Leilanu Jackson (left) and another student participate in a DNA analysis with gel electrophoresis project during IU's Jim Holland Summer Science Programs.
Students including Leilanu Jackson, left, participate in projects such as DNA analysis with gel electrophoresis—which forensic scientists use to compare crime scene data to suspect data—during IU's Jim Holland Summer Science Programs. Photo courtesy of the Jim Holland Summer Science Programs

STEM opportunities

The hands-on summer science programs, offered through the Department of Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences, are named in honor of the late James P. Holland, the first African American to earn a doctorate from IU's biology department, and who later returned to IU to teach for 30 years. In 1990, Holland created the first of the three camps that are now offered as a summer enrichment program to give promising and talented students from historically underrepresented populations an opportunity to explore the STEM fields.

The Jim Holland Summer Enrichment Program in Biology, for students entering grades 9 to 11, introduces them to a variety of fields, such as molecular biology, genetics and plant sciences. The second-year program, the Jim Holland Summer Science Research Program, introduces students to scientific research and project work in a laboratory. The third-year program, the Jim Holland Research Initiative in STEM Education, known as RISE, provides STEM career and college training for incoming seniors. For all three camps, students are housed in residence halls on the Bloomington campus.

Mary Ann Massela-Tellas and Armin Moczek, the co-directors of the program, initiated the Summer Science Research Program in 2008 and RISE in 2016 to grow the program and expand the experiences and opportunities available for students from historically marginalized communities. RISE, though, tries to appeal especially to students who are considering attending IU.

Students looking through microscopes.
Student working with test tubes.
A student watches as Professor Roger Innes demonstrates how plant scientists transiently express genes in Nicotiana benthamiana, a relative of tobacco.

The series of three summer science camps introduce students to STEM fields and career opportunities, with opportunities to conduct experiments in the field and in a laboratory. Photos courtesy of the Jim Holland Summer Science Programs

Participants come not just from around Indiana but also from neighboring states and increasingly distant locations, including California, Texas, and Arizona. The first-year program averages 50 to 60 participants; the second-year, 20 to 24; and the third-year, 8 to 10.

The programs have had an enormous, and lasting, impact on participants in their career choices and achievements, according to Massela-Tellas and Moczek. A survey sent to participants from 2008 to 2016 showed that, of the 133 who responded, 113 earned undergraduate degrees; 82 of those degrees were in STEM fields. Forty-five of the respondents had earned professional or graduate degrees, and 34 of those were in STEM fields.

"A lot of the comments I have received from students have been that their experience with this series of programs has been truly inspirational for them," Massela-Tellas said. She said the Jim Holland Summer Science Programs often afford opportunities that are unavailable to students at their high schools and provide a sense of community with other students of color.

"I feel the Holland programs are super important for what they do for minority students as far as giving them access to unique opportunities, and the opportunities and ability to get into this space in a way that is really welcoming, and in a way that makes them empowered as they go forward," said Sloss, who hopes to be a child psychiatrist.