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Academic curriculum

The academic curriculum consists of four components -- core courses, electives, laboratory projects, and a team research project. Together, covered topics range from special relativity and superconductivity to bio-ethics and electronic instruments.

PGSS Class of 2005

I feel the most important feature of PGSS is the ability to push oneself to the limits of one's ability. PGSS allows its students to grow as intellectuals and (hopefully) future scientists. An important part of this growth is allowing students to really dive into topics without restraint.

PGSS Class of 1992

The courses were interesting, the lab work was fun, the friendships were wonderful, the ability to mature and grow doing things that you enjoy with others who enjoy the same topics was priceless.

Core Courses

To keep pace with the rapid changes in science, PGSS courses evolve from year to year. Although always covering the general topics of biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and computer science, the exact content varies. The topics listed below provide a general picture of the experiences students can expect. 
  • B

    PGSS Class of 2008

    Exposure to the biochemistry of AIDS course so early in my academic career definitely made me want to pursue a Bio major, and being around such a diverse community also led me to pursue a minor that pertained to a culture other than mine.
    iotechnology 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 

    PGSS Class of 1983

    I had very little exposure to computer science when I arrived at PGSS… it must have sparked something in me, because computer programming became my chosen profession.
    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. 
Students are required to take all five core courses at first but have the option of dropping one core course after the second week, provided that they are carrying at least one elective course. However, most students do not drop any (despite taking more than one elective).

Each class consists of a one-hour lecture, for four days each week. In addition to lecture, students are expected to complete a problem set each week for each course. In keeping with the collaborative spirit of PGSS, students are strongly encouraged to work together to solve the assignments.

Laboratory module

Students select one laboratory module from biology, chemistry, physics, or computer science, designed to complement the core curriculum in that area. The labs are held in modern facilities, under the supervision of university experts. As with the core courses, the exact topics vary from year to year. 

  • Biology

    PGSS Class of 2006

    The laboratories we completed in the program were great and exposed me to new techniques I did not have the opportunity to learn in my high school. Also the lab instructor was very supportive and told me I was destined to be a chemist which I will never forget.

  • Organic Chemistry

  • Concepts of Modern Physics

  • Computer Science

Lab courses are held for 2 days each week, in 4 hour sessions.



PGSS Class of 2005

The Astrophysics elective course I took at PGSS was the first thing that piqued my interest in astronomy. Because of that course and the final group project I participated in at the end of the PGSS program, I made up my mind to study astrophysics in college, and am now pursuing a physics degree with astronomy emphasis.

PGSS Class of 2006

The electives were more important than the core classes, [in my opinion]. Students could choose which classes seemed interesting. I took discrete math and astrophysics and they were amazing classes. As a high school student, where else could I get such great and varied exposure to science?

PGSS typically offers from five to seven elective courses each year. Each student can take up to four elective courses, to encourage a balance between academic and social activities. Elective offerings can vary drastically from year to year, and are designed to augment the core courses by providing additional breadth of topics, as well as additional depth for advanced (or simply interested!) students.

A smattering of topics offered over the years included the following.
  • 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
Each elective meets for 2-3 hours per week, typically spread over 2 sessions. As with the core courses, students are expected to complete (or at least attempt!) a problem set each week, with group efforts strongly encouraged.