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10 Physics Research Opportunities for High School Students

Physics is at the heart of many STEM innovations, such as engineering, aviation, and space exploration. This means that a strong understanding of physics will come in handy no matter which STEM major you are interested in.


There are quite a few great opportunities available for you if you are in high school and looking to build a deeper understanding of physics! You can consider research programs like the ones we’ve listed below - a lot of these tend to be free or pay a stipend and are very selective! Another way that is usually more welcoming is to opt for pre-college programs and physics courses within them. These cost a fair bit of money but have some financial aid available and come in a variety of options such as on campus, virtual, for credit, or not for credit.


Here are 10 physics research opportunities available to ambitious high school students:


If you’d like to work in a plasma physics lab under the guidance of professionals, the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory offers internships during semester and summer periods for high school seniors. Internships in the fall or spring can count for academic credit. Students who intern over the summer are offered payment for their time.


Costs: None


Eligibility:

  • At least 16 years of age AND a graduating senior in high school when internship begins.

  • Have United States citizenship or permanent resident alien status.

  • Obtain transportation to and from the Laboratory. Housing is not provided.

Selectivity: Moderate

As one of MIT’s most distinguished summer research programs, RSI accepts 80 - 100 high school juniors. The program consists of STEM-intensive courses for the first week and participation in the research process for the other five weeks. Attendees have the opportunity to publish and present on projects of their choice, including physics.


Costs: None


Eligibility:

  • Students in their third year of high school. High school seniors are not eligible to apply.

  • Recommended that PSAT Math Scores be at least 740 and the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Score be at least 700.

  • Demonstrate strong mathematical, scientific, and academic potential.

Selectivity: Very High


Acceptees of this seven-week program have the opportunity to gain hands-on practical research experience with the faculty of Texas Tech’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, including astronomy, biophysics, condensed matter physics, and more. Expenses such as on-campus meals, residential room and board, and weekend activities will be covered by the program. Students who complete their research report will receive a $750 tax-free stipend.


Costs: None


Eligibility:

  • Be at least 17 years of age by the program start date and should graduate in 2023 or 2024.

Selectivity: Very High


Want to learn physics on a higher level? At UPenn’s Experiment Physics Research Academy, over the course of three weeks, students can learn current physics (which includes mechanics, electromagnetism, quantum dynamics, and astrophysics) through lectures, discussions, and projects. Faculty members will give talks regarding their research in the field with live Q&A with the students.


Costs: $9,700, scholarships available to Philadelphia public and charter high school students


Eligibility:

  • Minimum 3.3 high school GPA

  • Current 9th-11th grade students

Selectivity: High



RISE is a 6-week non-credit program for academically motivated rising seniors who are interested in scientific research. There are 2 RISE tracks available to students: Internship and Practicum. The RISE Internship track gives students the opportunity to conduct research projects with faculty mentors. Internship students will conduct research for 40 hours per week under the guidance of a faculty member, postdoctoral fellow, or graduate student mentor and will perform research in their chosen discipline to acquire valuable technical and analytical skills. The RISE Practicum track gives students the opportunity to conduct group research in computational neurobiology. Practicum students conduct collaborative research in a university setting under the guidance of a Boston University instructor.


Costs: $8,558 (residential); $5,570 (commuter)


Eligibility: Rising seniors




Participants in the four-week COSMOS program will reside in UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, or UC Santa Cruz’s campuses as they explore the campuses, state-of-the-art facilities, and labs. The curriculum and research they will pursue will be rigorous and based on the cluster of their choice, which includes astrophysics, biophysics, and computation.


Costs: $4,770, financial aid available


Eligibility:

  • Must be rising 9th graders to 12th graders

  • Must be able to physically reside in California during program

  • Typically has a GPA of 3.5 or above

Selectivity: High


NASA Office of STEM Engagement (OSTEM) offers paid internships at locations all around America. High school students located near NASA facilities can check which research facilities have open positions and have hands-on experience in subjects related to physics, such as engineering and information sciences.


Costs: None


Eligibility:

  • Must be a U.S. Citizen

  • Meet a minimum 3.0 GPA requirement.

Selectivity: Moderate


If you’re interested in astrophysics in particular, YSPA provides high school seniors two weeks of online astronomy classes before they arrive on campus. Afterwards, the next four weeks are spent on research from the original data collected from Leitner Observatory’s telescopes. Beyond its academic and research obligations, the program provides a great opportunity for students to engage in campus life at Yale.


Costs: $6,900, financial aid available


Eligibility:

  • Currently a rising senior

  • Be at least 15.5 years old at the start of the on-campus program

  • Must be available on campus for the entirety of the 2-week program

Selectivity: Very high


Another opportunity for students aspiring to study astrophysics can explore one of three available programs offered by the Summer Science Program. For five weeks, high school juniors engage in research in near-earth asteroid orbit determination at one of the following colleges: New Mexico State University, the University of Colorado Boulder, and University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. After the conclusion of the program, students receive a letter of completion and can ask a faculty member to include a letter of recommendation in their college application.


Costs: $8,400, financial aid available


Eligibility:

  • Be at least 15 years old but not older than 19 by the start of program

  • Juniors are welcome to apply if they’ve completed coursework in calculus, or physics AND precalculus

  • Sophomores are welcome to apply if they’ve completed coursework in calculus AND physics


Selectivity: High


Although this opportunity is based in Canada, we’ve included it because it’s fully virtual and a solid program.


The Perimeter Institute’s annual summer program offers 20 high school juniors and seniors an opportunity to attend keynote sessions on current physics mysteries and mini courses on modern physics, which include independent work and hands-on tasks. Students also have the opportunity to connect with like-minded peers and experienced physicists in the field. This opportunity is based in Canada, so US students will apply as international students.


Costs: $250 (CAD), financial aid available


Application Deadline: March 16, 2023


Eligibility:

  • Passion for and strong ability in physics and mathematics as reflected in high school course grades and extracurricular activities

  • Intention to pursue physics at the university level in the future

  • At the time of application, they are in the final two years of secondary school

  • Completion of Grade 11 physics or equivalent for international students

  • Exceptions apply.

Selectivity: High


One other option – Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you are passionate about research, you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students that was founded by researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 2100 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.



Lydia is currently a sophomore at Harvard University, studying Molecular and Cellular Biology. During high school, she pursued engineering activities like attending the Governor's School of Engineering and Technology. In her spare time, she likes to create digital art while listening to music.





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