Research can be a valued supplement in your college application. However, many high schoolers are yet to explore research, which is a delicate process that may include choosing a topic, reviewing literature, conducting experiments, and writing a paper.
If you are interested in physics, exploring the physics realm through research is a great way to not only navigate your passion but learn about what research entails. Physics even branches out into other fields such as biology, chemistry, and math, so interest in physics is not a requirement to doing research in physics. Having research experience on your resume can be a great way to boost your college application and show independence, passion, ambition, and intellectual curiosity!
We will cover what exactly a good research topic entails and then provide you with 25 possible physics research topics that may interest or inspire you.
What is a good research topic?
Of course, you want to choose a topic that you are interested in. But beyond that, you should choose a topic that is relevant today; for example, research questions that have already been answered after extensive research does not address a current knowledge gap. Make sure to also be cautious that your topic is not too broad that you are trying to cover too much ground and end up losing the details, but not too specific that you are unable to gather enough information.
Remember that topics can span across fields. You do not need to restrict yourself to a physics topic; you can conduct interdisciplinary research combining physics with other fields you may be interested in.
Research Ideas in Physics
We have compiled a list of 25 possible physics research topics suggested by Lumiere PhD mentors. These topics are separated into 8 broader categories.
Topic #1: Using computational technologies and analyses
If you are interested in coding or technology in general, physics is also one place to look to explore these fields. You can explore anything from new technologies to datasets (even with coding) through a physics lens. Some computational or technological physics topics you can research are:
1.Development of computer programs to find and track positions of fast-moving nanoparticles and nanomachines
2. Features and limitations to augmented and virtual reality technologies, current industry standards of performance, and solutions that have been proposed to address challenges
3. Use of MATLAB or Python to work with existing code bases to design structures that trap light for interaction with qubits
4. Computational analysis of ATLAS open data using Python or C++
Suggested by Lumiere PhD mentors at University of Cambridge, University of Rochester, and Harvard University.
Topic #2: Exploration of astrophysical and cosmological phenomena
Interested in space? Then astrophysics and cosmology may be just for you. There are lots of unanswered questions about astrophysical and cosmological phenomena that you can begin to answer. Here are some possible physics topics in these particular subfields that you can look into:
5. Cosmological mysteries (like dark energy, inflation, dark matter) and their hypothesized explanations
6. Possible future locations of detectors for cosmology and astrophysics research
7. Physical processes that shape galaxies through cosmic time in the context of extragalactic astronomy and the current issues and frontiers in galaxy evolution
8. Interaction of beyond-standard-model particles with astrophysical structures (such as black holes and Bose stars)
Suggested by Lumiere PhD mentors at Princeton University, Harvard University, Yale University, and University of California, Irvine.
Topic #3: Mathematical analyses of physical phenomena
Math is deeply embedded in physics. Even if you may not be interested solely in physics, there are lots of mathematical applications and questions that you may be curious about. Using basic physics laws, you can learn how to derive your own mathematical equations and solve them in hopes that they address a current knowledge gap in physics. Some examples of topics include:
9. Analytical approximation and numerical solving of equations that determine the evolution of different particles after the Big Bang
10. Mathematical derivation of the dynamics of particles from fundamental laws (such as special relativity, general relativity, quantum mechanics)
11. The basics of Riemannian geometry and how simple geometrical arguments can be used to construct the ingredients of Einstein’s equations of general relativity that relate the curvature of space-time with energy-mass
Suggested by Lumiere PhD mentors at Harvard University, University of Southampton, and Pennsylvania State University.
Topic #4: Nuclear applications in physics
Nuclear science and its possible benefits and implications are important topics to explore and understand in today’s society, which often uses nuclear energy. One possible nuclear physics topic to look into is:
12. Radiation or radiation measurement in applications of nuclear physics (such as reactors, nuclear batteries, sensors/detectors)
Suggested by a Lumiere PhD mentor at University of Chicago.
Topic #5: Analyzing biophysical data
Biology and even medicine are applicable fields in physics. Using physics to figure out how to improve biology research or understand biological systems is common. Some biophysics topics to research may include the following:
13. Simulation of biological systems using data science techniques to analyze biological data sets
14. Design and construction of DNA nanomachines that operate in liquid environments
15. Representation and decomposition of MEG/EEG brain signals using fundamental electricity and magnetism concepts
16. Use of novel methods to make better images in the context of biology and obtain high resolution images of biological samples
Suggested by Lumiere PhD mentors at University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, University of Washington, and University of Rochester
Topic #6: Identifying electrical and mechanical properties
Even engineering has great applications in the field of physics. There are different phenomena in physics from cells to Boson particles with interesting electrical and/or mechanical properties. If you are interested in electrical or mechanical engineering or even just the basics, these are some related physics topics:
17. Simulations of how cells react to electrical and mechanical stimuli
18. The best magneto-hydrodynamic drive for high electrical permittivity fluids
19. The electrical and thermodynamic properties of Boson particles, whose quantum nature is responsible for laser radiation
Suggested by Lumiere PhD mentors at Johns Hopkins University, Cornell University, and Harvard University.
Topic #7: Quantum properties and theories
Quantum physics studies science at the most fundamental level, and there are many questions yet to be answered. Although there have been recent breakthroughs in the quantum physics field, there are still many undiscovered sub areas that you can explore. These are possible quantum physics research topics:
20. The recent theoretical and experimental advances in the quantum computing field (such as Google’s recent breakthrough result) and explore current high impact research directions for quantum computing from a hardware or theoretical perspective
21. Discovery a new undiscovered composite particle called toponium and how to utilize data from detectors used to observe proton collisions for discoveries
22. Describing a black hole and its quantum properties geometrically as a curvature of space-time and how studying these properties can potentially solve the singularity problem
Suggested by Lumiere PhD mentors at Stanford University, Purdue University, University of Cambridge, and Cornell University.
Topic #8: Renewable energy and climate change solutions
Climate change is an urgent issue, and you can use physics to research environmental topics ranging from renewable energies to global temperature increases. Some ideas of environmentally related physics research topics are:
23. New materials for the production of hydrogen fuel
24. Analysis of emissions involved in the production, use, and disposal of products
25. Nuclear fission or nuclear fusion energy as possible solutions to mitigate climate change
Suggested by Lumiere PhD mentors at Northwestern University and Princeton University.
If you are passionate or even curious about physics and would like to do research and learn more, consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, which is a selective online high school program for students interested in researching with the help of mentors. You can find the application form here.
Rachel is a first year at Harvard University concentrating in neuroscience. She is passionate about health policy and educational equity, and she enjoys traveling and dancing.
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