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BASE Camp (Broadening Access To Science Education)

BASE Camp (Broadening Access to Science Education) is a two-week, residential camp for high school students interested in scientific research. This year's program is open to both male and female high school students and will run July 10-22, 2022The program application link will be live begining in February. In the meantime, please read the information below to learn more about the program and our application requirements. 

Base Camp: Getting High School Students Excited About Science | Fairfield University

BASE Camp is designed to engage high school students in hands-on, research-based experiences in the natural sciences and mathematics, in an effort to inform and excite students about the process of science. 

Program Features:

  • Hands-on work with faculty members and undergraduate students on real scientific research projects
  • Fun living and learning experience in a Fairfield University residence hall
  • Opportunities to explore healthcare and science careers 
  • Tailored college admissions counseling
  • Final poster presentation/celebration with family, friends, and the University community
  • Web-based resources for students exploring scientific careers
  • Certificate of participation

BASE Camp is open to students completing their sophomore or junior year of high school from underrepresented groups in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Students must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, be in good academic standing, and have an interest in science. Space is limited to 24 students. Priority may be given to Bridgeport area applicants.

The two-week overnight camp is free of charge to accepted students. All meals and lodging on campus are included. Funding for this program is generously provided by Boehringer Ingelheim and Alumni and Friends of Fairfield University.

Application Process

Application requirements include:

  1. An official transcript: A record of grades from your high school guidance counselor.
  2. A list of classes scheduled for next year: Please indicate which science and math courses you will take in the new academic school year. 
  3. Two letters of recommendation: One from a science teacher, the second from another teacher or a guidance counselor. ** To the teacher/guidance counselor: In a separate letter, please comment on this student’s eligibility for this program, including interest and aptitude in science, level of maturity, responsibility, and attitude. 
  4. Essay: A 200-word essay about why you are interested in participating in BASE Camp. 

Acceptances will be notified by mail.

If you have questions about the application process or BASE Camp in general, please contact Dr. Anita Fernandez at

Meet The Faculty

BASE Camp Projects

BASE Camp projects offer students an informative and fun week-long experience with actual scientific research during the first week of camp. Projects change every year, allowing students to choose from a variety of topics including biomedical science, medicinal chemistry, forensics, developmental biology, evolutionary biology, marine ecology, software engineering, mechanical engineering, behavioral psychology, neuroscience, biophysics, and applied mathematics.

This year's BASE Camp projects will be announced in February 2022. In the meantime, we have included a list of projects from previous years to give students a sense of the types of experiments they will be conducting.

Project #1: Exploring Gene Function in the Nematode C. Elegans

Anita Fernandez, PhD, Department of Biology

Our genes determine many aspects of our appearance and personality, so how do scientists study what individual genes do? In this project, students will use Caenorhabditis elegans, a tiny nematode worm, to study the function of several genes that are also found in humans. By studying mutant worms that harbor genetic defects and observing what happens when gene function is disrupted, students will be able to infer the normal function of the gene. 

Project #2: Your Inner Fish: Studying Human Bodies Through Other Vertebrates

Shannon Gerry, PhD, Department of Biology

Why do humans look the way that they do? In this project, students will study the structure and function of vertebrates, including fish, amphibians, and mammals, in order to understand humans. Students will assemble skeletons, dissect muscles from preserved specimens, and observe a variety of organ systems to appreciate how we have evolved from fishes. Students must be comfortable working with preserved specimens.

Project #3: Exploring Forensic Scientific Methods

Amanda Harper-Leatherman, PhD, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Forensic science is the application of science to help solve crimes. In this project, students will explore scientific techniques that are used to analyze physical evidence encountered at crime scenes, including as plastics, fabrics, oils, powders, arson accelerants, fingerprints, and/or blood. Students will work with mock crime scene evidence, determine the best methods for analysis, design experiments, and make hypothesis to learn about the power and limitations of forensic studies.

Project #4: Characterizing Substrate and Enzyme Interactions

Jillian Smith-Carpenter, PhD Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE) is a Zn2+ metalloproteinase that degrades proteins, such as insulin and amyloid beta, that can form beta-structures. This project aims to understand the importance of individual amino acids in the IDE active site that affect substrate binding, specificity, and proteolysis of substrates. To accomplish this task, students will choose a “mutant” IDE to study by performing enzyme kinetic analysis and MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry. Throughout the research project, students will learn some of the basic chemical rules that influence how enzymes and substrates interact.

Project #5: Sustainable Energy in Bridgeport, CT

Kraig Steffen, PhD, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Students will be introduced to the myriad of energy sources used to generate electricity in Bridgeport, CT, and on Fairfield University's campus. They will explore both existing and proposed projects, including the University's Co-Gen system, the Wheelabrator Trash to Energy plant in Black Rock, the Dominion Energy Fuel Cell plant, the Photovoltaic powerplant, and the under construction combined cycle powerplant being built by PSEG. Students will also work on individual and group projects investigating the basics of wind power, fuel cells, and photovoltaic cells; take field trips to the aforementioned power generating sites; and learn about alternative energy science through laboratory explorations.

Project #6: Measuring Stress: Effects of Therapy Dog Presence on Cortisol Secretion in Saliva

Brian Walker, PhD, Department of Biology

Therapy animals are becoming more and more common and are intended to help their owners deal with stress or signal the approach of a particular medical issue. In this project, students will work with Dakota, Fairfield University’s resident therapy dog, to determine if her presence lowers our bodies’ level of cortisol, a hormone that is secreted in large amounts when we are stressed. Using a technique called ELISA, we will measure the amount of cortisol found in small samples of our saliva to determine if Dakota should be earning extra dog treats for doing a good job in relieving stress.

BASE Camp Resources

When you become a BASE Camp participant, you have access to its resources for years to come! This page provides you with important information about college application and careers in science.

College Admission

Applying to college can be a tricky task. As part of the BASE Camp agenda, students attend college admission sessions tailored to pursuing careers in the STEM and healthcare fields. Below are some helpful resources. 

Science Careers

Below is contact information of the health and science professionals who came to speak to BASE Campers along with scientific career web resources.

Student Presentations

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