Slim News Landing Nav

Rutgers logo
School of Public Health
Rutgers logo
School of Public Health

PHocus 2023: A Summer Experience for High School Students

Rutgers School of Public Health is devoted to preparing public health leaders, scholars, and practitioners, and this extends beyond university students.

Students currently in high school and graduating from high school in 2023 have the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of public health through Public Health: Outbreaks, Communities, and Urban Studies (PHocus) 2023, but what is PHocus, and why is this the best summer program for aspiring public health students and professionals? Laura E. Liang and Marian Passannante, co-directors of PHocus and faculty at the Rutgers School of Public Health, explain.

What is PHocus?
PHocus is an interdisciplinary educational program organized and hosted by the Rutgers School of Public Health where students learn the fundamentals of epidemiology, the basic science of public health. Students will participate in a variety of activities to learn about population health and disease prevention and have conversations with public health scientists and practitioners! PHocus is for high school students entering ninth through twelfth grade in Fall 2023 or students who graduate from high school in 2023, explains Liang who is also the associate dean for academic affairs at the Rutgers School of Public Health.

Why choose PHocus?
Researchers found that the PHocus program offered in previous years increased students’ knowledge in public health, epidemiology, urban public health and global public health. This includes health issues particularly relevant to adolescents, such as sleep hygiene, alcohol, and tobacco. Students also raised their awareness of the careers available in the field, and increased their interest in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Students who went through the course in previous years learned about the influenza pandemic of 2018 and investigated the measles outbreaks of 2019. The 2023 program will examine public health through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic. “These personally relevant topics, supplemented by exposure to academic research practices, not only personally interested students but also aided in student learning,” said Laura E. Liang, co-director of the PHocus Summer Experience and associate dean of academic affairs at the Rutgers School of Public Health.

“Through our integration of current public health faculty and community sector partners, students can create interpersonal connections with public health professionals while also experiencing these professions through their immersion in simulations and activities,” said Passannante, who is also the associate dean for educational program development and global programs at the Rutgers School of Public Health. “This allows students to explore the breadth of career opportunities in public health and encourages them to begin to think about their future.”

Will this program be in-person?
“Yes,” says Liang. “This experience is an excellent opportunity for students to network and build relationships with both their peers and public health professionals and professors to spark or enhance their interest in public health and STEM,” adds Passannante.

The Summer 2023 PHocus Summer Experience will be held in-person in two locations. High school students may apply online for one of two sessions being offered:

  • Piscataway – July 10-14, 2023
  • Newark – July 17-21, 2023

What is the cost of this program?
There is no fee to apply, but there is a registration and enrollment fee of $395 per student for students accepted into the program. However, scholarships may be available for those needing financial assistance.

For more information please visit or email the PHocus Team at