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15+ Life Sciences Research Topics for High School Students

Have you wanted to get into life sciences research, but didn’t know where to begin? Read this article to learn more on how you can start your own research project.


What Makes a Good Research Idea?

Before starting, having a good research idea will provide a firm foundation for your work. Before you begin, make sure to confirm if your research topic is:


1. Relevant

What area are you addressing in your research project, and does it fill in some gap of knowledge? If your research has been done before or has been already thoroughly examined, then it’s unlikely your idea will be as compelling as an original paper that leaves room for future questions and innovations. 


2. Interesting

Do you find the topic interesting? If you have passion in your work, you will be excited and engaged in your work, which others in the industry will definitely pick up on. If you don’t find your research interesting, it’s better to brainstorm which areas you’d be more passionate about. 


3. Feasibility 

Is the research doable? Make sure to take a deep look into your capabilities and resources, and use what’s available to you in order to pursue your research. While there are many projects that can be done at home or through the computer, you can reach out to a local college or laboratory if you’d like to get a more professional experience. 


Okay, I Have a Research Idea, What’s Next?

Once you’ve picked a research idea, it may seem daunting on what to do next. You should develop a detailed research plan and reach out to teachers, professors, and scientists who can help you. Having a mentor can provide helpful comments on your research idea and your next steps. 


For example, a mentored program like the Lumiere Research Scholar Program can be a great opportunity to experience the full research cycle. Those who are selected for the Lumiere Research Scholar Program are given 1-1 mentorship with top PhDs. Below, we share some of the life sciences research ideas that have been proposed by our research mentors.


15+ Life Sciences Research Ideas for High School Students


Research Category # 1: Environmental Science and Biology

Environmental science stands at the intersection of multiple disciplines, offering a holistic view of how ecosystems function and interact with human activities. This field encourages students to consider the sustainability of our planet, emphasizing the need for a balance between development and conservation. Research in environmental science can lead to innovative solutions for environmental problems, ranging from climate change to habitat destruction. Students who are passionate about making a tangible difference in the world will find this cluster especially rewarding.


1. Examine the strategies for climate adaptation and biodiversity preservation within urban settings, considering how innovative urban planning can mitigate environmental challenges.


2. Utilize earth observation techniques to assess the transformation of urban landscapes, focusing on the encroachment on natural habitats and the development of green spaces.


3. Investigate the relationship between urban air quality and public health, analyzing how pollution in city environments contributes to a range of health issues and the potential mitigating effects of urban greenery.


4. Assess the implications of water quality and flood impacts on communities, highlighting the importance of geoscience in addressing environmental challenges.


Proposed by Lumiere Mentors from Cornell University, Wageningen University and Research Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Research Category # 2: Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology

The advent of genetic engineering, especially with the precision of CRISPR-Cas9 technology, has ushered in a new era in medical science, opening up possibilities once deemed the stuff of science fiction. This research cluster offers a deep dive into the potential of genetic modification to revolutionize healthcare, from curing hereditary diseases to enhancing human capabilities. The ethical and societal ramifications of such profound technological power also provide fertile ground for investigation, challenging students to ponder the moral dimensions of scientific advancement.


5. Evaluate the role of genetic engineering in developing novel therapies for genetic disorders, focusing on the potential of CRISPR-Cas9 technology to correct genetic mutations.


6. Explore the ethical implications of gene editing and epigenetic manipulation of organisms, despite its potential benefits for regenerative medicine.


7. Expand the use of bioremediation techniques in environmental cleanup, studying how genetically modified organisms can be employed to degrade pollutants and restore ecosystems.


Proposed by Lumiere Mentors from Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Cambridge.


Research Category # 3: Neuroscience and Cognitive Science

Neuroscience and cognitive science unravel the complexities of the brain and mind, offering insights into how neural processes underpin behavior, perception, and cognition. This interdisciplinary field, which merges biology, psychology, and computer science, is rapidly expanding our understanding of mental health, learning, and human potential. For students drawn to the mysteries of the human brain, this cluster provides a compelling avenue to explore cutting-edge research and its applications in improving mental health and enhancing cognitive performance.


8. Study the neural mechanisms underlying learning and memory, such as how synaptic plasticity and neural circuitry contribute to the acquisition and storage of information.


9. Find the connections between neurodegenerative diseases and protein quality control.


10. Understand the underlying neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disease mechanisms.


Proposed by Lumiere Mentors from Stanford University, University of Cambridge, and University of Chicago.


Research Category # 4: Infectious Diseases and Public Health

The study of infectious diseases and public health is crucial for understanding the transmission, prevention, and control of diseases that impact global health. This cluster provides a platform for students to research topics related to infectious pathogens, epidemiology, and the public health strategies employed to combat disease outbreaks. Especially with the recent memory of COVID-19, this area will remain prevalent in the near future as institutions and policies continue to adapt to the shifting needs of public health. 


11. Probe into the transmission dynamics of infectious diseases, analyzing how pathogens spread within populations and the factors that influence transmission rates.


12. Inspect the development and impact of vaccines in controlling infectious diseases, focusing on the immunological principles behind vaccine development and the role of vaccination programs in public health.


13. Research the intersection of environmental factors and infectious diseases, such as how climate change and habitat destruction can influence disease emergence and spread.

Proposed by Lumiere Mentors from Harvard University and University of Oxford.


Research Category # 5: Computational Biology and Bioinformatics

Computational biology and bioinformatics is a powerful combination of biology, computer science, and mathematics, which offers powerful tools to analyze and interpret biological data. This cluster encourages students to delve into the world of big data in biology, exploring how computational approaches can unravel complex biological processes and contribute to advancements in genomics, proteomics, and systems biology.


14. Delve into the analysis of high-dimensional data, such as RNA-sequencing, to uncover novel insights into gene expression and regulation.


15. Study the computational modeling of biological datasets, which could involve a range of topics from CRISPR gene-editing to the complexities of cancer metabolism.


16. Examine the use of R and Python programming languages in analyzing immune cells, aiming at the development of next-generation immunotherapies and vaccines.


16. Apply bioinformatics and data science in immunology and/or microbiology, such as single cell analysis and microbiome analysis.


Proposed by Lumiere Mentors from University of Oxford, University of California at Berkeley, and Yale University.


Research Category # 6: Behavioral Sciences and Psychology

Bridging behavioral sciences and psychology into life sciences research provides a deep dive into the emotional processes that guide human behavior. Scientists are constantly at work trying to find what makes people act the way they do, and how to incentivize better habits. This research area is perfect for students who are intrigued by the inner workings of human thought and behavior, which is a field that is rich in complexity and diversity. 


18. Quantify the psychological impact of stress on mental and physical health, exploring how stress influences behavior, cognition, and overall well-being.


19. Elucidate the mechanisms of addiction and substance abuse, focusing on the neural and psychological factors that contribute to addictive behaviors.


20. Examine the social determinants of health disparities, particularly how socioeconomic factors influence mental health and access to healthcare services.


Proposed by Lumiere Mentors from University of Pennsylvania and New York University.


This article provides only a small glimpse into the endless possibilities of life sciences research, but hopefully, the variety of different fields that chemistry is involved in piqued your interest; whether you’d like to learn more about climate change, computers, or psychology, there is definitely an applicable life sciences research project that you can do. 



One other option – Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you are interested in doing university-level research in life sciences or other STEM subjects, which can become a topic to talk about in your college application, then you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program a selective online high school program for students founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.


Also, check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students.


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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