29 Nov 2013
The application period is now open for the 2014 class of SCI America Scholars. Under this nationwide competition, administered for SCI America by the American Chemical Society (ACS), current sophomore and junior college students studying chemistry or chemical engineering in America, may apply for summer internships at SCI America member companies. Competition is normally keen; typically, about 300 apply for the approximately 35 positions. Students must supply transcripts and two letters of recommendation from faculty members. Committees drawn from ACS members act as judges and select the winners. Since its beginning in 2010, the programme has recognised 117 SCI Scholars. Last year, 25 chemical engineers and 13 chemists were selected.
SCI America's objective in establishing the programme was to encourage top students to consider careers in industry. Word of mouth is important when students return to campus and describe their positive experience to classmates. A secondary objective is to recognise outstanding high school teachers who sparked their students' interest in studying chemistry and engineering at the college level. To do this, each student is encouraged to nominate a teacher who was responsible for their selection of major. Those teachers are recognised with a certificate and a stipend of US $1,000 to be used for classroom purposes.
Surveys of students who have completed their internships indicate 95 percent would recommend the programme to other undergraduates. 60 percent indicated they plan to work in industry immediately after graduating or after pursuing a higher degree. In answer to the question 'what surprised you the most in working in industry?' several cited how important collaboration and problem solving skills are.
'It was great being able to see all of the aspects of a chemical plant, from R&D, production, tech, waste treatment, and sales/business. Before this experience, I barely even knew what a chemical engineer did for real life', said one student at the end of the summer.
Another reflected, 'The SCI Scholars programme gave me the opportunity to jump out of my comfort zone and into what possibly has been the best experience of my life. My host company did not treat me as an intern, but rather as another employee with complete trust and respect as a fellow professional'.
Outstanding high school science teachers nominated by the interns clearly were gratified by the recognition and put their stipends to use in strengthening their programmes. Nadia Makar, Science Supervisor of Union City High School, Union City, NJ, wrote, 'I truly appreciate what your organization is doing to encourage young bright students from inner cities to pursue careers in the STEM fields. I will use the money for the Summer Research Camp that I started when I was informed that you will send me a cheque for US $1,000.'