Feature

As Albert Einstein said, "It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge."

The Catalyst program, conducted June 28–July 5 at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., by the APA Center for Gifted Education Policy, aims to arouse such curiosity by matching inspiring teachers with adolescents ready to take on a challenging, intensive mentoring project.

Catalyst, funded by the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation brings together adolescents who are talented in physical sciences, outstanding graduate students or postdocs in chemistry and eminent researchers across various disciplines of chemistry and the arts to foster a new generation of creators, thinkers and innovators.

Catalyst provides a year or more of personal guidance by an eminent mentor (called a master) and a rising star at the graduate or postdoc level (called an associate). The 2008 group was made up of seven masters, two associates and 11 scholars. Three of the masters are accomplished artists who provided instruction and modeling of the creative process in their specialties.

"We will play a singular role as mentors for an exceptionally gifted cohort of young scholars," said master and University of Chicago physical chemist Steven Sibener, PhD, at this year's program. "I will act as the point person in the relationship, exposing them to forefront ideas in modern chemistry and watching them move well beyond the typical curriculum of their high schools. Hopefully, the excitement generated by this will continue with them as they enter their next phase of scholarly pursuit."

Peter Nebres, 15, a 2008 scholar, views the relationship holistically. "This is a give-take relationship," he says. "The scholars take as much information as they can from their respective masters. But masters find new ways to look at a problem when working with the young creative minds of the scholars."

On the final day of the summit, each scholar presented a project proposal for the research they will be undertaking during the 2008–09 academic year. They will return to Williams College for a reunion weekend to present their results to a new cohort of masters, associates and scholars in June.


Ashley Edmiston is Catalyst Project Director for the APA Center for Gifted Education Policy.

For more information on Catalyst and its participants, visit the APA Center for Gifted Education Policy page on the APA Web site or contact Ashley Edmiston or Rena Subotnik, PhD.