Educational Outreach

K-12 Educational Outreach Programs

When fluency in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) takes root at a young age, students develop knowledge and skills to solve problems, make sense of information, and understand how to gather and evaluate evidence to make decisions. In this process, they also begin to discover how fascinating STEM subjects are.

The K-12 educational outreach programs of the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) promote such fluency by providing hands-on and student-centered learning experiences for middle and high school students. Schools and teachers can use these programs as part of an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to learning. Some programs like No Small Matter also include professional development components for teachers.

Junior Science Cafés

Junior Science Cafés inspire middle school students with the latest research from Pritzker Molecular Engineering graduate students. Presented in a compelling, engaging way, the 30-minute sessions feature topics like “Immune Detectives: Innocent Until Proven Pathogenic,” “Tiny DNA, Big Impact!”, and “Magic Gel Worms.” Personal stories from STEM professionals and hands-on activities help students discover what it’s really like to be a scientist or engineer.

My Block, My Hood, My City - Explorer Program

The PME is partnering with the My Block, My Hood, My City organization to build high school students' awareness of the modern scientific community and making STEM research relevant and engaging. During the 2020-2021 academic year, the PME will host six Explorer Program visits where teens will engage with the cutting-edge science and technology at the PME, and take part in demonstrations, hands-on activities, and informal discussions with graduate student researchers and faculty about education and careers in molecular engineering research.

No Small Matter Molecular Engineering Fair

During the PME’s No Small Matter molecular engineering fair, middle school students and their teachers learn how this emerging STEM field impacts their lives through a variety of hands-on activities and presentations led by graduate student researchers. Teachers who bring students to the fair participate in professional development workshops beforehand to examine how key middle school concepts connect to molecular engineering research and explore lessons to use in their classrooms. Please contact us if you are a teacher or administrator at a school interested in this program.  

After School Matters STEM Lab Internship

STEM Lab Interns who participate in the PME’s After School Matters Program conduct STEM research at the college level as members of research teams. Designed for high school students, these summer internships offer insights into how science and engineering professionals work in an innovative, collaborative environment. Student interns also gain valuable experience for competitive college applications. Recent program participants in are enrolled in chemical engineering, biomedical engineering, computer science, theoretical physics, and mathematics programs at Columbia University, Johns Hopkins, Purdue, UIUC, Loyola, and the University of Missouri. Applications are available beginning in March.

Interested in finding out more? Read about the past participants' research experiences in a chemistry and a molecular engineering lab.

Collegiate Scholars Program

PME faculty and graduate students lead a molecular engineering summer class in the Collegiate Scholars Program, an initiative designed to encourage high-achieving and underrepresented Chicago Public Schools students to apply to and succeed at highly selective colleges and universities. Visit the Collegiate Scholars Program page for more information and to apply.


In Pathways, PME faculty and graduate students lead a course introducing high school students to key molecular engineering concepts and the way they relate to real-world design problems. Summer Pathways programs provide a broad overview of how scholars at the University of Chicago articulate engineering problems and apply solutions.

Career exploration presentations

PME graduate students engage middle and high school students in explorations of molecular engineering careers and talk about different ways of manipulating molecular systems to solve some of society's most pressing problems. Our graduate students have participated in presentations at Wadsworth STEM Academy's Career Day, the Society of Women Engineers' Career Day for Girls event, and the Museum of Science and Industry's Science Works career exploration fair. Please contact us if you are interested in including PME in your school’s career exploration events.

Summer camps

Teams of PME graduate students lead summer camp sessions and presentations focused on molecular engineering learning activities and career exploration. We take part in the National Society of Black Engineers Engineering Explorers Summer Camp and Northwestern University’s Gifted and Talented Summer Programs, as well as summer camps at Argonne National Lab.

Contact us

To learn more about these programs, contact Laura Rico-Beck at