High School Special Topics Program

What is the Special Topics Program?

This spring The STEM & Leaf Corps is expanding its Special Topics Programs for High School Students!

Selected high school students will complete a program on a topic of their choosing, meeting one hour each week throughout the Spring 2021 semester with our volunteer STEM & Leaf Mentors and other program participants. Our mentors include 8 National Merit Scholars, 2 BS/MD Candidates, and 1 PhD Candidate from a variety of backgrounds. This is an unparalleled opportunity to learn about topics traditionally unavailable in high schools, showcase your talents on a collegiate level, and create projects that will have impact in your local community!

Thanks to the pandemic, we have successfully pivoted to virtual learning so the vast majority of the topics will be available to any student with an internet connection in the Western hemisphere.

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What are the Topics?

This semester's topics are

  • Public Health in the Hispanic Community: A Story of Science, Culture, and Language (Discussion + Project)

  • Energy: History, Economics and Sustainability (Discussion + Project)

  • Intelligent Investing: The Warren Buffett Way (Lecture + Discussion)

  • History and Philosophy of Economics (Discussion + Project)

  • Regional Academic Support Database (Project-Based)

  • Modern Healthcare: Who Gets It? (Discussion)

  • Biotechnology Journal Club (Research)

  • Middle Eastern Politics (Discussion)

  • Ancient Greek Philosophy (Discussion)

  • Science Writing (Research)

  • Music and Memory (Discussion + Research)

Past topics included:

  • Computational Biology (Project-Based) [Fall 2020]

  • Computational Linguistics (Research) [Fall 2020]

  • Mathematical Linguistics (Research) [Spring 2020]

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Student Selection

January 23

January 30






April 30*


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  • Students must be 13 years or older

  • Students must be in high school

  • Must live in Western Hemisphere

  • Parent/Guardian permission required

  • Parent/Guardian must submit application

  • Its more fun with friends! Let them know about this opportunity!

Application Deadline: Saturday, January 23 at 11:59 PM CT


"​The STEM & Leaf Corps gave me an unique opportunity to dive deeper into biological topics through an interesting project. I learned valuable information about coding, which I had little knowledge of beforehand, so it was an amazing learning experience!"

~Prashamsa Ghimire, Computational Biology, Fall 2020

Frequently asked questions

How are you addressing concerns of student safety?

All STEM & Leaf Mentors are background checked and must comply with The STEM & Leaf Corps Mentor Commitment. Additionally, at least two STEM & Leaf Mentors and two students must be present for every meeting. Furthermore, all Topic Leaders have been interviewed and approved by The STEM & Leaf Team. Finally, consent from parents or guardians is required for any student to participate in the programs. For further information please check out our Privacy Policy and the Mentor Commitment. Links to both can be found at the bottom of this page.

I don't see times or days for weekly meetings. When do the groups meet?

When parents or guardians fill out the application, they are able to indicate their child's availability. Mentors will choose the most qualified students who are able to meet at a time with all of the other students in the group. This time will be finalized after applications close, between January 22 and 29, by the mentors leading the group.

What are some examples of the previous projects?

Students in the Computational Biology program each chose a disease and mapped out the biology on a cellular and molecular level. Then they wrote programs that modeled the disease, the body’s response to the disease, or how doctors would respond to the disease. They also read a New Kind of Science, discussing the notion of biological complexity and aspects of evolution. One student's project modeled Crohn's colitis and incorporated set and random variables into the program such that the "patient" would have different genetics, symptoms, and outcomes nearly every time the program was run. Check out his Python file here! The inaugural Mathematical Linguistics group presented their research findings in a poster at the 2020 Texas Tech University Undergraduate Research Conference. Click here to see their work! One student wrote a Python program that made data collection go 90% faster!

What if my student is interested in more than one project?

Parents/Guardians will rank their children's preferred topics on the application. If the student is accepted they will be matched into one program. However, if there is availability and parents indicate availability for more than one program, students may be considered for more than one program. Preference will be given to students who have not been placed.

How big are the groups?

Our topics this semester were either requested by previous students or proposed by mentors and vary widely in their aims and modalities. Thus mentors will be making the decisions based on how many students they can feasibly accomodate while maintaining a small-group feel to the program. That being said, the groups may vary from 3 to about 30 students.

Is The STEM & Leaf Corps a 501(c)(3) nonprofit?

Yes! We are registered in the great State of Texas. Tax-deductible donations are greatly appreciated and go towards supplies for our project-based programs with elementary and middle school students. Click here to donate!

Is this really free? Is it completely virtual?

Yes! All of our programs are completely free. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit composed of volunteer university students with a slogan of "Education for the students, by the students." All of the topics in the program are completely virtual, with the possible exception of the Ancient Greek Philosophy program, which may be in-person in Lubbock, TX so that students can take part in immersive Socratic and Platonic debates.

Other Questions?

If you have any questions about the modality of the Special Topics Programs, Terms of Service, Privacy Policy, Mentor Commitment, or any concerns of any kind, please do not hesitate to reach out to stemleaf.corps@gmail.com

If you are an undergraduate student and interested in leading a special topics program, please click here and complete the form.