Program and Presenters

Friday Evening

Formal Dinner

Hotel Boulderado

6 pm – 8 pm, Hotel Boulderado

[ticketed separately] Since 1909, the Hotel Boulderado has offered Rocky Mountain elegance in the heart of downtown Boulder. Join us in the Juniper Room for an elegant, intimate dinner. Each table will discuss SSP’s mission – should the mission statement be revised? – then summarize their thoughts for the group.  Included with Gold and Silver sponsorships, otherwise ticketed separately.

Dr. Duncan’s back yard


6 pm -10 pm, the home of Doug Duncan ‘68

Head over to Prof. Duncan’s beautiful home near the CU campus. There will be food if you’re hungry, beverages if you’re thirsty, and plenty of great conversation. Donations accepted at the door. (Address will be supplied to attendees.)

Saturday Daytime

9 am – 4 pm, CU campus, Duane Hall (physics building)

specific times and rooms TBA

Joining us will be the 36 participants and 7 faculty of SSP ’18 in Astrophysics at CU Boulder.


“Welcome to the Summer Science Program”

Richard Bowdon ’74, SSP Executive Director

When gifted teens arrive on campus to begin their “educational experience of a lifetime,” they are vibrating with excitement and anticipation, while doing their best to act cool. They don’t realize that we were them … they are younger versions of us … and we’ve already been through SSP. So we know what they’re thinking, and what’s about to happen to them. In effect, we can read their minds! I tell them all of this on arrival day, and more. “I have good news and bad news. First, the bad news …” They are surprised. You will smile and nod.

Richard studied Applied & Engineering Physics at Cornell, then returned to Texas for a 20-year career in software applications to petroleum exploration, including 12 years as founder and CEO of Energy Software, Inc. He then moved to North Carolina and pivoted to the nonprofit sector. One of two alumni who suggested in 1999 that SSP should become an independent nonprofit, and member of the “gang of five” original incorporators of that nonprofit, he has served on SSP’s Board of Trustees since then, and as Executive Director since 2001.

From SSP to the Oscars and Beyond – A Life in Art and Technology

Richard Chuang ’74

Digital art and animation seem omnipresent today, but when Richard Chuang encountered his first computer at SSP ’74, art and technology existed in different universes. Richard’s passion, and the theme of his life, has been to connect them. He will describe his path from SSP to the birth of computer animation at PDI/DreamWorks, to his pioneering work in mobile games and entertainment. His current focus, applying visual technologies to medicine, brings him full circle from entertainment back to science.

Richard is founder of d1n0, a startup to leverage creative innovations using technology. He previously founded Cloudpic, led studios, and co-founded PDI/DreamWorks, where he created CGI technologies used in the Shrek and Batman films and countless commercials. He has been recognized with Academy Technical Achievement Awards in 1998 and 2016 and an Emmy for graphic design. He is an expert in applying machine learning to creative visual content like augmented and virtual reality.

Women in STEM: Challenges Overcome

Panel discussion led by Rachel Paterno-Mahler ’02 (faculty ’07, ’09)

Panelists to include Bonnie Valant-Spaight ’89 (faculty ’93), Rebecca Rapf ’07 (faculty ’11, ’12), Amber Yang ’16, Agnes Kim (faculty ’06, ’08, ’18)

Women from a range of STEM fields and career stages will talk about day-to-day challenges, how those challenges have changed over time, and ideas for making STEM more inclusive and equitable. Bring your questions and comments.

Rachel is the daughter of Vicki Paterno ’70 – SSP’s only mother-daughter pair so far. She graduated from Pomona College in Physics, then with a masters in physics at UC Irvine, using time delays to constrain the masses of gravitational lenses. Rachel next headed for Boston University, earning her PhD in astronomy studying the role of bent, double-lobed radio active galactic nuclei in galaxy clusters. She is now back in sunny southern California, in a Postdoc position at UC Irvine.

How Orbit Determination Became Much More Than a Summer Project

Amber Yang ’16

Space debris in near-Earth orbit is a serious and growing problem. A tiny object with enough kinetic energy can destroy a fragile satellite or penetrate the hull of a space station. Any government or company with assets in space needs to know where the junk is, in order to avoid it. Surely the “grownups” have got this covered, right? Or could a teenager, fresh from SSP, think of a better way than anyone else to predict the path of space debris? Yes.

Amber is a rising sophomore studying physics at Stanford University. Shortly after leaving SSP, she created machine learning / neural network software to track low-earth-orbit space debris, won the 2017 Young Scientist Award and the CERN Award at ISEF, and founded Seer Tracking to market her technology. Forbes magazine named her to their “30 Under 30” list. (Amber is way under 30.) This summer she is interning at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory.

U.S. Space Policy: Past, Present and Future

Scott Pace ’75 (Chair Emeritus); Jack Burns

Scott Pace and Jack Burns are experts on the history, effects, and consequences of space policy. Dr. Pace was a freshman in high school when humans last walked on the moon. Why have we not returned since? He will discuss how the U.S. made, or failed to make, decisions about space exploration and development over the past three decades. Dr. Burns will focus on current and future U.S. space policy and goals, including the risks, rewards, and costs of sending humans to the Moon, Mars, … or maybe an asteroid?

Dr. Pace is Executive Secretary of the National Space Council, chaired by Vice President Michael Pence. Scott came to the White House from the Space Policy Institute at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, where he was Director and Professor of the Practice of International Affairs. A former NASA administrator, he is a Chair Emeritus of SSP and former Trustee of the Universities Space Research Association.

Dr. Burns is Professor of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at CU Boulder, VP Emeritus for Academic Affairs and Research, and Director of NASA’s Network for Exploration and Space Science. His research focuses on extragalactic astronomy and cosmology, and the design of next-generation observatories in space and on the Moon. He received NASA’s Exceptional Public Service Medal in 2010 and NASA’s Group Achievement Award for Surface Telerobotics in 2014. Burns was a member of the Presidential Transition Team for NASA in 2016/17. From 2014 to 2017, Burns served as senior Vice President of the American Astronomical Society.

SSP Present: the Biochemistry Enzyme Inhibitor Design Project

Sunayana Rane ’15, Devin Srivastava ’15, Stephanie Zhang ’17

Stephanie Zhang ’17
Devin Srivastava ’15

What is the science behind the new SSP project in Biochemistry? What do students do in the wet lab? What skills do they learn? What is the schedule on a typical day? What do they do for fun and relaxation? Do they get sleep deprived? How can it be SSP without asteroids?!? Ask questions about the project, the faculty, and Purdue, and compare-and-contrast this experience with your own.

Devin and Sunayana were two of six alumni who volunteered for the 2016 pilot of the Biochemistry project. Devin returned to Purdue this summer as a TA. He’s a rising sophomore at Harvard, she is a rising junior at MIT. That’s where Stephanie is headed this fall, following her participation in the inaugural Biochemistry program one year ago, and subsequent competition in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) with an extension of her SSP research.

SSP Present: the Astrophysics Research Project Today

Dr. Agnes Kim, Academic Director, with selected participants of SSP ’18 in Astrophysics at CU Boulder

Here in Boulder, the OD was due last night at midnight! How is near-earth asteroid orbit determination done at SSP now? What are the biggest obstacles participants face? How much time do they spend programming? What field trips do they go on around Boulder? Ask questions, compare-and-contrast this experience with your own.

The participants will be tired but happy and excited. As the end of their “educational experience of a lifetime” nears, they will talk about what SSP ’18 feels like in real time. As in, right now!! It might sound very familiar. And their sheer luminosity will give you hope for humanity’s future.

Dr. D’s Greatest Hits: Live Physics Demonstrations

Michael Dubson ’73 (faculty ’07, ’16-’18)

In one of only three physics classrooms in the U.S. equipped with a rotating stage, witness Dr. Dubson perform, live and in person, the most dramatic physical science demonstrations of all time, The Greatest Hits of Physics. Lightning! Explosions! Theremin music! (Google it) And much more. You might even be chosen as a victim volunteer. Note: no audience members will be purposefully harmed during the making of this extravaganza.

Mike is back on SSP’s faculty for the fourth time. He is a member of the Physics faculty at CU, and Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies. Mike holds a PhD in experimental condensed matter physics from Cornell. He has won several teaching awards, including the Undergraduate Educator of the Year award from the American Association of Physics Teachers. Mike helps design and program the online physics simulations for PhET (, “the best science education software money can buy, except you can’t buy it, because it’s free.”

Best of the SSP Archives: photos, reports, equipment

John Briggs ’76, SSP Historian/Archivist

Back in “the day,” a brochure with text and photo highlights would be printed every year as a combination annual report and recruiting tool. When we left Thacher School in 2000, they gave us all of that material. A complete set (missing only 1964) will be on display, carried to Boulder with care and love by SSP Historian / Archivist John Briggs ‘76. John will also have a compact “measuring engine”, used at the New Mexico campus in our first few years there.

the following opportunities will overlap the presentations

SSP Video History Project

Take a break, sit down, relax, and say a few words to the camera about how SSP has affected your life path, what it has meant to you, why you think it deserves to thrive and grow.


“You pays your money and takes your chances.” You might win a fabulous prize, like an SSP-embossed green laser, or one of Dr. Pierce’s astronomical theme neckties … and you’ll help the Summer Science Program.

SSP Swag

Wear your SSP membership on your sleeve … or hat, or hoodie. Visit the Member Relations Committee table.

Reception and Banquet

Saturday 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm, University Memorial Center




Raffle Drawing

Keynote: A Bigger and Better SSP – the Strategic Plan

Michael Weiss ’74 (Chair)

SSP’s first formal strategic planning process commenced in 2013 as part of the $335,000 expansion planning grant from the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation. In February of last year, the Board of Trustees adopted the resulting Strategic Plan and companion Implementation Plan. It calls for continuing, staged addition of additional campuses and projects, supported administratively and financially by an organization reorganized for that purpose. Mike Weiss will review that history, and describe the more recent work of the Reorganization Committee, which he chaired.

Dr. Michael Weiss is Chair of the Summer Science Program Board of Trustees, and Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Indiana University, School of Medicine. Holding 17 issued or pending patents, he is a founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Thermalin, Inc., and a pioneer in creating shelf-stable insulin. In addition to leading SSP’s Board, Dr. Weiss is a Trustee of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Presidential Scholars Foundation.

Science Keynote: A Brief Tour of Everywhere

7:45 pm – 9:15 pm, Fiske Planetarium

Douglas Duncan ’68 (faculty ’74-’76, Trustee)

Join Doug on a journey in time and space from the Fiske Planetarium to the very edge of the universe. You will not be viewing “artist’s renditions” or computer animations, but real images and data from real spacecraft and telescopes of real planets, moons, stars, galaxies, and more. Our trip will only end when the entire universe fills our eyes and minds.

Prof. Duncan is a faculty member in Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at CU Boulder and Director of Fiske Planetarium until he retired from that job on January 1. He has a B.S. from Caltech and Ph.D. from UC Santa Cruz. He has authored over 50 refereed publications. In 2011 he was recognized as the “Outstanding Astronomy Teacher in the US.” Doug is often heard on NPR and leads trips on land and sea to view total eclipses and northern lights.

Looking Up

9:30 pm – ??, Sommers-Bausch Observatory, next door to Fiske Planetarium

After returning from the edge of the universe, visit the observing deck to admire the twin 20” Planewave telescopes on dual carbon-fiber trusses, used by SSPers this summer. They will demonstrate them for you. Then go downstairs to the classroom, computer lab, and TA office where our group spent most of their waking hours for the past five weeks.

Also not to be missed: the very astrograph SSP used in the 60s and 70s will be set up for your inspection. Peer through the 6-inch guide ‘scope that hundreds of SSPers – you? – used to manually (!) guide the astrograph through those 15-20 minute exposures to glass plates. It was built by legendary telescope maker George Carroll and frequently pictured on the cover of the annual SSP brochure.

Late-Night Meetup(s)

10:30 pm – ??, TBA

Boulder’s nightlife is buzzing on a Saturday in July. We will suggest a couple of local destinations to continue great conversations into the wee hours.

“Liquid Sky” EDM Public Show

10:30 pm – ??, Fiske Planetarium

<<FiskEDM is a new series of late-night Liquid Sky shows. Our 8K digital theater delivers a mind-bending experience by combining perfectly blended beats with captivating graphics that will take you down a wormhole into another universe.>> [Note: “EDM” = Electronic Dance Music]


Annual Membership Meeting

9:30 am – 10:30 am, Kittredge Central, across the street from Fiske Planetarium

Every “member” of SSP – each alum, former faculty, and “Community Member” named by the Board – is like a shareholder in this unique nonprofit, eligible to vote in the annual election for Trustees, and to participate in the annual Membership Meeting. For the past two years, the Membership Meeting has been a virtual webinar; this time it will be in-person in Boulder. Join the discussion of SSP’s current status and future plans with the several officers and Trustees present.


10:30 am – noon

[ticketed separately] Enjoy a catered brunch on campus before you head to the airport. You’ll enjoy one more chance to chat with the SSPers you met over the weekend, as well as the 43 current participants and faculty.


Noon – ??, Chatauqua Park trailheads

Have some time after brunch? Boulder sits at the very edge of the Rocky Mountains. Carpool over to the historic (1898) Chatauqua Park and hit the nearby trails into the foothills, led by a local or two. Nothing too strenuous nor long. Afterward, an early dinner in the Chatauqua Dining Hall will taste wonderful.

Meals Summary

Campus map. On Saturday we will be in Duane Hall (physics building) and Fiske Planetarium. On Sunday we will be at Kittredge Central, very close to Fiske. We will email detailed directions and parking instructions to ticket holders.


60th Celebration Overview