NetSci High: Network Science for the Next Generation

This summer, twenty four students had an opportunity to meet Dr. Alex “Sandy” Pentland from MIT’s Media Lab, Dr. Gene Stanley from Boston University’s Center for Polymer Studies, and other researchers to learn about current applications in network science. The goal of ITEST’s Network Science for the Next Generation - known as “NetSci High” - is to immerse high school students and teachers in the burgeoning field of network science through a yearlong research experience. Each year, NetSci High begins with an intensive 10-day summer workshop where students and teachers are introduced to network science concepts, learn programming skills in Python, and practice creating basic network models using visualization software. At the end of this summer’s workshop, eleven student teams who had just completed their year-long NetSci High research projects during the previous school year took the floor to present their work. The projects represented the interdisciplinary nature of network science and its ability to draw students of all interests into STEM fields. Titles of their research topics included:

A Network Analysis of Foreign Aid Based on Bias of Political Ideologies
Comparing Two Human Disease Networks: Gene-Based and Symptom-Based Perspectives
Influence at the 1787 Constitutional Convention
Quantifying Similarity of Benign and Oncogenic Viral Proteins Using Amino Acid Sequence
Quantification of Character and Plot in Contemporary Fiction
RedNet: A Different Perspective of Reddit
Tracking Tweets for the Superbowl

During the upcoming 2014/15 academic year, research lab faculty and graduate student mentors will guide the new student teams through the research process. They will participate in data collection, data processing, network modeling, and analysis, using freely available computer tools. The teams will further explore how to visualize different types of networks, calculate network statistics, and describe network processes, and will then analyze the data to find answers to their specific research questions. Students will also visit the New York Hall of Science, the Network Science Center at the United States Military Academy West Point, and Stevens Institute of Technology in order to broaden their exposure to current network science research.

[NetSciHigh] has opened doors for me that would not be open without the program. I have continued to work with computer science as well as network science. I am currently working with [grad student] to map out the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Thank you once again and I hope to hear from you soon. - J.I., member of 2013/14 New York metro area team

We are proud that the NetSci High project has garnered scholarships for student participants, fostered student-authored publications in peer-reviewed journals, and supported student teams in presenting research posters at the International NetSci conferences in Budapest, Hungary; Chicago, Illinois; and Berkeley, California. As the NetSci High organizers, we look forward to increasing network science literacy through continued student research opportunities, broader teacher training, and publishing a Network Science Workshop Training Manual for other groups to use.

Visit the NetSci High website:

Contributed by Catherine Cramer, New York Hall of Science. Catherine has been working in science communication and outreach for over 20 years. At the New York Hall of Science she focuses on developing new ways to bring science to the public, with a particular emphasis on network science.