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The University of Tennessee

Pre-Collegiate Research Scholars Program

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UTK/Knox County Pre-Collegiate Research Scholars Program

The Pre-Collegiate Research Scholarship Program is a partnership between two proudly public institutions: The University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Knox County Schools.

Andrew Patterson (Pre-collegiate Research Scholar from Farragut High School Science Academy) with his faculty research mentor, Dr. Cynthia Peterson, Professor and Department Head, Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology
Andrew Patterson (Pre-collegiate Research Scholar from Farragut High School Science Academy) with his faculty research mentor, Dr. Cynthia Peterson, Professor and Department Head, Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology

The program's goal is to develop a model for hosting high school students in university research laboratories and shops so that they may experience the excitement of scientific research and engage in their own original research. Selected rising high school seniors participate in the program upon the recommendation of the collaborating teacher mentor at their respective high schools.

Through our program, rising seniors from 13 of Knox County’s public high schools conduct original research for 2 or 3 full semesters in a UT laboratory or engineering shop. Each student works with a pair of trained mentor teachers: one from UT and the other from her or his high school. This unique “Team of Three” approach is what makes the Pre-Collegiate Research Scholars Program the only one of its kind in the country.


The Pre-Collegiate Research Scholars Program began in Summer Term 2007 when Farragut High School teacher, Ms. Kristin Baksa began working with UT’s Dr. Lynn Champion (College of Arts and Sciences) and Dr. Masood Parang (College of Engineering) to find research placements for her students. In 2010, Knox County Schools approached UT with the request to expand PCRSP into a full partnership between the University and the County’s public school system. As a result, the first group of KCS students from 13 high schools began working in UT labs and engineering shops in summer, 2011. The program currently involves faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering, but it is hoped that it may expand to include additional UT Colleges in the future.

Enrollment and Course Credit

Participating students receive specially negotiated high school course credit* for their pre-collegiate research work through Knox County's "Out of School Project" designation, and do not need to enroll in a credit-bearing program at UT. However, students still need to be officially nominated by their school's designated mentor teacher(s), and are required to complete a PCRSP Student Registration Packet before they may participate. The Co-Directors and participating mentor teachers coordinate the admission and registration process for all participating students. *(9360000CR-Summer; 9360001CR-Fall; 93600002CR-Spring)


There is no charge to high school students who participate in the Pre-Collegiate Research Scholars Program. UTK support is provided for each student and includes all fees, student I.D. card, library access, and UT student I.D. card. A special I.D. will be assigned to the high school students to differentiate their enrollment status from those of regular UT students.

Faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering who wish to serve as research mentors must complete the Online Form, which records the prospective faculty mentor's contact information and a brief description of the laboratory experience he or she is willing to make available to high school student researchers through the mentoring program. A faculty member completing the form should indicate which terms she/he is willing to host students in the laboratory (Summer, Fall, Spring, or year round), how many students the lab will host, how many hours a student would be expected to spend in the lab each week, and whether or not grant funds are available to pay tuition for the student(s). The UT Director collects these submissions and collaborates with the KCS Director and KCS teacher partners to place students with faculty mentors based on common interests and other relevant factors.

Process for Mentoring Experience

At the beginning of the project, each student and mentor “Team of Three” work closely together to outline both project and expectations. A written outline of project goals and expectations should emerge from this meeting. The project should correspond with the agreed-upon number of hours per week and the duration of the placement (i.e. number of semesters and number of hours worked on project).

While it is understood that student instruction will involve participation of laboratory graduate students and post-doctoral associates, the mentor is directly responsible for working with the student and monitoring his or her progress. Weekly meetings between students and their sponsoring mentor are highly recommended.

To ensure communication with all parties involved, the mentor, student, and sponsoring high school teacher should meet at least twice each term; the first meeting is at the beginning of the project, and the second meeting is at the midterm (8 weeks) to monitor progress.

At the end of the term, all Pre-Collegiate Research Scholars are expected to prepare an abstract of their research project, to prepare a poster presentation of their research, and to write a research paper and submit it for presentation.
Students are encouraged to submit a research paper to the Tennessee Junior Science and Humanities Symposium and to submit posters for science fair competitions.

PCRSP Director (UT)

PCRSP Director (KCS)

Elizabeth Burman
Office of Community Engagement & Outreach
Office of Research & Engagement
1534 White Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37996-1529
Phone: (865) 974-8363
Phone: (865) 974-8363

Theresa Nixon
Science Supervisor
Knox County Schools
Andrew Johnson Building, 10th floor
Phone: (865) 594-1736
Fax: (865) 594-3878