Students head west to experience once-in-a-lifetime research opportunity

June 24, 2024

It’s not often that high school students get to spend part of their summer exploring a new part of the country, touring national laboratories, meeting research scientists, and creating memories that will last a lifetime. That was the reality for the participants of this year’s Joint Science and Technology Institute (JSTI).

From June 8-21, 2024, ORISE hosted JSTI at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Also known as JSTI West for its location, this two-week, fully-funded, residential STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) research experience allows U.S. high school students to engage in research projects mentored by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency,  Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratory research scientists and other subject matter experts.

Students head west to experience once-in-a-lifetime research opportunity

“One of the things that I enjoyed the most about JSTI was getting to speak to some of the scientists because they were so fascinated by the younger generation,” said Sarah Richards, a student at Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, Ariz. “Everyone really took interest in making sure that the next generation of young scientists have the resources that we need to go far in our scientific careers.”

The purpose of the program is to inspire and encourage students to pursue careers in STEM fields, increase STEM literacy, and expose students to the importance of STEM through hands-on, relevant research. At the beginning of the event, students are split into groups and each group is given a research focus area that they learn more about throughout the two-week program through collaboration, hands-on activities, and plenty of research. Some of the areas of focus at this year’s event included coding, nuclear science, microbiology, climate and more.

While the research and sightseeing opportunities are always a highlight of the trip for participants, JSTI also gives them the ability to build friendships with other students who are also interested in STEM.

Students head west to experience once-in-a-lifetime research opportunity

“The first couple of days we did some bonding activities and icebreakers which were really fun,” said Luke Morrison, a participant from Midway High School in Kingston, Tenn. “As the week has gone on, I think everyone has become more comfortable with each other and I have met some incredible people. Everyone knows why they are here. Meeting with like-minded individuals while also having fun and learning about science is amazing.”

At the end of the program, students presented their research findings to their peers, mentors, friends, and family members. Want to learn more about other STEM programs offered by ORISE? Be sure to check out our full list of K-12 programs!

Media Contacts

Pam Bonee
Director, Communications
Phone: 865.603.5142

Wendy West
Manager, Communications
Phone: 865.207.7953

The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) is a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) asset that is dedicated to enabling critical scientific, research, and health initiatives of the department and its laboratory system by providing world class expertise in STEM workforce development, scientific and technical reviews, and the evaluation of radiation exposure and environmental contamination.

ORISE is managed by ORAU, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, for DOE’s Office of Science. The single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit