Research Science Institute
The Research Science Institute (RSI) is a highly competitive summer research program for rising high school seniors around the world. RSI is sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Education (CEE) and hosted by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Founded by Admiral H.G. Rickover in 1984 (and originally called the "Rickover Science Institute" through the 1986 session), RSI is now run by a close associate of his, CEE president Joann P. DiGennaro. Approximately 80 students from around the world (generally, around 50 from the United States and 30 from other countries) are selected to participate in the six-week summer program. RSI has connections to the Department of Defense, and three RSI positions are reserved for overseas Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) students. The first week of RSI is composed of tutorials and seminars on contemporary research of interest, while the remainder is centered on individual research projects through mentors in the Boston area. The RSI Distinguished Lecture Series, which continues throughout the program, brings distinguished professors and scientists, including a number of Nobel laureates, to speak to RSI students in evening lecture-style format. In recent years, the RSI Distinguished Lecture Series has included such names as Nobel Prize-winning physicist Wolfgang Ketterle, Nobel Prize-winning chemist Dudley Herschbach, Nobel Prize-winning geneticist Phillip Sharp, evolutionary biologist Pardis Sabeti, acclaimed mathematician and chess master Noam Elkies, Akamai Technologies co-founder and CEO Tom Leighton, and noted mathematician Michael Sipser. RSI's staff is generally composed primarily, if not entirely, of alumni, with recent Rickoids (RSI alumni, from the Institute's original name) filling in as counselors and TAs and older alumni taking administrative, lecturing, or tutoring positions.
The program's social facets include Ultimate, as well as traditional trips to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Georges and Spectacle Island off the Boston Harbor, and an overnight trip to the Charles River Esplanade to view the Fourth of July fireworks.
Though it has convened at various locations (including two years, 1990 and 2004, when the program was held concurrently on both coasts - at UC San Diego and The George Washington University in 1989-1991, and Caltech and MIT in 2004), the Institute is most often linked to MIT, where it has been held every summer since 1992, for various reasons including availability of local mentorships (with Massachusetts General Hospital, MIT, and Harvard Medical School all within a few minutes of central campus) and convenience of facilities. The program participants were housed in East Campus through 2003 and Simmons Hall from 2004-2013. Since 2014, RSI participants have lived in Maseeh Hall.
Similar programs in other countries
In 2006, a new program, RSI-Fudan, (Chinese name: 未来科学家夏令营) was held at Fudan University in Shanghai, China for Chinese students. Thirty-five local students were selected from key high schools to participate in the program and the staff was composed with previous rickoids and CEE/Fudan affiliates from both the U.S. and China. Five years later, in 2011, another new program, the Saudi Research Science Institute, or SRSI, was founded, and held at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. In the first year of SRSI (2011), twenty-five scientifically talented students were selected and attended a six-week session modeled on RSI. The number of students was increased to forty in 2012 and 2013 and to forty-five in 2014.
Financial aid expert and bestselling author Mark Kantrowitz attended RSI in 1984. American computer scientist Michael Mitzenmacher and Indian-American string theorist Shamit Kachru attended RSI in 1986. Fields Medalist Terence Tao and Indian mathematician Kannan Soundararajan attended RSI in 1989. Taiwanese-American chemist and "35 Innovators Under 35" laureate Alice Ting attended RSI in 1991. Mathematician and Illinois State Senator Daniel Biss attended RSI in 1994. Pinterest co-founder Ben Silbermann attended RSI in 1998. Broad Institute and MIT neurobiologist, optogenetics pioneer, developer of the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing method, and "35 Innovators Under 35" laureate Feng Zhang attended RSI in 1999. Four-time Putnam Fellow and current Stanford economics professor Gabriel Carroll attended RSI in 2000. American astrophysicist Henry Lin attended RSI in 2012.
The Research Science Institute alumni earn accolades in nationally and internationally recognized forums, including numerous prestigious high school and university science competitions. As of 2013, 141 finalists, 504 semifinalists, and nine 1st place winners in the Intel Science Talent Search have been RSI alumni. In the Siemens Competition, 184 finalists and semifinalists, and two 1st place winners have been RSI alumni. 11 Rhodes Scholars and 14 Marshall Scholars have been RSI alumni.