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Science Courses

CTY’s mathematics, science, and computer science courses are dedicated to Dr. Richard P. Longaker, Provost of Johns Hopkins University from 1979 to 1987, in recognition of his advocacy and guidance through CTY’s initial years.

In CTY science courses, students rediscover the world around them. They learn to ask questions and are challenged to explain their observations. Students develop their own theories, then test and refine them through experimentation. They also share their results with each other in order to develop a deeper understanding of the natural world. Students may choose to delve into special topics that are not part of the standard middle or high school curriculum or to study a traditional course at an accelerated pace.

In the special topics courses, students not only explore unique content, but also learn scientific techniques and processes that they otherwise might not see until college. Because of CTY’s schedule and small class sizes, instructors are able to adjust planned lessons to allow students to pursue topics that particularly engage their interests.

CTY’s fast-paced high school science courses are designed to provide students with the content of a year-long science course in one three-week session. These courses move very quickly and may serve to accelerate a student in his or her own school’s science curriculum. Each student takes a comprehensive examination at the end of the course to demonstrate his or her mastery of the material.

Unless otherwise noted, students spend at least two hours a day performing laboratory exercises, hands-on activities, or field work. Students gather and interpret data, master scientific concepts, and recognize relationships among physical phenomena. In addition to lectures and reading assignments, class activities include oral presentations and writing assignments, particularly formal lab reports. All courses emphasize inquiry-based learning in which instructors facilitate students making their own great discoveries.

Science Courses
Science courses require a minimum score on one of the designated tests; please review the Eligibility page for details. 

Note: Selected biological science courses may include traditional or virtual dissection.



Physics & Engineering

Sample syllabi for all courses are also available. Please note that the sample syllabi are meant to provide an idea of the level of the course and whether or not the content area interests you. CTY instructors are given guidelines within which they each develop their own syllabi. Choice and sequencing of topics within the content area, as well as specific activities, labs, and assignments, will vary.

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Biology Course Descriptions and Syllabi

Introduction to the Biomedical Sciences

This course is an introduction to human biology and the science of medicine. Drawing upon basic biological and chemical concepts, students explore the intricate anatomical and physiological mechanisms underlying normal human function. Students then investigate homeostatic imbalances that cause diseases. In learning about diabetes, for example, students gain an in-depth understanding of the endocrine system, the pancreas, the metabolism of sugar, and the biochemical effects of glucose. Lab work covers techniques in histology, anatomy and physiology (including dissections), and biochemistry. Additionally, students learn to read critically and respond to articles in scientific journals and the popular media.

Note: This course is designed for students who have completed only grades seven or eight. Students who, by this summer, will have completed grade nine or higher are not eligible.

Sample text: The Human Body in Health and Disease, Patton and Thibodeau.

Lab Fee: $70

Session 1: Carlisle, Lancaster, Los Angeles, Saratoga Springs, Seattle
Session 2: Carlisle, Lancaster, Los Angeles, 
Saratoga Springs, Seattle

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An astonishing 99 percent of all species that ever lived on our planet are now extinct. How have mass extinction events shaped our planet? What types of life forms have existed throughout history? What type of evolutionary adaptations have Earth’s species made in order to survive on our changing planet? Paleobiologists combine elements of paleontology, geology, and biology as they answer these and other questions by using snapshots of the past to uncover the narrative of this planet’s living history.

In this field science course, students explore the biological and environmental history of Earth by examining fossils they collect in the field alongside preexisting collections. They explore the many modes of fossilization, investigate key geological concepts, and classify the major phyla of animal and plant life in ancient and modern form. Students dissect present-day organisms in order to make comparisons with extinct life forms, identifying adaptations that have led to stronger survival rates. Along the way, they explore a range of topics including evolutionary theory, historical geology, paleoecology, and how climate change is affecting evolution. Students leave the course with a deeper understanding of the science behind dinosaur extinction theories, the development of human life, and the overall history of life on Earth..

Sample text: Introduction to Paleobiology and the Fossil Record, Benton and Harper.

Lab & Field Trip Fee: $160

Session 1: Lancaster, Los Angeles
Session 2: Lancaster

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Fast-Paced High School Biology

This course covers the material ordinarily included in a year long introductory course in high school biology (a usual prerequisite for AP or IB Biology). Students begin with the smallest unit, the atom, and build towards the final discussions of ecology and the environment. Along the way they sample biochemistry, move through genetics and cellular processes, and then integrate these concepts into their studies of evolution and systems of living things, such as respiration and reproduction.

Through readings, lectures, and lab work (including dissections), students finish the course with a sound foundation in biological concepts. Lab time constitutes at least 20 hours of the course contact time.

Note: Students just completing seventh grade are urged to take CTY’s Introduction to the Biomedical Sciences before taking this course. This course is intended for students who have completed eighth grade or above and who plan to continue on to AP or IB Biology or to other advanced work in biology such as CTY’s Genetics or Neuroscience.

Sample text: Campbell Biology, Reece et al.

Lab Fee: $70

Session 1: Baltimore, Carlisle, Lancaster, Los Angeles, Saratoga Springs
Session 2: Baltimore, Carlisle, Lancaster, Los Angeles, Saratoga Springs

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Prerequisite: Successful completion of Introduction to the Biomedical Sciences or Fast-Paced High School Biology CTY summer courses, CTY Online Programs Honors Biology, or at least a “B” in high school biology.

Where do memories get stored, and why do patients with Alzheimer’s have difficulties making new ones? What causes our inner clock to slow down as we are about to have an automobile accident? Why was Phineas Gage able to talk, walk, and be free of pain just minutes after a three-foot-long metal rod pierced through his head, destroying most of the left front side of his brain? Neuroscientists use an interdisciplinary approach—drawing on biology, chemistry, physics, and psychology—to unlock the answers to these and other questions about that most complex of all systems, the human brain and nervous system.

In this course, students investigate the development, evolution, and structure of the brain and nervous system. They approach neuroanatomy from the gross and microscopic levels and learn how neurons communicate with each other biochemically. They explore the functional integration of areas of the brain and neuroplasticity, neuropharmacology, diseases and disorders of the nervous system, and the nature of consciousness. Students also examine the neuronal basis of perception, learning and memory, sleep and dreaming, and language acquisition and use. In addition to lecture and discussion sessions, students participate in dissection, model building, and laboratory activities that use principles from various scientific disciplines.

Sample text: Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain, Bear, Connors, and Paradiso.

Lab Fee: $70

Session 1: Baltimore, Carlisle, Lancaster
Session 2: Baltimore, Carlisle
, Lancaster

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Prerequisite: Successful completion of CTY’s Fast-Paced High School Biology, CTY Online Programs Honors Biology, or at least a “B” in high school biology. Please note that CTY’s Introduction to the Biomedical Sciences may not be used as a prerequisite for this course.

Could a single genetic mutation be the key to eradicating coronary heart disease or be instrumental in developing new ways to treat hypertension? In this course, students learn the principles and methods that geneticists use to explore these possibilities.

Students in this course briefly review basic concepts of heredity, then delve into more complex concepts such as polygenic inheritance and sex-linked traits. They study the genetics of relatively simple  organisms, such as bacteria, learning how these prokaryotic organisms are used as tools in current genetic research. Students then consider the genetics of more complex organisms, including humans. They gain insights into both the negative and positive effects of mutations as they investigate the genetic basis of cancer and inherited disorders and explore how mutations increase variation within a population by changing the allelic frequency. In the laboratory, students go beyond the basic techniques of DNA extraction, digestion, and amplification. They perform bacterial cloning and dihybrid crosses, observing inherited phenotypes in a descendent generation. Throughout the course, students debate controversial topics in the field, such as stem cell research and genetically modified foods.

By the end of the course, students have covered concepts ordinarily taught in an introductory college genetics course.

Sample text: Introduction to Genetic Analysis, Griffiths et al.

Lab Fee: $70

Session 1: Baltimore, Carlisle
Session 2: Baltimore, Carlisle

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Chemistry Course Descriptions and Syllabi

Fast-Paced High School Chemistry

Prerequisite: Algebra I.

This course covers material ordinarily included in a year-long introductory course in high school chemistry (a usual prerequisite for AP or IB Chemistry). Topics covered in the course include physical and chemical properties, the periodic table, the atom and atomic theory, chemical bonding, nomenclature, the concept of the mole, chemical reactions and stoichiometry, solutions, thermodynamics, acids and bases, kinetics, equilibrium, and a brief introduction to organic chemistry.

Students conduct many traditional laboratory experiments to reinforce the content presented in the course. Typical experiments include determining the percent composition of a compound; comparing theoretical and percent yield in a chemical reaction; measuring the molar mass of a gaseous compound; exploring factors which affect the rate of a reaction; and conducting acid-base titrations. Lab time constitutes at least 20 hours of the course contact time.

Note: Students just completing seventh grade are urged to take CTY’s Introduction to the Biomedical Sciences before taking this course. This course is intended for students who have completed eighth grade or above and who plan to continue on to AP or IB Chemistry.

Note: Students will spend significant time doing mathematical calculations. Students that have not yet completed Algebra 2 should consider reviewing ratios, exponents, radicals, and logarithms before the program.

Sample texts: Prentice Hall Chemistry, Wilbraham et al.; an accompanying lab manual.

Lab Fee: $70

Session 1: Carlisle, Lancaster, Los Angeles, Saratoga Springs, Seattle
Session 2:
Carlisle, Lancaster, Los Angeles, Saratoga Springs, Seattle

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Introduction to Organic Chemistry

Prerequisite: Successful completion of CTY’s Fast-Paced High School Chemistry, CTY Online Programs Honors Chemistry, or at least a “B” in first-year high school chemistry.

Carbon compounds are found and used in the fields of medicine, biotechnology, chemical engineering, and pharmacology. Organic chemistry, the study of the structure and reactions of these compounds, provides foundational knowledge for all of these disciplines. In this course, students focus on organic structure and reaction mechanisms, material often not studied until the second year of college. After reviewing basic chemistry topics such as bonding, hybrid orbitals, and acids and bases, students proceed with an exploration of hydrocarbons’ structure and functional groups. Moving on to the structure of more complex molecules, they examine how stereochemistry affects a molecule's behavior.

In lab, students learn important organic chemistry techniques. Beyond simple and fractional distillations to isolate products, students also separate products by crystallization and extraction. To demonstrate acetylation, for example, students may synthesize aspirin; to demonstrate hydrolysis, they may synthesize soap. In addition, students learn to apply different techniques for confirming the identity or relative purity of a product, such as Infrared spectroscopy (IR) or melting point determination. Students complete the course with a deeper understanding of the chemistry of carbon compounds and are better prepared for college organic chemistry.

Sample text: Materials compiled by the instructor.

Lab Fee: $70

Session 1: Not offered
Session 2: Lancaster

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Physics & Engineering Course Descriptions and Syllabi

Electrical Engineering

Prerequisite: Algebra I.

The first transistor, created at Bell Laboratories in 1947, was about 4 centimeters in size. Today, millions of transistors fit on a single computer processor chip about the size of a postage stamp. Innovations such as the miniaturization of the transistor are hallmarks of the exciting and challenging field of electrical engineering.

In this course, students begin by learning foundational concepts from electromagnetism. For instance, they map the electric field lines generated by an electric charge. They investigate current, voltage, resistance, energy, and magnetism. Students apply their conceptual understanding as they draw and analyze series and parallel circuits, using mathematical tools such as Ohm’s Law and Kirchoff’s laws. They then design and construct their own circuits, working with resistors, capacitors, inductors, diodes, and transistors. Students examine electromagnetism’s applications to practical, everyday devices such as motors, lifting magnets, and stereo speakers.

Finally, students are exposed to cutting edge topics in the field, including the physics behind solar cells and solid-state electronics. Students leave the course with a better understanding of electrical engineering and its many applications to everyday life.

Sample text: Materials compiled by the instructor.

Lab Fee: $70

Session 1: Carlisle, Los Angeles, Saratoga Springs
Session 2: Carlisle, Los Angeles, Saratoga Springs

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Prerequisite: Algebra I.

When the sun runs out of fuel, will it explode in a giant supernova or fade into a white dwarf? Does every galaxy revolve around a supermassive black hole? Will the universe continue to expand, or will it eventually collapse back upon itself in a reversal of the Big Bang? Astrophysics—the branch of astronomy that studies the physical laws governing astronomical objects and the universe itself—is the key tool for determining how the universe works, how it started, and where it’s headed.

Students explore the structure of the universe by first learning about scale and distances of important astronomical objects such as planets, stars, and galaxies. Next, students focus on stellar evolution. They study the birth, life, and death of stars by examining the inner workings of stars and properties such as size, temperature, color, and luminosity. They also consider how objects such as neutron stars and black holes are formed.

Students investigate galaxies, including the Milky Way, comparing their shapes, compositions, and rotational speeds. They calculate distances to other galaxies using Hubble’s Law. Lastly, students explore topics in modern cosmology, such as the Big Bang and inflationary universe hypotheses, and consider the ultimate fate of the universe.

Note: Due to the large number of computer simulations performed in this course, students are required to bring a laptop computer for use during the session. The laptop must run at least Windows 7 or OS X. Students may be asked to install simulation software, but will be provided detailed instructions at the start of the summer.

Sample text: Astronomy Today: Stars and Galaxies, Volume II, Chaisson and McMillan.

Lab Fee: $70

Session 1: Baltimore, Lancaster
Session 2: Baltimore, Lancaster, 
Saratoga Springs

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Fast-Paced High School Physics

Prerequisites: Algebra II (trigonometry recommended).

This course covers material ordinarily included in a year-long, algebra-based introductory course in high school physics (a usual prerequisite for advanced physics courses such as AP Physics C or IB Physics).

The course is divided into the study of mechanics and the study of electricity and magnetism. Topics in mechanics that are covered include kinematics; Newton’s laws of motion; work, energy, and power; systems of particles and linear momentum; circular motion and rotation; and oscillations and gravitation. Topics in electricity and magnetism that are covered include electrostatics; conductors, capacitors, and dielectrics; electric circuits; magnetic fields; and electromagnetism. In labs, students learn to measure and analyze error; determine gravitational acceleration; and experiment with simple circuit analysis and the magnetic deflection of electrons. Lab time constitutes at least 20 hours of the course contact time.

Note: Students should consult with their schools about next steps following this course. Most advanced physics courses require a prior course in calculus or concurrent enrollment in calculus in addition to a prior physics course.

Sample text: Physics: Principles and Problems, Zitzewitz.

Lab Fee: $70

Session 1: Lancaster, Los Angeles, Saratoga Springs
Session 2: Carlisle, Lancaster, Los Angeles

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Advanced Topics in Physics: Special Relativity

Prerequisite: Algebra II and trigonometry and either CTY’s Fast-Paced High School Physics or at least a “B” in conceptual physics or high school physics.

If a woman leaves the Earth for a journey to a nearby star system traveling close to the speed of light, she will return much younger than her twin sister who has remained home. This is just one of the amazing, counterintuitive discoveries revealed by Albert Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, which revolutionized physics. With perhaps the most famous equation in all of science, E = mc2, Einstein’s theory revealed that matter and energy are equivalent, setting the stage for atomic bombs and nuclear power plants. This theory incorporated time as the fourth dimension in the equations of physics, rather than treating it as distinct from space. It showed that the length of an object depends on how fast it is moving relative to an observer, that even the passage of time depends on relative motion, and that the mass of an object varies with speed.

Building upon concepts from introductory physics, students begin by studying the problems and inadequacies of Newtonian mechanics and the theory of electricity and magnetism. They then shift their focus to Einstein’s groundbreaking solution, the Special Theory of Relativity. Topics covered include the principle of relativity and the light postulate, simultaneity, Lorentz transformation derivations, relativistic kinematic and dynamic calculations, light cones, k-calculus, and Minkowski spacetime. Students also explore the mathematical concepts underlying Einstein’s later General Theory of Relativity and how they can be used to understand the universe and phenomena like gravitational lensing and black holes.

Students leave with an understanding of crucial modern developments in physics and the mathematical skills to analyze and understand the universe in which we live.

Note: While this course contains some theoretical/philosophical content, students must come prepared to solve a large number of mathematical problems.

Sample text: Spacetime Physics, Taylor & Wheeler.

Lab Fee: None; not a lab course.

Session 1: Not offered
Session 2: Lancaster

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Investigations in Engineering

Prerequisite: Pre-calculus.

Engineering is an art that requires ingenuity, the ability to understand the components of a problem, facility in design, and the capacity to find creative solutions. This course introduces students to the excitement and challenges of scientific investigation.

This class asks students to do more than calculate solutions to well-posed, simplified problems. Rather, they are asked to translate complicated problems often encountered by engineers into ones which can be tackled and resolved. These open-ended assignments require hands-on exploration. Some of the exploration uses a virtual environment with a set of laboratory experiments developed in HTML and Java. These exercises require students to develop a broad understanding of how to solve engineering problems. The virtual laboratory includes exercises such as drilling for oil, remote measurement, electronic circuit design, logical circuit design, and building a robotic arm.

Investigations in Engineering does not carry college credit. Students interested in a similar, for-credit course experience should consider the Whiting School’s program Engineering Innovation.

Note: Returning CTY students report that this course is particularly intense. We do not recommend it as a student’s first experience at CTY.

Sample text: Engineering and the Mind’s Eye, Ferguson.

Lab Fee: $70

Session 1: Baltimore
Session 2: Baltimore

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