The IDEA High School Program will NOT be accepting applications for the 2017-2018 school year. If we are able to secure funding in the future, we hope to open the program again for the 2018-2019 school year. If you would like to add your name and contact information to our interest list, please click here

The Increasing Diversity and Enhancing Academia (IDEA) High School Program is a summer and academic year experience for high school students, including underrepresented minorities and girls, who are interested in exploring career opportunities in earth, atmospheric or marine sciences. The program includes a week-long summer science institute and a series of Saturday Academies during the school year.

From 2012-2017, over 100 North Carolina high school students participated in the program, as a student or peer mentor. During the 2016-2017 program, participants had the opportunity to work with a team of scientists and college students, to study real world environmental challenges in one of Durham’s urban watersheds, Ellerbe Creek. Participants used the creek as a living laboratory and learned field skills, gathered and analyzed data, and used the research process to help solve community problems.

“The three things I liked most about this week were learning about streams through field study, doing team building activities, and making topographic maps.” – 2015 IDEA High School participant

IDEA was conceived to support students interested in the environmental and geosciences and to enrich their high school experience, helping to prepare them for science study in college and beyond. Some of today’s most important societal challenges are in the environmental and geoscience fields, including freshwater availability, water pollution, climate change, natural hazards, marine systems, and gas and oil exploration.

ERP_Sarah and Asiya IDEA



ERP_Mari in stream

How It Works

  • This is a free program and acceptance is competitive.
  • 5-day Summer Science Institute (Monday through Friday, July 11-15). The program will be based at North Carolina Central University but will include daily field trips to field sites. Students will participate daily (9am-4pm) in an intensive study of one of Durham’s urban watersheds, Ellerbe Creek.
  • Three half-day Saturday Academies during the 2016-2017 school year will provide follow-up experiences for the students. This program will be facilitated by faculty and staff at UNC and NCCU.

Students Receive

  • hands-on, minds-on science education experience that will increase their knowledge, understanding and awareness of local and regional environmental issues.
  • Exposure to experienced scientists and college programs and careers.
  • A $500 stipend upon completion of the 5-day Summer Science Institute and three half-day Saturday Academies during the school year.

Student Responsibility

  • Students must find their own transportation to and from the Summer Science Institute each day.  Students must participate 9am-4pm, Mon-Fri, to be eligible for the stipend.
  • During the 2016-2017 school year, 4 Saturday Academies will be offered.  Students must provide their own transportation.  To be eligible for the stipend, students must attend 3 of 4 academies.

“I’ve learned about the geosciences and how it applies to biology, chemistry and physics. I’ve learned about how studying the earth and geology can help us understand more about the world.” – 2013 IDEA High School participant

ERP_students with microscopes

ERP_Brent student core

ERP_creek research students

ERP_map reading


Rising 10th-12th graders who live or go to school within a 30 minute or less drive from downtown Durham are invited to apply. We especially welcome applications from students who are members of underrepresented minority groups* in the geosciences.

IDEA 2016-2017 Brochure

*Underrepresented minority groups (URM) in the geosciences, as defined by the National Science Foundation, are people of African American/Black, Hispanic American, Native Pacific Islander (Polynesian or Micronesian), Native American (American Indian or Alaskan Native) descent. Members of these groups have representation in science and engineering less than their representation in the total population (NSF, 2011).

Program Contact

Megan Hughes, Program Director | 919-966-2463

All ERP programs that include minors (individuals who are less than eighteen years of age) are registered by UNC Student Affairs and are in compliance with UNC’s Policy on the Protection of Minors. An annual background check is completed for all program staff annually.  Program staff is trained on polices and issues relevant to the protection of minors. Program staff is defined as the core group of individuals, paid or unpaid, who are responsible for program implementation, coordinating day-to-day logistics and maintaining safety and student behavior protocols to ensure a safe learning environment for all.  More information on this policy can be found here: