Earth Institute of Columbia University's and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory's Secondary School Field Research Program

Overview of the Secondary School Field Research Program


Lamont-Doherty's Secondary School Field Research Program (SSFRP) brings high school students, science teachers and undergrads to the Lamont campus each summer for six weeks of field and laboratory research. Once on campus, the students and teachers are treated as early-career scientists, with our researchers as their mentors.

This field and laboratory science internship program engages high school students in authentic, rigorous research projects.  The primary research site is the Piermont Marsh, which is part of the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve, where students conduct a wide range of environmental and ecological studies, including sediment accumulation, groundwater chemistry, nutrient cycling, bacterial levels, fish species, fish feeding patterns, invasive and native plant distributions, and more, while working in teams under the mentorship of Columbia researchers and technicians.  There are also additional lab placement opportunities during the summer in LDEO and Earth Institute laboratories.

Students take an after school preparatory course in the spring focused on field ecology, then spend 6 weeks carrying out their research.  This is followed by an after school class on data handling in the fall.

In addition to their hands-on work, the students and teachers read and discuss scientific literature, receive one-on-one mentoring from Lamont researchers, and take classes in data analysis and field science. Each team creates a research poster and a PowerPoint presentation at the end of the summer. After the completion of the summer program, the SSFRP works year-round with students and teachers at schools on after-school science projects and science fair submissions. Our high school students and teachers have presented abstracts at the Geological Society of America, the American Geophysical Union, the Society of Wetlands Scientists, and the Passaic River Symposium, as well in their local communities and schools.

During the summers, we have collaborated with the Harlem Children’s Society, Columbia University and the National Science Foundation to provide stipends or part-time work for students. Several of our students have used their experience in the Program to get ongoing part-time jobs as laboratory technicians.

SSFRP on Social Media!


SSFRP Program Announcements

  • Applications for 2016 Update

    Applications for the 2016 program closed in March. Stay tuned for program updates. 

    Secondary School Field Research Program

SSFRP Events

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Program History

The program began in 2005 as an ad hoc partnership between Lamont scientist Bob Newton and New York City science teacher Susan Vincent working with 10 students on an educational outreach component of a National Science Foundation Arctic Natural Sciences grant. Its scientific scope has expended each year since. In the summer of 2015, we had 40 high school students, 11 college students and eight high school science teachers working on nine research teams guided by six Lamont scientists and mentored by 20 Columbia grad students and post-docs. 

Currently, our partnering schools are The Young Women's Leadership School of East Harlem, The Young Women's Leadership School of Queens, and The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School. In the past, we have worked with Frederick Douglass High School I, Curtis High School, and the Manhattan Hunter Science High School. Each year, we also welcome students from Bergen Academies, Suffern High School, and Tappan Zee High School.


Each participating school has assigned a science teacher to act as liaison with the program, typically someone who is also participating in the field work. The teachers are responsible for selecting students to participate along with them.

There are no formal requirements for student participation, but the teachers have been encouraged to select a diverse group. During the first three years, 50 percent of the students were young women; 80 percent were from traditionally underserved ethnic groups; and 90 percent were Title I eligible.

Additionally, the program is open to students in grades 10 through 12. 

Application Instructions

Students must complete applications that are due in March. Please revisit the website for more information when the application will reopen.

An interview is part of the application process to establish students' level of enthusiasm for working outdoors, on the water or in a Marsh, and for their interest in science.

Additional Information

Program Website:

Piermont Marsh Project:

For more information contact:
Dr. Robert Newton, Program Director,, 845-365-8686
Susan Vincent, Field Instructor,, 413-204-4373