• Using a telescope set up atop the Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Garreth Ruane (center), postdoctoral scholar in astronomy, shows visiting students from South Pasadena High School filtered views of the sun.
    Credit: Caltech

Junior Watson Program Brings Top High School Science Students to Campus

From visiting an optics lab and peering through telescopes to dining at the Athenaeum and attending a lecture on exoplanets, eight students from South Pasadena High School recently got a glimpse of life at Caltech.

"I can feel everyone's passion and love for science. Caltech has a very energetic atmosphere," said junior Jane Yang. The tour "inspired me to explore more about fundamental science."

Yang and her classmates visited the campus on April 5 as part of the Junior Watson Program, which brings high school teachers and their AP science students to campus twice each year; during each of these visits, the students get to hear a lecture from the Earnest C. Watson Lecture Series, visit the featured researcher's lab, and learn more about Caltech.

During their recent visit, the South Pasadena students listened to a presentation on admissions criteria, financial aid, and the curriculum. Afterward, they trekked to the Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics to spend time in the lab of Dimitri Mawet, associate professor of astronomy, where they examined prototypes of optics designed to look at distant exoplanets; later, they climbed to the roof to view the sun and moon through a telescope. After dinner at the Athenaeum, the students filed into Beckman Auditorium to hear Mawet deliver his lecture on directly imaging planets outside of our solar system.

Sophomore Sarah Uriarte called the lecture "fascinating. … I didn't have previous knowledge about remote sensing, but I learned quite a bit about it and would love to learn more."

She said that the Junior Watson Program provided useful insight into STEM careers and research, and added that the visit increased her interest in attending Caltech. "It was a good experience—I had a really great time."

The Institute created the Junior Watson Program in 1998 as a collaboration between Public Events (now Campus Programs) and Admissions. The program will host its final group of students for this academic year on April 19, when students from STEM Academy of Boyle Heights will attend a lecture by Adam Wierman, professor of computing and mathematical sciences, on cloud computing.

Written by Jon Nalick