Out of a continued abundance of caution in response to the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic, the National Youth Science Foundation (NYSF) has again canceled the in-residence portion of the 2022 National Youth Science Camp (NYSCamp). Hosted in West Virginia since 1963, this will be only the third time that the annual program has gone fully virtual.

NYSCamp activities will begin on June 27 and will continue weekdays through Wednesday, July 20, 2022. The 2022 delegation will include 120 high achieving 2022 high school graduates and some rising high school seniors from over forty states and exceptional high school students from twelve additional Western Hemisphere nations. Traditionally, each state and nation are only guaranteed two delegates. Because of the virtual nature of the camp and through a generous grant from the Education and Cultural Affairs division of the U.S. State Department, however, the international delegation was increased to fifty delegates from Argentina, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Jamaica, Mexico, and Trinidad & Tobago this summer.

Programming at the 2022 NYSCamp includes 15 world-class keynote lectures, an AAAS Science Policy Panel Discussion, a panel discussion about data’s influence on social media strategy from key social media industry professionals, virtual tours at the Green Bank Observatory and National Gallery of Art, and over 200 additional interactive sessions and special events with camp staph (purposefully misspelled to connote their infectious enthusiasm), STEM educators and professionals, and other volunteers. 

Jessica Frey, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology at West Virginia University, will present this year’s Martha Werhle Opening Lecture. Her lecture will focus on the clinical and experimental applications of neuromodulation.

Dr. Frey’s research focuses on invasive and non-invasive forms of neuromodulation to improve the quality of life for patients with neurologic disorders. Her current areas of interest include using transcranial magnetic stimulation to help improve the quality of life for patients with Tourette Syndrome as well as cervical dystonia. She completed her medical training at Penn State and her neurology residency at West Virginia University. She just finished her fellowship training in movement disorders at the University of Florida. She was a 2008 PA delegate to NYSCamp, returned as staff in 2013, and has returned as a presenter for the past several years. In her free time, she practices tae kwon do and enjoys competing in agility trials with her dog, Ollie.

In response to her selection as the opening lecturer of the 2022 NYSCamp, Dr. Frey said, “I am honored to be presenting the Martha Werhle opening lecture for the 2022 NYSCamp. The lecture will focus on the exciting world of neuromodulation, which is an evolving field that is revolutionizing the way we think about neurologic recovery and rehabilitation. I am extremely excited to connect with the 2022 NYSCamp delegates. I hope to inspire them to pursue their passions and dreams in much the same way NYSCamp inspired me when I was a delegate.”

Speakers at the 2022 virtual NYSCamp were selected from among prestigious and up-and-coming STEM professionals who are making a difference in their fields of study and changing the world for good. Prominent 2022 keynote lecturers include Rahul Gupta, MD, representing the Biden Administration as Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP); Julie Robinson, Ph.D., the Chief Scientist and Manager for Science & Technology Utilization in the Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters; Jake Rosen, Global Head of Integrating Insights and Measurements at YouTube; Rachel Cooke, Senior Director of Impact at One Community, a Hollywood production company focused on social justice projects like the film “Just Mercy;” and Sydnee McElroy, MD, a family physician, acclaimed podcaster.

Lecture and seminar topics will include sessions facilitated by experts in medicine, biomedical research and therapies, climate science, space exploration, electric vehicles, paleontology, cybersecurity, big data, social media, STEM policy, deep-sea exploration, engineering, mathematics, and many other diverse STEM topics. 

NYSCamp Director, Brian Kinghorn, Ph.D., noted, “although this is, unfortunately, the third time we have had to host a virtual NYSCamp, we expect that the 2022 NYSCamp will still be a life-changing and horizon-expanding opportunity for each of our 2022 delegates. They are among the best and brightest STEM students in the Western Hemisphere and deserve to be recognized for their accomplishments and their potential for future achievements and leadership. The virtual camp will provide them with opportunities to interact with STEM experts, build lasting friendships, and get a jump start on changing the world for good.”

Delegates from previous virtual camps have shared insights about what the virtual NYSCamp experience can be like for delegates this summer. Emily Jolley (2020, UT) said “[The virtual] NYSCamp is a totally unique experience, and it will teach you so much, not only about science but about forming relationships and the world in general.” Ivy Adams, (2020, TN), added, “Virtual NYSCamp was a great opportunity to meet like-minded peers who enjoy learning and making a difference within their communities.” Eliana Hornbuckle (2020, IA) discussed how her experience at camp helped her make connections and combat loneliness at the beginning of the pandemic. “The bond we formed and the community NYSCamp gave me has been invaluable during this period in my life,” she said. 

Leonardo Mendoza Mora (2021, Mexico) exclaimed “I never imagined a virtual camp in the first place, and although we’ve been really frustrated with the virtual things this past year, I think that the team at the NYSCamp has shown us that making an amazing, fun, and engaging virtual camp is indeed possible.” Marie Hernandez (2021, Trinidad & Tobago) shared that she initially thought the camp would be all lectures with minimal fun. “But quite the opposite was true,” she said. “There was a perfect balance that was created between work and play.” Lina Chihoub (2021, NJ) added, “I loved camp! Everyone is so passionate about unique fields of STEM.  It was so inspiring to watch my peers learning for the sake of learning. Topics weren’t boring and repetitive but were instead super interactive, innovative, and informative, and changed the way I think about science.” Additionally, Laboni Santra (2021, FL) stated, “I have never been to a proper science camp before, and even though… the NYSCamp was in a virtual format, I learned more from the presenters, staff, and fellow delegates than I [learned] all during quarantine.” Giuliana Rivadeniera (2021, Ecuador) summed up the virtual NYSCamp experience this way, “without a doubt, the best 3.5 weeks I have ever had…I didn’t want it to end!”

The NYSCamp, which was first hosted by the State of West Virginia in 1963 as part of the state’s Centennial, is normally held at Camp Pocahontas in the Monongahela National Forest. Since its inception, the NYSCamp has honored over 6,200 students, giving them the opportunity to participate in a rigorous STEM enrichment program. Operation and financial support for this program were taken over by the National Youth Science Foundation (a 501(c) (3) organization) in 1983. The NYSCamp has been the Foundation’s well-established response to the documented need for improved science, math, and technology education among promising youth across the country.

The mission of the National Youth Science Foundation is to inspire lifelong engagement and ethical leadership in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through its proven educational model for mentoring, challenging, and motivating students. By building communities among students, teachers, and professionals, NYSF programs bridge the gap between the traditional school curriculum and STEM careers.

This year’s delegation includes an increase to fifty international delegates made possible by a generous contribution and cooperation from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The camp was also made possible through generous contributions from the State of West Virginia, Northrup Grumman, the Martha Gaines and Russell Werhle Memorial Foundation, the Daywood Foundation, and NYSCamp alumni and friends.