• Our Courses

    Fall 2019: October 25 - February 24

    Application Deadline: October 18

     

    Spring 2020: March 6 - June 20

    Application Deadline: March 1

     

    Summer 2020: July 10 - September 27

    Application Deadline: June 28

  • Horizon Academic Courses

    Horizon Academic allows high school students to complete a college-level research project under the guidance of a professor or lecturer with decades of teaching experience in their field. Students develop individualized research topics and attend small group classes, with an average class size of 4 and a maximum of 6 students. Our Senior Instructors lead 14 classes throughout the trimester, and our Teaching Assistants (who tend to be masters or PhD students in these fields) offer an additional 6 sessions for review, discussion, and feedback.

     

    How do ecosystems collapse? How can we engineer solutions to environmental catastrophe? Dr. Truncer’s course explores how human society can react to environmental systems collapse. Students may examine and research a variety of sustainability issues with regard to agricultural production, urbanization, infrastructure, resource use, and modern day engineering innovations. Dr. Truncer has previously taught his course at Harvard and Stanford University.

    How does our psychology influence the decisions we make ​every day and, ultimately, economic outcomes? Professor Gallo's course explores the heuristics, or rules-of-thumb, our brain constantly employs to makes choices, and how in some instances they systematically backfire leading to biases in our decisions. You will be a participant in live experiments and learn how social scientists use them to study how people behave. Professor Gallo has previously taught at Harvard and Oxford, and he is currently teaching behavioral economics as well as other courses at Cambridge.

    What are the causes of war and peace? Professor Rezvani’s course explores the theories, patterns, and frameworks of international relations. It critically examines controversies surrounding current phenomena such as world governance, state failure, international injustice, and great power competition. Professor Rezvani had previously taught this course at Dartmouth, Harvard, and Oxford University

  • Horizon Labs Courses

    Horizon Labs offers high school students the opportunity to work one-on-one with leading researchers and lecturers from some of the world's best known universities to develop highly specialized and unique research projects in interdisciplinary topics in the sciences and humanities. Horizon Labs allows students to get individualized mentorship from instructors who are on the front lines of PhD-level research, often who are in the process of completing their own PhD or postdoctoral research. These instructors are intimately acquainted with the latest studies, the most relevant data sets, and the most interesting perspectives being introduced in their respective fields. Through 20 hours of one-on-one mentorship with their instructors, Horizon Labs students can get access to useful and unique data sets, develop customized reading lists to enrich their writing, get individualized feedback about their paper drafts, and hear advice on publication opportunities from experts in their fields.

    Machine Learning and Biotechnology

    Never before has there been so much available data about various diseases and possible genetic associations with them. At the same time, new machine learning tools and data science techniques are enabling researchers to identify patterns and linkages between genes and disease. In this course, we first begin by reviewing key concepts in data analysis and machine learning. From there, students may explore connections between genetics and cardiovascular disease, autism, heart disease, allergies or autoimmune diseases.

    Cognitive Science and Philosophy

    What is a ‘mind’? How do our minds hook onto the world? This course uses philosophy and cognitive science to investigate the nature of mind and cognition, with a particular focus on perception and thought. Depending on their interests, students can focus on interpreting scientific experiments or focus on the more philosophical issues that thinking about the mind raises. This is an adapted version of a course that Mr. Craig has taught at Oxford University.

    Political Theory and Philosophy

    What justifies the authority of the state? What are the basic liberties that a just society should secure? How should societies reckon with implicit bias, historical injustices, and structures of racism, classism, and sexism? Can meritocracy exist alongside entrenched privilege? We examine these questions and more in Mr. Cabezas's course, based on his section of the Contemporary Civilization (CC) course at Columbia University.

    Gene Editing and CRISPR Technology

    How did life begin? What is the basis for human life and how are scientists learning to manipulate our genetic code? How can CRISPR allow use to control genetic expressions and human development? We examine these questions and more in Ms. DeBenedictis course, based on her section of the Biological Engineering course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

  • Research Questions by Each Course

    Below are the lists of pre-approved topics for each Horizon course. Please note that these lists are not restrictive or exhaustive: students at Horizon Academic often submit customized research topics or proposals. If a student wishes to research something else besides these questions but still related to the general course topic, then they should identify their proposed research question in their application. Prior to evaluating their application, we will consult with the course instructor to confirm whether the custom topic request is permitted.

  • Horizon Academic

     

    James Truncer

    Environmental Problems in Human Society:

    Lessons from the Past, Engineering Future Solutions

     

    How do ecosystems collapse? How can we engineer solutions to environmental catastrophe? Dr. Truncer’s course explores how human society can react to environmental systems collapse. Students may examine and research a variety of sustainability issues with regard to agricultural production, urbanization, infrastructure, resource use, and modern day engineering innovations. Dr. Truncer has previously taught his course at Harvard and Stanford University.

     

    Pre-approved Topic List

     

    1. What advantages does organic farming have over conventional farming? Can organic farms compete with conventional farms in feeding the world?

     

    2. How can cities and their infrastructure be designed for the predicted changes in climate? Provide specific examples in your response.

     

    3. The recent tremendous growth of urban areas has created a multitude of environmental problems and challenges. Choose one area of urban design that can improve the urban environment – what costs and benefits are involved?

     

    4. What are the latest advances in hydroponic and vertical farming? Are these the food production methods of the future? What are the costs?

     

    5. Are the economic benefits of dam building worth the environmental costs?

     

    6. Sea level rise is expected to impact many coastal cities and islands (e.g. Andaman Islands) in the coming years. What are the advantages or disadvantages of relocating an island settlement or city versus building dikes and protective barriers such as in the case of the Netherlands?

     

    7. Are genetically modified organisms (GMOs) significantly different from the variation produced through more traditional methods of cross-breeding and the creation of hybrids?

     

    8. Oceans are absorbing increasing amounts of carbon dioxide and are becoming more acidic. How will this affect marine ecosystems and thus human society? What policies might be implemented to make the public more aware of this looming environmental crisis and what incentives would encourage governments to take action?

     

    9. Money and research are now being poured into the technology of self-driving cars. Is maintaining the concept of “car” an efficient means of transportation, or are there better, more sustainable systems for the movement of people?

     

    10. Soil erosion is severe in many areas of the world. What farming methods and other activities are creating this erosion? What farming methods can not only reduce soil erosion but build nutrient-rich soil that enhances crop yields and lowers carbon emissions substantially? What policies might encourage soil conservation on farmland?

     

    11. Renewable energy sources are gaining more and more attention, and represent an increasingly larger percentage of energy production. What is the most promising type of renewable energy and why? Can modern society completely convert to renewable energy sources from a largely carbon-based system? What further advances or changes in lifestyle might be required?

     

    12. Most large farms rely on mechanization and need to add massive amounts of artificial fertilizer to produce high crop yields. How did this situation come about, and is this a sustainable practice? What are the carbon costs of such agriculture and are there feasible alternatives?

     

    13. Can sustainable practices be successfully incorporated into current business models? If not, what might need to change in order to create a better fit?

     

    14. Are United Nations treaties and resolutions an effective means to pass worldwide sustainability measures or is a different system necessary?

     

    15. Some architects are now designing “walkable” cities. What does this mean and what are the advantages and disadvantages of such an urban design? Illustrate your response with examples.

     

    16. Aquaculture, or fish farming, is increasingly providing a major source of food for a growing world population. What forms of aquaculture are most sustainable, and which forms are the least sustainable? Why? Provide specific examples of aquaculture in your analysis.

  • Edoardo Gallo

    Behavioral Economics

    How does our psychology influence the decisions we make ​every day and, ultimately, economic outcomes? Professor Gallo's course explores the heuristics, or rules-of-thumb, our brain constantly employs to makes choices, and how in some instances they systematically backfire leading to biases in our decisions. You will be a participant in live experiments and learn how social scientists use them to study how people behave. Professor Gallo has previously taught at Harvard and Oxford, and he is currently teaching behavioral economics as well as other courses at Cambridge.

     

    Pre-approved Topic List

     

    1. What behavioral principles should be used to design a pension scheme?

     

    2. What type of policies mitigate the bad consequences of unemployment?

     

    3. Design an insurance policy that is going to attract consumers by exploiting psychological biases.

     

    4. Humans are prone to errors when making decisions under uncertainty. How can modern technology reduce these errors?

     

    5. Pollution is a problem affecting most large metropolitan areas. How may insights from psychology inform urban policy to decrease pollution?

     

    6. Top students from disadvantaged backgrounds often do not apply to the best universities. What are the potential reasons and what kind of actions can be taken to change this?

     

    7. Doctors routinely make recommendations that may have life/death implications for their patients. How can biases in decision-making affect their advice?

     

    8. How can we increase the rate at which individuals recycle?

     

    9. Describe how psychological biases may affect judicial decisions and propose policy changes to minimize their negative impact.

     

    10. Delays in paying income tax lead to significant financial losses from governments. What design changes could be made to tax collection policy to minimize these delays?

     

    11. Buying a house is an infrequent transaction with large financial consequences. In what ways can a prospective house buyer or seller avoid mistakes due to psychological biases?

     

    12. A new type of fertilizer has been invented that increases crop yields by 300%. Nevertheless, farmers are not adopting it. What could be the reasons and what policies can be implemented to increase takeup?

     

    13. A major supermarket chain has hired you as a consultant to apply behavioral principles to improve their sales. Write a report with your recommendations.

     

    14. You are a financial advisor for a wealthy individual. Come up with an investment strategy that avoids pitfalls from biases in decision making.

     

    15. Develop an idea for a phone app that uses insights from behavioral economics to improve an individual’s health.

  • David Rezvani

    Controversies in International Relations

    What are the causes of war and peace? Professor Rezvani’s course explores the theories, patterns, and frameworks of international relations. It critically examines controversies surrounding current phenomena such as world governance, state failure, international injustice, and great power competition. Professor Rezvani had previously taught at Harvard, MIT, and Oxford University.

     

    Pre-approved Topic List

     

    1. What is the greatest challenge to China’s “One Belt, One Road” project and how can it be overcome?

     

    2. Should other countries be happy or worried about the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)?

     

    3. Unlike the countries of Europe, why is there no East Asian Union?

     

    4. What were the most effective governmental responses to the East Asian financial crisis?

     

    5. What is the best type of free trade agreement for Asia?

     

    6. Should Catalonia become independent from Spain?

     

    7. In light of the US financial crisis in Puerto Rico, what is the best status option for the territory?

     

    8. Is it good or bad for countries (like the United Kingdom) to be a part of the European Union?

     

    9. What political outcome has the best chance of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

     

    10. In light of the massive flow of refugees from places like the Middle East to Europe, is international migration bad for host countries?

     

    11. Should the international community prohibit Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons?

     

    12. Is global poverty better reduced through free trade or international aid?

     

    13. Does humanitarian disaster justify military intervention?

     

    14. Is the balance of power still relevant in modern international politics?

     

    15. What should countries do to reduce problems from weak and failed states?

     

    16. Was it a right choice for America and its allies to have invaded Libya?

     

    17. What role should countries play in their policy toward Syria?

     

    18. What policy should America adopt toward ISIS?

     

    19. What strategy should the US adopt for managing its relations with Russia?

  • Horizon Labs

     

    Parsa Akbari

    Machine Learning and Biotechnology

    Never before has there been so much available data about various diseases and possible genetic associations with them. At the same time, new machine learning tools and data science techniques are enabling researchers to identify patterns and linkages between genes and disease. In this course, we first begin by reviewing key concepts in data analysis and machine learning. From there, students may explore connections between genetics and cardiovascular disease, autism, heart disease, allergies or autoimmune diseases.

    Pre-approved Topic List

    Data Analysis and Statistics Based:

    1. Applications of predictive machine learning models to learn more about the human genome and understand mechanisms of cardiovascular disease, autism, heart disease, allergies or autoimmune disease.

     

    2. Predicting epigenetic modifications with deep learning to help understand the biology of disease.

     

    3. Using deep learning to predict alternative splicing - a mechanism for RNA expression.

     

    4. Unsupervised machine learning to study the genetics of the blood system.

     

    Literature Review Based:

    5. Is the drug industry going bust? A review of the scientific literature and economic data.

     

    6. A review of supervised and unsupervised Machine Learning models.

     

    7. A review into the role of data analysis in drug discovery.

  • Alasdair Craig

    Cognitive Science and Philosophy

    What is a ‘mind’? How do our minds hook onto the world? This course uses philosophy and cognitive science to investigate the nature of mind and cognition, with a particular focus on perception and thought. Depending on their interests, students can focus on interpreting scientific experiments or focus on the more philosophical issues that thinking about the mind raises. This is an adapted version of a course that Mr. Craig has taught at Oxford University.

    Pre-approved Topic List

     

    1. Perceptual Experience 1: What do perceptual illusions and hallucinations reveal about the nature of perceptual experience? In particular, do these phenomena show that we never ‘directly’ see the world as it is?

     

    2. Perceptual Experience 2: Can a person’s perceptual experiences be influenced by that person’s prior beliefs, expectations and desires? What is the best interpretation of experiments that purport to show that the answer to this question is ‘yes’?

     

    3. Explanation in Cognitive Science: What should cognitive scientists look for in a satisfying explanation of human behaviour?

     

    4. The Nature of Mind: Is the mind a purely physical or material thing? Are mental states physical states?

     

    5. The ‘Language of Thought’ Hypothesis: What is the language of thought hypothesis, and is it possible to understand mental processes as computational processes without a language of thought?

     

    6. The Nature of Consciousness: Describe Ned Block’s distinction between ‘phenomenal consciousness’ and ‘access consciousness’. Does scientific work show that phenomenal consciousness can exist in the absence of access consciousness?

     

    7. Delusions: To understand what is going on when people suffer from delusions, must we postulate abnormalities in how beliefs are formed and maintained, or does it suffice to appeal to abnormalities in perception or experience?

     

    8. Modularity: What is the modularity thesis? Assess the scientific case for the thesis that the mind is modular.

  • Erika DeBenedictis

    Gene Editing and CRISPR Technology

    How did life begin? What is the basis for human life and how are scientists learning to manipulate our genetic code? How can CRISPR allow use to control genetic expressions and human development? We examine these questions and more in Ms. DeBenedictis course, based on her section of the Biological Engineering course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    Pre-approved Topic List

     

    1. How did life originate? How did the divide between genetic material (DNA) and functional biomolecules (proteins) come to exist? How did the genetic code come to exist? 
    2. Why is the universally conserved genetic code structured the way it is? In particular, why does it use three-base codons, why are the codons assigned to specific amino acids, why do some amino acids have more codons, and why were the specific 20 amino acids chosen?
    3. On a molecular level, what components in living organisms are used to implement the specific genetic code that exists? How can we modify these components to create new genetic codes? What benefits would different genetic codes have for engineering purposes?
    4. If we want to add a new amino acid to the genetic code, or rearrange which codon encodes which amino acid, what engineering approaches are available to us? What are the strengths and weaknesses of these different approaches?
    5. When our engineering goals require biomolecules with novel functionality, we can attempt to create these new components with rational or computational design approaches, with directed evolution, or both. How do these protein engineering techniques work? How do we assess which approach is likely to be successful in a particular situation?
    6. What can directed evolution experiments teach us about how evolution works? Conversely, can evolution research of organisms in the wild guide best practices for directed evolution experiments in the laboratory?
    7. What inspiration can we take from computer science that may help us engineer biological systems? Do concepts like logic gates and abstraction exist in biology, and if not, how do we implement them?
    8. Proteins are chemically complex, enabling proteins to perform diverse chemical functions in the cell, but be difficult to engineer and model. In contrast, DNA less chemically complex. How can we exploit the simplicity of DNA’s chemical structure to predict the shape that a strand of DNA will adopt? How do we use this predictive capability to engineer custom DNA shapes (like smiley faces), or processes (like an AND logic gate)? What are the limits of DNA nanotechnology?
    9. How do CRISPR systems work on the molecular level? What was their original purpose? How did they evolve?
    10. Why are CRISPR systems useful for modern genome engineering? How do they compare to other techniques such as zinc fingers?
    11. CRISPR-based techniques rely on protein such as Cas12 or Cas9. Are some of the properties of these proteins undesirable? How might we engineer these proteins to work better?
    12. What are recent developments in the field of CRISPR, such as CRISPR-guided base editors and prime editing?
    13. How can CRISPR systems be used to modify the genomes of entire wild populations using ‘gene drive’ constructs? What are possible applications of gene drives? What are the technical challenges to implementing gene drives safely? What are the ethical implications of using gene drives?
    14. Large-scale engineering projects require project management strategies. In biological engineering, what are good strategies for assessing the quality and feasibility of an idea? How should one go about rapidly de-risking and implementing a new engineering approach?
  • César Cabezas Gamarra

    Political Theory and Philosophy

    What justifies the authority of the state? What are the basic liberties that a just society should secure? How should societies reckon with implicit bias, historical injustices, and structures of racism, classism, and sexism? Can meritocracy exist alongside entrenched privilege? We examine these questions and more in Mr. Cabezas's course, based on his section of the Contemporary Civilization (CC) course at Columbia University.

    Pre-approved Topic List

    1. What justifies the authority of the state? What are the problems associated with social life in the absence of government (i.e. a state of nature)? How does the "social contract" proposed by the likes of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau work as a solution to these problems?
    2. What are the supreme principles (if any) that should guide our moral conduct? Do they admit of exceptions?
    3. What is implicit bias? Should we blame agents for having implicit biases even if they are outside their control?
    4. Can we explain the various aspects of social reality purely in terms of individual beliefs, actions and intentions? Or does an adequate explanation of social reality require reference to social phenomena such as organizations, social structures and social laws?
    5. Is morality merely a matter of personal (or group) opinion? Or are there objective moral facts that transcend cultures and historical eras?
    6. What are the basic liberties that a just society should secure? Is being free not having others interfere with one's personal affairs? Or is it to have the capacity to make one's own laws by participating in the collective process of government? Or is freedom a matter of not being subject to the arbitrary power of the state and/or other subjects?
    7. What is the role of privileges or unearned advantages in sustaining systems of oppression?
    8. What are our moral duties regarding injustices in which we participate indirectly (e.g. buying clothes produced in sweatshops)?
    9. Are we morally responsible for the moral failures of our ancestors (e.g. colonization, slavery, the Holocaust)? What about the present-day consequences of their moral failures?
    10. What are some convincing argument for the right to reparations for African-Americans?
    11. Why are epistemic virtues such as humility, open-mindedness, and curiosity important for our life in community?
    12. What is the importance of public deliberation and disagreement for a democratic society?
    13. Can people be willfully ignorant? If so, how does willful ignorance contribute to the maintenance of social injustice?
    14. Given that science has ruled out the existence of biological races, should we give up the concept of race? Or is there a plausible non-biological concept of race that can contribute to a better understanding of racial relations?
    15. What is the difference between race, ethnicity and nationality? 
    16. Is racism a matter of individual beliefs, intentions and actions, or can racism also take place at the level of institutions and social structures?
    17. What is intersectionality? How does it contribute to a better understanding of gender, race and class?
  • Assessment

    Rather than evaluating the work completed by scholars in a vacuum, Horizon Academic uses a holistic evaluation system that measures a scholar's level of motivation and effort (attendance and class participation), desire and capacity to improve work through assessments of several stages of editing, as well as an assessment of their finished work.

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