EXPLORE Sites & Mentors | Programs | Institute for Educational Advancement

EXPLORE Sites & Mentors

EXPLORE Mentors and Sites

EXPLORE Summer 2018 sites and mentors will be added as they are confirmed. Please check the EXPLORE page regularly for the most updated list or sign up for our email list to stay up to date on our future EXPLORE program offerings!

Summer 2018 Sites and Mentors


Organization: Southern California Institute of Architecture (Los Angeles, CA)
Career Field(s): Arts, Architecture/Design
Program dates: July 21 – August 3, 2018 (2 weeks)
Program Fes: $850.00

Students applying to this site can still apply.

Students will have the opportunity to work with Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) faculty and graduate students in a two week immersive program which introduces design thinking and fabrication techniques. The program is coordinated by design faculty and Co-Principal of I/O, Betty Kassis. Located at SCI-Arc, students will take advantage of some of the most advanced resources in the country, and experience the energy of this vital and creative institution. Through a unique series of innovative exercises, students will learn basic 3D modeling skills using Rhino and an introduction to graphical literacy using Photoshop and Illustrator. Emphasis is placed on the production of physical models constructed through a digital workflow, and the representation of these models for the students evolving portfolios. Students will also learn key design concepts, related vocabulary and communication skills through desk critiques, pinups and reviews.



Organization: UCLA (Los Angeles, CA)
Career Field(s): Science/Technology/Engineering, Health/Medicine
Program dates:  June 16 – July 27, 2018 (6 weeks)
Program Fee: $1,950.00

Students will have the opportunity to work with UCLA Professor, Dr. Van Savage, and his team of graduate and postdoctoral researchers in the Department of Biomathematics, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Institute for Quantitative and Computational Biosciences. The students will use mathematical and computational approaches to understand the causes and consequences of the extraordinary diversity in form and function that exist in biological systems. A key area of study has been on vascular systems that deliver vital materials and how their structure dynamics differ in plants versus animals, across tissue, and between healthy and diseased states such as tumor growth or stroke recovery. Understanding these differences involves intuiting and testing the fundamental biological, chemical, and physical constraints that guide the development of these vascular networks. This project involves independent research as well as data analysis to discover how organismal physiology influences biological structure and dynamics. By the end of the session, students will learn to use Angicart software to extract data from medical images, write code in Matlab to analyze data, and learn to translate key concepts into mathematical equations.

Prerequisites: Strong written and oral communication skills, experience in Microsoft Office, strong biology and physics skills, and interest in web design and database language. Applicants must be 15 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


Organization: University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)
Career Field(s): Science/Technology/Engineering, Health
Program dates: June 16 – July 6, 2018 (3 weeks)
Program fee: $975.00

Students will have an opportunity to work with Dr. Luciano Nocera, a Computer Scientist, and Associate Director at USC’s Data Science Institute (DSI). DSI is an informatics research center that focuses on data-driven solutions for real-world applications. Researchers are motivated by the need to address fundamental Data Science problems related to applications with major societal impact, in four major domains including Transportation, Social Media, Security, and Health. We expect to offer students the opportunity to participate in research projects related to Health; examples include (a) using wearables and mobility sensors to understand how active people are and utilize this information to optimize performance in a clinical and military applications, e.g., to build predictive models of human performance and outcomes, (b) contribute to develop serious games for health applications, (c) analyze wearables data including a glucose monitor data to establish the relationship between continuous glucose measures, BMI, diet, activity and biometrics. Depending on the project, by the end of the program students will learn and understand the basics of computer science in data acquisition, storage, analysis and visualization, wearables data, serious games and web technologies. Students will also apply principles through hands-on research and participate in research meetings with graduate and undergraduate students.


Organization: TreePeople
Career Field(s): Environmental Science, Education
Program Dates: June 16-July 27, 2018 (6 weeks)
Program fee: $1,950.00

Students will have an opportunity to work with Enjoli Ferrari, Youth Leadership Manager, at TreePeople. Born from the efforts of a teenager over 40 years ago, TreePeople is an environmental nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire, engage and support people to take personal responsibility for the urban environment, making it safe, healthy, fun and sustainable and to share our process as a model for the world. They have involved more than 3 million people in planting and caring for more than 3 million trees in the Greater Los Angeles area. Students will be immersed in various outdoor research projects including (a) learning and understanding the functionality and structure (biology, morphology, and anatomy) of the tree and California native plants, (b) working in the field to collect data and provide detailed documentation on the health of trees species in Cold Water Canyon, detailing tree deaths, canopy die back, pest infestations, wilting, and growth pattern differences (c)participating in hands-on tree and plant care to ensure the park thrives and (d) investigating how the soil moisture in non-irrigated and irrigated areas  effect gophers and other wildlife.

Prerequisites: Enjoys the great outdoors. Open to learning. Applicants must be 16 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.


Organization: Apsara Media for Intercultural Education (Valley Glen, CA)
Career field(s): Media/Entertainment, Education, Arts
Program dates: July 7 – July 27, 201 (3 weeks)
Program Fee: $975.00

Students applying to this site can still apply.

Students will have an opportunity to work with UCLA Adjunct Professor, Dr. Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy. Dr. Catlin-Jairazbhoy has a background in classical and non-classical music of South and Southeast Asians and Asian-Americans, field methodology, Ethnographic Film in Ethnomusicology, music and the sacred, and applied and public sector Ethnomusicology. Currently, she conducts a Literacy Program for Sidi African-Indians in Gujarat, India. She maintains Apsara Media for Intercultural Education, her small publication and research company and studio in Valley Glen, California, where she works with her audio-visual and research archives. The student will have an opportunity to work directly with Dr. Catlin-Jairazbhoy at Apsara Media which contains field documentation materials created by her and Professor N.A. Jairazbhoy. The student will delve into several projects including learning methods of metadata production concerning field recordings and information to prepare for archiving at UCLA, editing original audiovisual fieldwork materials shot in India for online access to trailers and full videos, creating access to video and print publications for Apsara Media’s website, and researching Library of Congress protocols for depositing published audiovisual and print publications. The student will also participate in a field-trip to UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive.

Prerequisites: Interest in film and music. Technologically savvy and possess video editing skills. Organized and independent, self-starter. Possess a laptop.


Organization: UCLA (Los Angeles, CA)
Career Field(s): Science/Technology/Engineering, Health/Medicine
Program dates: June 16 – July 27, 2018 (6 weeks)
Program Fee: $1,950.00

Students will work with Dr. Pamela Yeh and her research team in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCLA. Dr. Yeh is an evolutionary biologist who focuses on the evolution of drug resistance in bacteria. She is specifically interested in understanding how we can use drug combinations to slow down the evolution of increased antibiotic resistance and to decrease the likelihood of future evolution of resistance. By the end of the session, students will gain hands-on experience working in a wet-lab, gather and synthesize data from published works, and collaborate with a research team to examine questions focused on evolutionary medicine topics.

Prerequisites: Applicants must be 16 years of age or older at the start of the program to be placed at this site.



Organization: Institute for Educational Advancement (Pasadena, CA)
Career Field(s): Business, Education, Human Services
Program dates: June 16 – July 27, 2018 (6 weeks)
Program Fees: Sponsored by IEA*

A student will have an opportunity to work with Abby Daniels, Director of Development and Communications, at the Institute for Educational Advancement. Ms. Daniels graduated with a BA from University of Pennsylvania and has nearly 20 years of experience in nonprofit fundraising, marketing, communications and public relations. Under her direct mentorship, the student will conduct targeted resource identification and research and participate in developing short and long-term fund development, marketing and communications strategies. By the end of the program, the student will develop a deeper understanding of what makes a nonprofit a nonprofit, learn the fundamentals of nonprofit fund development, and experience the “behind the scenes” efforts that support a comprehensive fundraising program.

 Prerequisites: Experience using Microsoft Office, conducting online research, passion for education, strong communication skills (speaking, writing).


Art Center College of Design
Career Field(s): Arts, Product Design
Program dates: June 16 – July 6, 2018 (3 weeks)
Program Fees: $975.00

Product designers imagine and create everyday products including sporting goods, shoes, toys, daypacks, housewares, electronics, tools, furniture/lighting and other lifestyle products. Professor Stan Kong will work with students to explore exciting educational and career opportunities related to the product design profession. Beginning students learn fundamental design processes and techniques through hands-on projects.

During the 3-week workshop, students will be introduced to the industrial design fields which include: product, transportation, environmental, entertainment, and interactive design. Students will undertake design problems resulting in projects suitable for a beginning portfolio while gaining exposure to ArtCenter and college life.

Prerequisites: Basic skills in sketching or alternative art form, an interest in pursuing art and design, experience or knowledge of Keynote or PowerPoint, and a laptop computer for research and project presentations.


Organization: UCLA (Los Angeles, CA)
Career Field(s): Science/Technology/Engineering
Program dates: June 16, 2018 – July 27, 2018 (6 weeks)
Program Fee: $1,950.00

A student will have the opportunity to work with UCLA Professor, Dr. Aaron Blaisdell, and his team of graduate student researchers at the Blaisdell Lab in the Department of Psychology. Dr. Blaisdell’s laboratory investigates the behavioral processes of animal learning and cognition, namely describing how animals build and use representations of their world. The state of the art research facilities include a rat lab for studying associative and cognitive processes, a pigeon lab with touchscreen-equipped operant chambers and an open-field spatial search apparatus for the study of learning and cognition, and a hermit crab lab for studying learning and cognition in crustaceans. The student will acquire hands-on, direct experience of behavioral research with animals in a team setting, learn how to apply the scientific method, and review primary scientific literature related to his research.

Prerequisites: No allergies to rats or pigeons and a willingness to work with rats, pigeons, and hermit crabs.

Past Mentors and Sites



California Institute of Technology

Students had the opportunity to work with Dr. Lynne Hillenbrand in the Department of Astronomy at Caltech. Since 2001, Dr. Hillenbrand has taught astronomy and astrophysics at the undergraduate and graduate level, and has mentored 24 undergraduate students. She has been working in the area of star/planet formation and stellar astrophysics for nearly 20 years with observational and data analysis experience covering wavelengths from x-ray to millimeter, though focusing mostly on optical/near-infrared science. Under her direct guidance, students will be working with astronomical catalogs and databases, downloading information, and making plots to investigate the properties of variable stars, circumstellar disks, and correlations of these properties with the age of the star. By the end of the program, students will gain a deeper understanding of scientific research, participate in data organization and analysis, and have an increased appreciation for astronomy.


University of California, Los Angeles

The regeneration of epidermal cells throughout the body of vertebrates is studied by those in Dr. Alison Frand’s lab. Students joined Dr. Frand’s team to conduct experiments in Biological Chemistry and apply concepts of cell biology and cell production. Students had the opportunity to learn about the molting cycles of C. elegans and its coordinated tissue development and stem cell division during molting. The implications of Dr. Frand’s research affect more than 140 million people in the world.


University of Southern California

This interdisciplinary opportunity to work for seven weeks with Dr. Ellis Meng and her team of engineers at the Biomedical Microsystems Laboratory at USC offered hands-on experience with experiment-based data collection and analysis. Dr. Meng was named Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry’s MedTech 40 under 40 in 2012 for her innovations in microtechnology and its application to medicine. The Biomedical Microsystems Laboratory focuses on developing novel micro- and nanotechnologies for biomedical applications. In particular, the group uses biocompatible materials and microelectromechanical systems technology to create devices that address significant but unmet medical needs. The lab currently specializes in tiny implantable devices for treating and monitoring diseases.


University of Southern California

A student will have an opportunity to work at USC’s Center for Health Professions and School of Pharmacy. Under the guidance of Associate Professor Mel Baron, PharmD, MPA, the student will complete research on health literacy in the community as well as clinical pharmacy. The student will also assist in the creative development of educational novellas (comic books) which will help inform school aged children about various health issues. The goal of this project is for the student to gain an understanding of how to improve health education for patients from all socioeconomic backgrounds.


University of California, Los Angeles

Students will have an opportunity to work with UCLA adjunct professor and head of the Laboratory for Advanced Systems Research (LASR), Dr. Peter Reiher. THE LASR conducts important research in many areas related to networks, operating systems, and distributed system. Under Dr. Reiher’s guidance, students will not only gain a better understanding of computer and network security, but will also learn about advanced network attack and defense mechanisms.


University of Southern California’s Integrated Media Systems Center

Within USC’s Integrated Media Systems Center, students will have the exciting opportunity to learn, use, and develop various platforms in which Big Data is collected, interpreted, and communicated. The students will work closely with a team of computer science scholars and electrical engineers under the guidance of Dr. Cyrus Shahabi, Director of Integrated Media Systems Center, Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, Director of USC’s Information Laboratory, and co-founder of Geosemble Technologies, to research data-driven solutions for real-world application. Dr. Shahabi and his brilliant team will lead our students as they explore geo-spatial metadata-security systems, social media through geocrowdsourcing video data, patterns of patient mobility-health, and/or transportation sensor data.


California Institute of Technology

This is an opportunity to work with the Michael Lamb Surface Processes Group in geomorphology. Often unpredictable and dangerous, fast moving debris flow occurs after heavy rainfall or forest fires on steep terrains. Utilizing a large scale mechanical flume, students will apply their knowledge of physics and geology to analyze varying environments conducive for debris flow.


Edmund D. Edelman Children’s Court

Students had the opportunity to explore the legalities of dependency and delinquency law with Judge Michael Nash and Attorney Lilia Alvarez Romo along with their team of research attorneys. Judge Nash has been an unwavering advocate for children for over 10 years. He has created transparency within the world of adoptions through his judgeship since 1990. Within the Los Angeles Juvenile Courts, students created motions, evaluated depositions, observed in court, and learned the intricate procedures of juvenile law.


University of California, Los Angeles

Students had the opportunity to work with Dr. Aradhna Tripati, Professor of Earth/Space Sciences, at UCLA. Dr. Tripati’s research group uses the sedimentary record to address fundamental questions about the dynamics of climate change, both past and future. The chosen applicants worked on the development and application of novel geochemical tools to document and understand the evolution of temperature, ice volume, and pH. The research focused on applying innovative experimental approaches in order to use the geologic record as a rich laboratory for the study of climate processes. The primary tools used were the new ‘clumped isotope’ thermometer and the elemental composition of carbonates. The students also integrated geochemical measurements with field-based observations, sedimentologic and micropaleontologic data, and models.


California Institute of Technology

This is an astronomy popularization project for two students in the group led by Prof. S. G. Djorgovski at Caltech.

The WorldWide Telescope (WWT) is a sky browser developed by Microsoft Research. It allows a user to explore the sky at a variety of scales and wavelengths and to learn about interesting celestial objects. One nice feature of the WWT is that anyone can create “tours”—multi-media presentations that use it as a platform to showcase or explain particular kinds of astronomical objects, phenomena, etc. (for example, galaxies, supernova remnants, and so on). These tours can then be used as great educational and public outreach devices.

The goal of this project is to create a number of such tours that can be shared publicly. The presentation level should be about what a high school student would understand—think of it as explaining some astronomical bit to your friends—and it should be both fun to make and fun to watch.


Art Center College of Design, Pasadena

Housewares, appliances, electronics, toys, soft goods, sporting goods, tools, furniture/lighting and other lifestyle products are just some of the items that product designers create. Under the direct guidance of Professor Stan Kong, students will have the opportunity to explore educational and career opportunities related to the product design profession. Beginning students learn fundamental design processes and techniques through hands-on projects.

Through daily workshops, beginning design students will be introduce to the industrial design fields, which include product, transportation, environmental, entertainment and interactive design. Students will also undertake design projects while gaining exposure to Art Center and college life.


University of Southern California

Students will have an opportunity to work with Dr. Luciano Nocera, a Senior Research Associate and the Associate Director of the Integrated Media System Center (IMSC) at USC. IMSC is an informatics research center that focuses on data-driven solutions for real-world applications. Researchers are motivated by the need to address fundamental Data Science problems related to applications with major societal impact. Students will have the opportunity to participate in two research projects, one aimed at measuring human performance using a combination of wearables and Microsoft Kinect, and a second aimed at processing oil and gas streaming data to identify erroneous data and replace erroneous values with expected values inferred by modeling historical data.



University of California, Los Angeles

A student has the  opportunity to work with accomplished medicinal chemist and Associate Professor, Dr. Varghese John, Senior Staff Scientist, Patricia Spilman, and Lab Manager, Jesus Campagna at the Drug Discovery & Translational Laboratory in the Department of Neurology at UCLA. The laboratory is focused on discovery and development of drug candidates for neurodegenerative diseases primarily for Alzheimer’s disease. Students will gain more knowledge about Brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, learn about new drug discovery research being done in the lab to find cures, and get involved in some lab work.



A student has the opportunity to work with Program Director, Argelis Ortiz, at CoachArt. CoachArt is a non-profit organization which creates a transformative arts and athletics community for families impacted by childhood chronic illness. Under the direct guidance of Mr. Ortiz, the student will assist in identifying research-based volunteer program models and develop a potential volunteer model and recruitment plan for the organization. Additionally, the student will work with two amazing Program Coordinators, Emily and Erick, to gain exposure to the inner workings of a large non-profit event and plan the logistics and recruitment for CoachArt’s Annual All-Star Sports showcase. Finally, the student will participate in community outreach and funding efforts to learn more about non-profit development and the importance of community involvement in building a successful non-profit.


UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute

A student has the opportunity to work with Dr. Gavin Bahadur, Assistant Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology, at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute. In practice for more than 20 years, Dr. Bahadur is currently an ophthalmologist in Santa Monica, California and is affiliated with multiple hospitals, including Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Providence Saint John’s health Center, and UCLA Medical Center. He received his B.S. in Biology with Honors from Brown University and later earned his medical degree from Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Under his guidance, the student will assist with tracking and analyzing refractive outcomes of patients who have undergone cataract surgery.


Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Students will work in the laboratory of Dr. Henri Ford of Pediatric Surgery at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Students will study the pathogenesis of necrotizing enterocolitis, a devastating intestinal disease in premature infants. The students will work with experts in intestinal physiology, molecular biology, and functional genomics. The focus of the research activity is to look at molecular pathways that predispose the intestinal barrier to destruction.


The EXPLORE Program is not sponsored or endorsed by California Institute of Technology; University of California, Los Angeles; Art College of Design; Southern California Institute of Architecture; or University of Southern California.

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