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PGSS 2020

PGSS 2020 was faced with the most surprising of situations. Due to the rise of COVID-19, we 62 Pennsylvanians took a journey through the first virtual PGSS program. While we were all wary of what this new way of going through the program would be like, we discovered that it was just as amazing as any other PGSS class. We Govies of 2020 persevered in a virtual environment and connected through the challenging courses, labs, and team projects that piqued our curiosities as students who want to pursue STEM careers. Apart from the rigorous immersion in STEM, the many social activities helped foster our strong friendships. From solving murder mysteries to playing trivia night, studying strategy games to the scientifically ideal burger, and painting the virtual PGSS 2020 fence to meeting actor Zachary Quinto, we all lived by the message of "Learn, laugh, and grow" while still being in our homes.

"I was so excited to be able to participate in an educational summer program when I found out about my acceptance to PGSS, but I was wary of how my experience would go if everyone was 2D and miles away. It turns out there was nothing to be worried about. Even through Zoom, I was able to meet some of the brightest and kindest people I know!" 
- Simren Jayaraman

"The connections I made with the other students, the teachers, and the TAs still came naturally through Zoom, especially through social activities and team projects." 

Our lecture courses included Cyber Security, Discrete Mathematics, Organic Chemistry, Biology of Cancer and STEM cells, and Concepts of Modern Physics. We also had several electives including Geometry, Laser Technology, Foundations of Music, Neurobiology, Physics and the discovery of the Higgs Boson, and Biology regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"PGSS was super important to me because it allowed me to step outside my comfort zone and challenge myself beyond the typical subjects in high school. The classes were intense and on subjects I had little to no background knowledge of, so I am super thankful for the professors and TAs' time to help me understand."
 - Hannah Kline

"I truly appreciated the diverse atmosphere at PGSS to enrich our passion in STEM, as well as the emphasis on collaboration. From discrete mathematics to special relativity, I enjoyed exploring the different subjects in detail, and felt that doing so with equally driven and passionate peers has made the experience very fulfilling." 
- Neha Skandan

As well as classes, PGSS included hands-on labs from machine learning and data analysis of the Hubble Space Telescope archives to genetic engineering kits for conducting experiments at home. There were also the team projects which culminated with teams presenting research papers and presentations for the Governor's School Scientific Symposium and the 2020 Journal of the Pennsylvania's Governor's for the Sciences. The collaborative atmosphere and connections with professors, teaching assistants, and fellow Govies highlighted the team mindset needed to make advancements in the field of science.

"PGSS taught me what a great group of focused and motivated students can do together, no matter how many obstacles we faced. I will always remember my time here and use what I've learned throughout my life."
 - Lucas Connell

"PGSS definitely opened my eyes to the amount of variety in the different disciplines of science and solidified my own interest in working to advance the field. I gained incredible experience through this program from enhancing my scientific knowledge in a collaborative atmosphere to making strong friendships that I know will last a lifetime."
- Sarah Siddiqui

Team Projects included:
-Breaking Down the Biological Basics of a Scientifically Ideal Burger
-DNA: The discovery of the Double Helix to the development of Modern Genetic Applications
-Don't Stretch Out: Shedding Light on Vibrational Modes of Benzene and Deuterated Benzene Using Raman Spectroscopy
-A Computational Approach to Understanding Novel Correlations between Environmental Factors and Bacteriophage Genomes
-Elusive Elsusis: A Computational and Mathematical Analysis of the Card Game Eleusis
-Classifying Potential Counterexamples to the Collatz Conjecture
-Cosmic Decays: Measuring Cosmic Ray Muon Lifetime by Plastic Scintillation Detector
-Artificial Intelligence Architecture for Turn-Based Strategy Games including Checkers, Reversi, and Mancala

To Future PGSS Govies:

We know the work we've completed might seem intimidating. We know it might seem scary and awkward working with other students you've never met before (especially if it's through Zoom). Just remember that it's okay to not understand everything and it's okay to feel a little uncomfortable at first. PGSS is intense. Our projects, papers, and friendships were a result of five weeks and many hours of training, learning, and most importantly, support. Don't be afraid to ask for help! You will find your niche at PGSS and you will find the thing that makes you all laugh and start friendships. For us, it was the simple things like Professor Walker's tiny pencils, Professor Collins' amazing notes, and even a clipart of a smiling lightbulb. We know you'll do great and have fun!

"Best of Luck!" - the Govies of 2020

Thank you to all the Professors, TAs, alumni, sponsors, and other faculty members who enabled PGSS to keep going even when the world shut down and for making this such an amazing experience. PGSS 2020 was a time that will never be forgotten.