About the Pinnacle Project


Each discipline and profession cares deeply about nurturing the next generation of talent. From the research literature we know, however, that the talent development models employed by various disciplines are not always effective in supplying fields with future path-breaking professionals.

The overall purpose of the Pinnacle Project is to bring together developed and developing talent in seven important disciplines in order to:

  • Publicize the talent development needs of gifted adolescents.

  • Provide an opportunity for highly gifted adolescents to learn from and be guided by mentors in their fields of interest.

  • Plan investigations that would serve as a basis of mentoring relationships.

  • Discuss in a safe forum the joys, psychological stresses, and expectations associated with talent development at the very highest levels.

  • Establish a venue for fertilization of ideas about talent development across disciplines.


The Pinnacle Project brings together at a summit established masters in the arts and sciences, outstanding researchers and professionals beginning careers (for each discipline), and extraordinarily talented high school students (one in each of the disciplines).

Participants who have served as masters have included:

  • Joshua Lederberg, Nobel Laureate, Rockefeller University

  • Arthur Jaffe, Mathematics and Physics, Harvard University

  • Martin Seligman, Psychologist, University of Pennsylvania

  • Faye and Jonathan Kellerman, independent fiction writers

  • Philip Scheffler, 60 Minutes, Emmy Award Winner

  • Beatrice Affron, Conductor, Pennsylvania Ballet

  • Vincent Wimbush, Historian, Claremont College

  • Alex Jones, Pulitzer Prize winner, Harvard University

  • Manuel Blum, Turing Award winner, Carnegie Mellon University

  • Michael Gandolfi, Composer, New England Conservatory

  • Sam Maitin, Painter, works displayed at major galleries and museums

  • Joan Oliver Goldsmith, Writer and critic

  • Cumrun Vafa, Theoretical physicist, Harvard University

  • Barry Blumberg, Nobel Laureate, Fox Chase Cancer Center

  • Amy Goldstein, Pulitzer Prize winner, Washington Post

  • Carol Dweck, Psychology, Columbia University

The adolescent participants were identified in one of three ways:

  1. Through established channels/talent searches conducted within each discipline,

  2. By the master or his/her associate.

  3. Via gifted education networks.


Summit : One week July or August. During the summit, masters, associates and students are involved in domain specific and interdisciplinary discussion and project planning. Each day includes sufficient time for domain specific triads or dyads (master-associate-student or associate-student) to meet, plan, and consult. The objective of these sessions is to establish a mentoring relationship based on a project and career guidance through the beginning of the student's college career.

Follow-up: Masters and their associates are asked to maintain a relationship with "their" student either through visits, email or snail mail correspondence, or telephone. Students, Masters and Associates return each year to the summit to display their works and meet the members of the new cohort.

Status of Young Scholars as of January 2004

As a direct result of Pinnacle and subsequent support from mentors and Pinnacle Staff, Pinnacle Scholars achieved:
  • First place, Spirit of Daniel Pearl Essay Contest. Teen spokesperson for YouthNoise organization, division of Save the Children Federation.

  • Three Davidson fellowships totaling $45,000 in scholarships.

  • One National Alliance for Excellence Merit Scholarship, $2500.

  • Awarded Presidential Scholarship and performed piano works at the Kennedy Center .

  • Two composers recognized by the National Foundation for the Advancement in the Arts.

  • Composer provided opportunity to conduct her own work in front of regional audience.

  • Composer does volunteer mentoring work in local public school and the school commissioned her to compose the school song.

  • Novel and short story writing receiving professional review and critique by Jonathan and Faye Kellerman.

  • Invitation to selective mathematics institute at Harvard University .

  • Pinnacle Biology mentorship guided two young scientist's work. Resulting investigations garnered many awards including selection as Intel Science Search Finalists. One was selected as one of nine students in the world to be recognized with the award and research grant, "First Step to the Nobel Prize."

  • Assistance in production of several pieces of professional quality artwork.

  • Writer finished a suite of six short stories, and with assistance of Master is seeking a publisher.

  • Guidance through completion of computer science major at Carnegie Mellon before completing high school.

  • Realization on the part of scholars that many aspects of the creative process are mirrored across fields/domains of talent.

Status of Young Scholars as of 2010

2004 Cohort
  • Professionally active music composer who also performs and serves as musical director.

  • Blog journalist.  

  • Medical student

2002 Cohort
  • Founded several technology start-up companies 

  • Professionally active music composer who also performs and serves as musical director

  • A Working in major hospital in division of global psychiatry and clinical research studies. Travels the world helping out with psychiatric clinical trials. 

  • PhD student in French

  • PhD student in applied mathematics, numerical and functional analysis.  

  • PhD student  in experimental physics

  • Accounting and finance for start up software company

2001 Cohort
  • Teach for America, and now screen writer on several TV shows

  • Professionally active music composer who also performs and serves as musical director

  • Post-doc Hertz fellowship, working in neuron technology

  • PhD student in computational biology

  • PhD student in social policy, Rhodes Scholar, Teach for America, head of teacher evaluation in major US city school district.