Innovation Through the Ages

Innovation Through the Ages

In this program, students will be introduced to pivotal moments in technological and artistic innovation and the physics and science behind them. Students will work in groups to create, imagine, design, and recreate key innovations that moved the Western world from antiquity to modernity. Tools and techniques used by engineers and artists to transform their communities will be utilized as students solve the same problems innovators faced throughout history. Projects may include architectural studies and early perspective techniques; the mechanics of trebuchets and catapults, and the principals of flight and development of the first flying machines.

Integrated Science

Integrated Science

IMSA’s Integrated Science Program is a selective application course focused on providing STEM education opportunities to students who might otherwise not have the opportunity. Partial to full scholarships are available.

This uniquely IMSA program, combining two weeks of online learning followed by one week of engaging hands-on learning on campus in Aurora, explores the links between biology, chemistry, and physical science. Taught by IMSA faculty, participants delve into scientific topics including gas laws, osmosis/diffusion, and how water affects climate.

With a solid foundation from two weeks of online courses, students arrive at IMSA for a week of hands-on activities in our labs. Students live in the residence halls, experiencing life at IMSA first hand as a student. At the conclusion of the program, students are presented with a Certificate of Completion.

Genetics: Nature or Nurture?

Genetics: Nature or Nurture?

Genetics has become a cutting-edge science, not only in the field of biology, but also because of the enormous social and medical reach of its discoveries. In this program, students will explore the environment’s role in gene expression. Are traits controlled by inherited genes or by a combination of genes and the environment? Students will experiment with Drosophila (fruit flies) a widely used model organism in real-world genetics investigations and will also practice doing or modeling genetic techniques such as DNA isolation, gene-editing, PCR, etc.  Students will also use statistical analyses to quantify research outcomes.

Physiology and Biomedical Engineering

Physiology and Biomedical Engineering

Physiology and Biomedical Engineering have never worked better together than in this program! Students will learn physiology applications by using engineering to visualize the relationships between structure and function of both the digestive and cardiovascular systems. “Working” models of both systems will be designed, engineered, and built during the course of the week. Students will also have the opportunity to model different pathological conditions in their models such as atherosclerosis and Crohn’s disease and explain the biophysical and biochemical basis of their creations. Through model-building and testing, dissections, chemistry experiments, and possibly even a laparoscopic surgery simulation, students will come away with a newfound appreciation for these crucial systems. The week will culminate with the students presenting their creations at a showcase for parents.

Genetics: Nature or Nurture – Thursday

Genetics: Nature or Nurture – Thursday

Today was an exciting day for the students! They were able to see how environment did influence gene expression in identical E. coli plated on different types of media. Some of the E. coli expressed the Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) while others did not. Students also created experiments to test effects of anti-epileptic drug s (AEDs) on the flies. Tomorrow the students will be discussing and presenting what they have been researching throughout the week!

Ask your student: What is the difference between genotype and phenotype? (Genotype is based on the DNA sequence for a trait, phenotype is the expression or appearance of the trait)

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Genetics: Nature or Nurture – Tuesday

Genetics: Nature or Nurture – Tuesday

Students began their days by learning how to handle and anesthetize fruit flies, then identified characteristics on those flies – eye color, wing shape, etc. After comparing their data with the class, the students generated different fly behaviors to test. The students looked at the genetics and behavioral phenotype concept with gene-environment effects to discuss outcomes of these possible interactions in preparation for experiments later in the week!

Ask your student: What are some ways the environment can affect behavior? (Altering gene expression and therefore behavior, cause learning and thus alter gene expression, have no effect purely genetically based behavior)

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This Monday in… Genetics: Nature or Nurture?

This Monday in… Genetics: Nature or Nurture?

Today in Genetics: Nature or Nurture, the students extracted their own DNA with the goal of identifying whether or not their DNA contained the PTC gene. The gene reveals whether or not the campers can taste bitter (PTC) or not! Once the campers had their DNA, they prepared it for a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) experiment to then amplify the gene and eventually reveal whether or not the gene was present.

Ask your student: What are polytene chromosomes?  (The ‘giant’ chromosomes found in the salivary glands of drosophila larva that are result from several rounds of DNA replication without cell division)

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Integrated Science – Thursday

Integrated Science – Thursday

This afternoon the Integrated Science students were visited by Melissa Lenczewski, a professor of Geomicrobiology at Northern Illinois University, along with two of her research students. Professor Lenczewski and her students shared their recent research on groundwater in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Their research focus was how tourism impacts the area drinking water when chemical residues seep through the grounds after people swim in popular water-filled pits, called cenotes. After the presentation students participated in two hands-on activities. They practiced filling and flipping Whirl-Pak laboratory sample bags, and then looked at bacteria on their fingers under a UV light box to see how well they washed their hands!


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Integrated Science – Wednesday

Integrated Science – Wednesday

On Wednesday students in the Integrated Science program expanded their understandings of water by incorporating the concept of carbon. In the morning they dove into photosynthesis – how plants convert light energy into “food” – first by reviewing the basics in a classroom mini-lecture, and then by performing an experiment in the lab. They removed all the gas from pieces of spinach, dropped them in various solutions, and viewed them under different colored light conditions to see if they floated as they released gas while photosynthesizing. Throughout the rest of the day students continued focusing on how carbon factors in to our understanding of water, especially in terms of metabolism in biological organisms.

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Integrated Science – Tuesday

Integrated Science – Tuesday

Today students in the Integrated Science Residential Program continued their exploration of the properties and possibilities of water. In the morning, students began investigating current topics in water, ecosystems, and conservation for their week-long research projects. They also were introduced to osmosis: the movement of water through a membrane. In the afternoon, students applied that knowledge to a real-world scenario by emulating Red Cross workers in a dialysis-simulation lab. They soaked semipermeable tubes of mystery “dialysis solution” in “blood” – water dyed with red food coloring – and measured changes in mass and color between the different tubes. Kidneys clean waste products from your blood, of course, as part of the job of maintaining a delicate balance of water in the body, and Dr. Randall discussed with students how these processes in the human body mirror the cycling of water through ecosystems.