable to offer students with outstanding application materials a spot in a research group right away.

Q: I’m an alternate. What number am I on the wait list?
A: Again, 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 as 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. And the way we know you’re serious is by making a down payment to attend SSTP for Summer 2017. You received information about making this payment in your email. You have 3 options:

1) Make an SSTP payment in full by April 10th,

2) Make the suggested downpayment to SSTP by April 10th, or

3) Contact the Belin-Blank Center to set up some sort of payment plan by April 10th.

The most important thing is that you make some sort of contact with us before April 10th to let us know you’re interested in coming to SSTP! Even if you’ve been accepted in to the program, if we don’t hear from you by April 10th and you have not made a financial commitment, we may give your spot to someone on the wait list.

Don’t Forget the $50 Application Fee!

Upon beginning your SSTP application, you first filled in your demographic information. The application website then led you to a page at which you could pay the $50 application fee. If you skipped this page, you will not be able to go back and access it again. Your application will not be considered if the $50 application fee has not been paid. If you skipped this step, no worries. Just give the Belin-Blank Center a call at (319) 335-6148 and you can pay over the phone. Feel free to give us a call if you’d like to double-check that your payment has been made.

SSTP Mentor Discusses New Approach to Understanding Parkinson’s Disease

Past SSTP mentor, neurologist Nandakumar Narayanan, studies Parkinson’s Disease. He and his research team have made an important breakthrough in understanding the disease as well as potential treatments. They explain these breakthroughs in an article from Iowa Now.


Neurologist Nandakumar Narayanan

His team found that timing makes an ideal tool to study cognitive problems in Parkinson’s Disease. By studying timing and cognitive abilities in human and mice with Parkinson’s Disease, the team discovered the importance of something called the delta brain wave. In healthy animals and humans, this wave is present in brain activity. However, in patients with PD, this wave is absent. By studying the neurocircuitry behind timing, Narayanan was able to use optogenetics to further investigate these findings.


Researchers activated a certain dopamine receptor in mice using light pulses. This resulted in no change in healthy mice, but, when activated at the same frequency as the delta wave signal, mice with impaired cognitive ability suddenly recovered their abilities. The study was published in Current Biology on December 15th. The results suggest that this type of brain stimulation could be used to improve these cognitive issues in patients with PD.

Read the full article here.

Images from Iowa Now and The Scientific Student.


Admission Essay Tips

If you have begun an SSTP application, then you know two essays must be submitted as part of the admission process. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you complete your essays:

  1. Write the essay in a Word document first.  Check for spelling and grammar errors. In addition, perform a word count to make sure you have not exceeded the word limitations for the essay.
  2. Have someone you trust proofread your essay and ask for their honest feedback.  It is unlikely that the first draft of your essay will really be your best work.
  3. Make the essay personal.  Your essay should tell your story.  No one else has the experiences you have! What sets you apart from other applicants?
  4. Be honest.  Don’t overstate your experiences or your expectations.  The essays are a way for us to try to determine whether or not this program and the research group will be a good fit for you.


Essay #1: Describe your academic areas of interest. (750 word max)

The first essay question is meant to help the selection committee try to narrow down which research group may be a good match based on your research interests. This essay should highlight any work you have already done in your area of interest.  It should also highlight any previous experience you have in the area of research, research design, computer programming, or upper level academic coursework. For example, if you’re interested in physics and you’ve already taken AP Calculus, we know we can try to place you in a research group using advanced levels of mathematics. Or, if you’re interested in environmental science and you’ve already had experience with GIS, this is something we would want to know!  When highlighting your interests and experiences in this first essay question it is important not to over-state your abilities and experiences.  The best way for us to find you a research group that will be a good fit is if we truly know your strengths as well as areas that will need a little more guidance.  If you don’t have any research experience in the area you’re interested in, just say so! Tell us why you’re interested in this area and what life events have lead you to your academic interests in this area.

Essay #2: Why are you applying to the Secondary Student Training Program? Describe your career aspirations and explain what you hope to gain from the SSTP experience. (750 words max)

The second essay question is the essay many, many research mentors will request to see when determining whether or not you will be a good fit in their research group. It is very important that you answer both questions posed as part of this essay! Also, it is important to remember that research mentors are interested in mentoring interested students who want their guidance. It’s important that you honestly answer the questions in this essay. Mention your career goals and how SSTP may help you get there. If you want to come to the Secondary Student Training Program to learn research design to help you with projects you’re working on at home, or if you just want to know what it’s like to do research at a Research I institution, then include this in your essay. Mentors are interested in knowing what you hope to get out of this experience because it helps them determine whether or not you will be a good match in their research group, and it will also help them determine which of their projects may best fit your expectations.


A Letter to Future SSTP Students



Student Reflects on his SSTP Experience



SSTP Class of 2016 Student Shares her Summer Experience