The Yale Summer Program in Astrophysics (YSPA) is a research and enrichment program hosted at the Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium (LFOP) at Yale for 32 rising high school seniors and juniors (high school students who are juniors or sophomores when they apply) who have shown an aptitude for science and math, an interest in astrophysics, and who are considering going into careers in science or tech. The program consists of a two-week online, directed self-study program followed by a four-week residential program. Students at YSPA live together on campus in one of the dorms, take classes at the Leitner Planetarium, learn to program and analyze data in the computer lab at the Leitner Observatory, and use the telescopes at the Leitner Observatory to collect data for their research project. At the end of the program, students write up their results in the form of a scientific paper and then present those results at our YSPA mini-conference.
The main goal of YSPA is to provide our students with the opportunity to be academically and personally challenged in a professional scientific research environment, so that they have experience meeting these challenges, and so they can go to college with the confidence that working in scientific research is something that they want to pursue. YSPA has the secondary goal of accelerating the personal growth of our students by giving them the opportunity to live and work in a university environment with their true peers– other high school seniors from around the world who have similar interests in math and science. Finally, YSPA has a tertiary goal of teaching our students practical skills in math, computer programming, data analysis, statistics, writing, and other research methods— skills which are essential in all science, engineering, and tech fields.
In practice, YSPA is a unique combination of a research program, an intensive summer course that squeezes 12 weeks of college math, astronomy, programming, and physics classes into 2+4 weeks (2 online and then 4 on campus), and a fun summer camp for self-identified science geeks.