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25+ Best Science Research Ideas for High School Students

If you’re an ambitious high school student looking for opportunities to build your college profile and learn new skills, consider undertaking a research project. You do not need to be sure about what you want to major in, but having a general idea aligned with your interests helps! Conducting research shows demonstrated interest in a subject, aids critical thinking and problem-solving, provides laboratory experience, and helps you gain analytical and communication skills. 


What makes a good research idea?

There are a few key components you need to keep in mind when thinking about a research topic:


Relevance:

What is your project trying to achieve? For your research to be relevant, it needs to identify a knowledge gap and be significant. Your research findings should add to existing literature and help future researchers.


Scope: 

It is important to state what will be included in your research explicitly. Clearly defined boundaries help estimate a realistic timeline and allocate any necessary resources. 


Interest: 

The easiest way to be dedicated throughout your research project is by choosing a topic you are passionate about! This will make sure you remain motivated throughout, and it will reflect in your work. Do not choose a topic for the sake of it — you will find the project difficult to complete and your disinterest will reflect in the quality of your work.


Feasibility:

You may have a grand idea for your research topic, but can you execute it? It’s important to consider any constraints you may have — time, money, etc. — and choose a topic that can be completed with your given resources. If you are working independently, choose a topic that isn't resource-intensive. For example, research that requires you use advanced telescopes to examine cosmological patterns may not be feasible if you do not already have access to one. 


What do I do once I have a research idea?

Great job, you have found a topic that interests you, is relevant to the field, and is feasible in scope and resources! Next step, you need to find a mentor who can guide and advise you through the research process. They could be a working researcher, a college professor, a graduate student, or a Ph.D. candidate.


If you’re looking for a mentor, we’d recommend applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program which connects students with world-class researchers, offers one-on-one mentorship, and guides you through the research and writing process, even helping you get your paper published!


Chemistry research ideas for high school students:


Chemistry can be a great field to undertake independent research in — chemical reactions form the basis of life and can give you a deeper understanding of the world. Moreover, chemistry is directly related to important issues that affect us, like climate change, drug discovery, nanotechnology, and more. Research in these domains can lead to life-changing benefits for society! 


Some topics you can research include:


1. Using green chemistry to achieve sustainability targets in the fields of energy, water remediation, agriculture, and sensing

2. Analyzing different energy storage options and comparing and contrasting different technologies' chemistries, performance, lifetime, cost, geographic and resource constraints, and more

3. Investigating how startups and the private sector’s newest technologies are critical to the transition to a green future and how products are commercialized from lab to market

4. Understanding how material nano-structure can create specific properties and take advantage of "structure-property" understanding to engineer new materials

5. Determining the role small molecules play in imaging, labeling, target identification, inhibiting native protein functions, and facilitating foreign ones, especially in new techniques used to understand disease pathways

6. Investigating how molecules are made in nature, such as the reactions performed by enzymes to make natural products


Suggested by Lumiere PhD mentors at Harvard University, University of California, Berkeley, Yale University, University of Cambridge, Technical University of Munich, Georgia Institute of Technology, Duke University, University of Leeds, Cornell University, and John Hopkins University


Biology research ideas for high school students:


Research in biology can contribute to humans’ understanding of living organisms, lead to medical breakthroughs and advancements in healthcare, contribute to cancer research and treatment, deepen our understanding of genetics, improve sustainability by helping develop biofuels and biodegradable materials, and more. 


Some topics you can research include:


7. Tumor progression and how cancer cells invade and interact with other cells

8. Cancer immunotherapy: the study of how cancer cells evade the immune system and how we can harness the immune system to battle cancer

9. Researching past and current technologies used in gene editing. Identify challenges and weigh the ethical and social implications of these technologies

10. Identifying technical challenges in mass vaccination campaigns. Review existing data from public health organizations and current scientific literature on new vaccine delivery technologies

11. Analyzing the effects of alcohol and drug addiction on the brain

12. Discovering different theories of learning and memory. You can design and use different  clinical studies here


Suggested by Lumiere Ph.D. mentors at Stanford University, UC Berkeley, Cornell University,  Duke University, and Yale University   


Physics research ideas for high school students:


Have space, quantum physics, nuclear science, and other such subjects always fascinated you? If so, a research project in physics is a great way to dig deeper and understand why different phenomena occur. Physics is a broad and interconnected discipline; research in the subject can cover topics like mechanical and electrical engineering, quantum computing, nuclear energy, astrophysical and cosmological phenomena, and computational technologies.


Some topics you can research include:


13. The features and limitations of augmented and virtual reality technologies, current industry standards of performance, and solutions to address challenges

14. Cosmological mysteries (like dark energy, inflation, and dark matter) and their hypothesized explanations

15. Physical processes that shape galaxies through cosmic time in the context of extragalactic astronomy and the current issues and frontiers in galaxy evolution

16. Radiation or radiation measurement in applications of nuclear physics (such as reactors, nuclear batteries, and sensors/detectors)

17. The electrical and thermodynamic properties of Boson particles, whose quantum nature is responsible for laser radiation

18. Mathematical derivation of the dynamics of particles from fundamental laws (such as special relativity, general relativity, and quantum mechanics)

19. The theoretical and experimental advances in quantum computing. Explore current high-impact research directions for quantum computing from a hardware or theoretical perspective

20. Nuclear fission or nuclear fusion energy as a possible solution to mitigate climate change


Suggested by Lumiere Ph.D. mentors at Northwestern University, Princeton University, Stanford University, Cornell University, University of Cambridge, Harvard University, University of California, Irvine, and University of Southampton.


Marine biology research ideas for high school students:


Contributing to research in marine biology can be extremely important given the diversity of marine ecosystems, the life they support, and their importance in combating climate change and preventing extreme weather events. Understanding how oceans work directly relates to water pollution and the quality of seafood, contributes to coastal protection and carbon sequestration (the process of capturing and storing excess carbon dioxide), and helps educate the public on the importance of protecting marine habitats.


 If this interests you, here are some research topics to consider:


21. Examine how corals are responding to climate change, how the change in oceanic temperatures affects their reef-building capabilities, and the knock-on effects

22. Examine how marine conservation and tourism can go coexist. Suggest ways to ensure the sustainable development of coastal economies

23. Study how marine pollution impacts coastal areas, marine biodiversity, and communities’ livelihoods

24. Study how human activity (like pollution, fishing, and habitat destruction) has impacted marine genomes and how other anthropogenic factors have influenced adaptation and genetic diversity in marine organisms

25. Study the effect of plastic pollution on marine life and examine the benefits of adopting more eco-friendly and biodegradable packaging materials. Develop new methods to remove plastic from the ocean

26. Study carbon sequestration. Investigate how coastal ecosystems like mangroves, saltmarshes, seagrasses, etc. can help mitigate C02 emissions

27. Study the effect of plastic pollution on marine life and examine the benefits of adopting more eco-friendly and biodegradable packaging materials. Develop new methods to remove plastic from the ocean


If you’re looking for a competitive mentored research program in subjects like data science, machine learning, political theory, biology, and chemistry, consider applying to Horizon’s Research Seminars and Labs


This is a selective virtual research program that lets you engage in advanced research and develop a research paper in a subject of your choosing. Horizon has worked with 1000+ high school students so far, and offers 600+ research specializations for you to choose from. 


You can find the application link here


If you’re serious about conducting independent research, you may want to consider the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded by 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. You can also reach out to us at contact@lumiere.education to know more, or to have a chat about possible collaborations!


Also check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students. Last year, we had 150 students on full need-based financial aid!



Kieran Lobo is a freelance writer from India, who currently teaches English in Spain.



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Such research can even touch on addiction studies, relevant to organizations like the Canadian Centre for Addiction

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