Upper School

Signature Scholars Research Program

The Signature Scholars Research Program (SSRP) offers a protracted, inquiry-based course of study to upperclassmen at O’Neal who are academically strong, intrinsically motivated, and insatiably curious. This two-year intensive research study will be directed by English Department Chair Dr. Nicole Camastra, and students who complete the program will earn a diploma with distinction from O’Neal.

Students will apply for the program at the end of 10th grade, but cohorts are expected not to exceed 10% of any given class. Admission is determined through an applicant’s essay, letters of recommendation, academic record, and personal interview. If accepted, they will take the Research Methodology and Philosophy class taught by Dr. Camastra in 11th grade, and at the end of the course, students will have written their annotated bibliography and research proposal, which will be unique to each student’s scholarly interests. Students will identify and cultivate a network of living sources and think deliberately about the trajectory of the project. During the second year of the program, each SSRP student will work with a faculty mentor who has expertise in the research area. Each student will produce a paper of approximately 10,000 words or a portfolio/product of relative weight and value and present the research results at a public symposium.

We believe that O’Neal’s SSRP will allow these exceptional students to engage in an intensive student-centered and inquiry-based study that will challenge them well beyond a normal college preparatory or Advanced Placement program. In addition to the honor of finishing the program and earning the ability to graduate with distinction, students will emerge from the SSRP with a well-wrought and well-earned point of view on their given topic. They will have become well-acquainted with the requisite elements of research, placing them at a great advantage among their peers at the college level. Their academic achievement raises the bar for college admissions and school choice. Moreover, they will have identified and established a network of contacts in the student’s primary discipline, contacts that have the potential to grow and nurture the student’s personal investment in the research area. In this sense, the project has the potential to continue growing and adding value to the student’s life well beyond its two-year requirement at the Upper School level.

"I was happy to be living in the research that I love in an academic, serious and purposeful way." Stephanie D., Signature Research Scholar '22
    • High School Research Scholars Program Chairperson Nicole Camastra

      SSRP Director, Dr. Nicole Camastra

In addition to SSRP, Dr. Camastra also serves as English Department Chair. She earned her Ph.D. in American literature in 2012 from the University of Georgia, where she taught for years before coming to O'Neal in 2017. Originally from New York, Nicole earned her B.A. and M.A. in English from the State University of New York at New Paltz. She also holds a B.S. in Music Performance from SUNY/New Paltz, a degree that served her briefly as a session cellist. She is the author of several essays on American literature and co-editor of Elizabeth Madox Roberts: Essays of Discovery and Recovery (2008). Currently, she is revising her book manuscript, provisionally titled Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and the Muse of Romantic Music, which is under contract with McFarland Press.

Signature Scholars Research Program Overview

    • Student Scholars talk about their research topics and Program Director Dr. Nicole Camastra discusses its significance for participants.

    • 2023 SSRP Scholars

      SSRP Scholars & Dr. Camastra

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