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High School Special Topics Program

What is the Special Topics Program?

Selected high school students will complete a program on a topic of their choosing, meeting approximately one hour each week throughout the semester with our volunteer STEM & Leaf Mentors and other program participants. Our mentors come from a variety of backgrounds, including undergraduate and graduate students from several departments. 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!

The meetings have been conducted virtually since the beginning of the pandemic, but we are excited to announce the launch of in-person, hybrid, and online options for students this semester! Any high school student from any part of the world may participate in the online programs (but please note that meeting times will be set in CST). 

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Important Dates: Spring 2024 Session 

Student Application  Opens

Student Application  Closes

First Week of Sessions

End of Semester Seminar

January 8, 2024

February 3rd  at 5PM CST

Week of February 5th

May 5, 2024 at 2PM

Week of January 26th

What are the Topics?

Topics for the Spring 2024 semester can be found hereBelow are examples of previous topics from our program.

  • Creative Writing (Discussion + Writing) [Spring 2022]

  • Healthcare Philosophy and Policy (Discussion) [Spring 2022]

  • Culture in Spanish Speaking Countries (Discussion) [Spring 2022]

  • Political Organizing: Running a Campaign (Discussion) [Fall 2021]

  • Creative Writing (Discussion + Project) [Fall 2021]

  • Artificial Intelligence & the Philosophy of Mind (Lecture + Discussion) [Fall 2021]

  • Health Philosophy & Policy (Discussion) [Fall 2021]

  • Introduction to Cancer Biology (Discussion + Research + Publication) [Fall 2021 and Spring 2022]

  • Introduction to Modern Agriculture (Discussion + Research) [Fall 2021]

  • Ancient Greek Philosophy (Discussion) [Fall 2021]

  • Healthcare Informatics: The New Frontier (Discussion) [Fall 2021]

  • Mathematical Linguistics (Research) [Spring 2020]

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

  • Computational Linguistics (Research) [Fall 2020]

  • Music and Memory (Discussion + Research) [Spring 2021]

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Student Eligibility

  • Students must be 13 years or older

  • Students must be in high school

  • Parent/Guardian permission required

  • Parent/Guardian must submit application


"​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

Meet Our Coordinators!


Anna Schmieding

B.S. Animal Science: Pre-Vet '23

B.A. Spanish '23



B.S. Cell and Molecular Biology, 2020

Current Ph.D. candidate in Pharmaceutical Sciences

We are so excited to be a part of this program! If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out.


If you are an undergraduate or graduate student (from any university), we would love to have you as a mentor! We have concluded menor recruitment for the Spring 2024 session, but we hope that you consider applying for the 2024-2025 Special Topics Program when the application opens this summer!

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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!

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 any of the Special Topics Program coordinators directly or email

If you are an undergraduate or graduate student and interested in leading a special topics program, please complete the mentor interest form and email the program coordinators.

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