About PGSS

In this age of information explosion, scientific research is constantly developing new frontiers and the technology with which to conquer them. It is understandably difficult in terms of budget, scheduling, and heterogeneous talents among student bodies for local schools to deliver the front line in science and mathematical experiences to students with special abilities and talents in these fields. The Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Sciences met this need by providing a program in mathematics, computer science, physics, chemistry, and biology that emphasized hands-on laboratory research and the sophisticated technology and facilities available at Carnegie Mellon University.

Who Can Apply
Academically talented high school students who were current juniors and residents of Pennsylvania at the time of the application deadline could apply to the Governor's School for the Sciences. Applicants were asked to demonstrate academic achievement, especially in the sciences and mathematics and a record of pursuing this interest beyond the classroom. 

Costs and Commitment
PGSS Campaign, Inc., with in-kind donation from the Commonwealth of PA, provides tuition, room, board, instructional materials and program activities for all participants. Families are responsible for transportation to and from the program and pocket money. Students are required to remain in residence for the full 35-day program, including weekends. They are expected to arrive promptly for all classes and activities.

Selection Process
Applications are read by faculty and staff from the Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Sciences. Applications are then broken down into Intermediate Unit region groups (geographic), with applications only compared to others in the same group and not to the entire pool. Within each region, the selection is based solely on merit.

A Typical Weekday Schedule

7:00 a.m.
8:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Core courses
12:30 - 1:30 p.m.
1:30 - 5:30 p.m.
Labs, electives, team projects
5:30 - 6:30 p.m.
Dinner, free time
6:30-8:00 p.m.
Electives, leadership, guest lecturers, special events
8:00 p.m.
Students in residence halls, study time

Curriculum, Faculty, & Facilities

Core Courses 
To keep apace with the rapid changes in professional scientific inquiry, PGSS courses change from year to year. The courses and research opportunities listed below provide a general picture of the experiences students can expect. Students are required to take all the core courses at first but may drop one core course after the second week, provided that they have been carrying at least one elective course. The following are examples of recent core courses:

  • Biotechnology of HIV and AIDS: Examining how biotechnology is used in the development of the anti-HIV drugs, the molecular interactions between different drugs and their targets, and the causative agent of AIDS. 

  • Organic Chemistry: Treating the methods of preparation, reactions, and uses of some of the important functioning classes of organic compounds. 

  • Concepts of Modern Physics: Including special and general relativity, basics of particle physics, and the particle/physics cosmology interface. 

  • Discrete Mathematics: Looking at mathematics in a new way, using elementary combinatorics, graph theory, probability, and game theory. 

  • Computer Science: Using a mathematical approach to data organization, text compression, and cryptography. 

All students have also been required to participate in the following core activities for the duration of the program:
  • Leadership: A workshop in which students are taken through a step-by-step method for planning and implementing a service project making use of their scientific and mathematical talents in their home communities. 

  • Lectures and Tours: Guest lectures by prominent scientists and tours of local facilities engage in modern scientific technology. 

Laboratory Research and Team Projects

Students select one laboratory course from biology, chemistry, physics, or computer science. It has been recommended but not imperative that the course be in the same subject area as the team project. 

Students then select one team project from the discrete sciences, interdisciplinary sciences, mathematics, or computer science (these may change from year to year). The project is a collaborative research experience that culminated in a formal scientific report, which gets published in the annual PGSS journal as well as presented to the entire program community and guests.

PGSS typically offers from five to seven elective courses each year in addition to the required core courses, laboratory research and team project. Each student can take up to four elective courses, although they are encouraged to strike a balance between academic and social activities. Elective offerings vary from year to year, often including topics such as:

  • Art and Science
  • Astrophysics
  • Developmental Biology
  • Discrete Mathematics Mini-lab
  • Machine Learning
  • Mathematics Problem Seminar
  • Medicine and Its Moral Consequences
  • Nuclear Chemistry
  • Origin of Mathematical Ideas
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Information
  • Topics in Material Science