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9 Summer Research Programs for High School Students in Illinois

Research is a great way to explore a subject you’re interested in depth. If you’re a high school student keen on learning how to conduct research and dive into a field you’re passionate about, you should consider applying for a summer research program! These programs will not only help you develop and hone your research skills but also expose you to a number of career paths in your chosen field. 

A summer research program will also give you the opportunity to build a strong network of professionals, industry experts, and peers – something that would be useful in the future. You will also get to improve your critical thinking and analytical skills during the research program with hands-on experiences. Additionally, research programs can significantly boost your college applications!

If you’re a high schooler in Illinois, there are several universities, organizations, and laboratories that offer summer research programs that you can consider. Most of these are free to attend, with many also offering a stipend to conduct your research. While some are paid, there are scholarship and aid opportunities as well. To help you get started, here’s a curated list of 8 summer research programs for high school students in Illinois.

Location: Remote — you can participate in this program from anywhere in the world!


  • You must be currently enrolled in high school.

  • Students must demonstrate a high level of academic achievement. (Note. students have an unweighted GPA of 3.3 out of 4).

  • No previous knowledge of your field of interest is required!

Application Deadline: Varying deadlines based on cohort. The main summer deadlines are March 15, April 15, and May 15.

Program Dates: Summer cohort runs from June to August, Fall cohort from September to December, Winter cohort from December to February, Spring from March to June. Applications for the summer cohort are now open!

Duration: Options range from 12 weeks to 1 year.

Cost: Full financial aid is available!

The Lumiere Research Scholar Program is a rigorous research program tailored for high school students. The program offers extensive 1-on-1 research opportunities for high school students, across a broad range of subject areas that you can explore.

The program pairs high-school students with Ph.D. mentors to work 1-on-1 on an independent research project. At the end of the 12-week program, you’ll have developed an independent research paper! You can choose research topics from subjects such as psychology, physics, economics, data science, computer science, engineering, chemistry, international relations, and more. You can find more details about the application here!

Location: Virtual.

Eligibility: Ambitious high school students located anywhere in the world. AI Fellowship applicants should either have completed the AI Scholars program or exhibit past experience with AI concepts or Python.

Application Deadline: On a rolling basis. Applications for the Summer II cohort will close on June 23, 2024.

Program Dates: The program offers sessions in the summer, fall, winter, and spring.

Cost: $4,900 for the 12-15 week AI Fellowship. Veritas AI also offers a 10-week AI Scholars program ($1,790). Need-based financial aid is available. You can apply here.

Veritas AI focuses on providing high school students who are passionate about the field of AI a suitable environment to explore their interests. The program includes collaborative learning, project development, and 1-on-1 mentorship. These programs are designed and run by Harvard alumni, and you can expect a comprehensive educational experience. Students are expected to have a basic understanding of Python or are recommended to complete the AI scholars program before pursuing the fellowship.

The AI Fellowship program will have students pursue their own independent AI research projects. Students work on their own individual research projects over a period of 12-15 weeks and can opt to combine AI with any other field of interest. In the past, students have worked on research papers in the fields of AI & medicine, AI & finance, AI & environmental science, AI & education, and more! You can find examples of previous projects here.

Location: Virtual 

Application Date: May 21, 2024 for the summer cohort, and September 25, 2024 for the fall cohort 

Program Dates: 

  • Summer seminar - June 24, 2024 - September 2, 2024

  • Fall seminar - October 23, 2024 - February 19, 2025

  • Lab dates are flexible, but you must apply 4 weeks in advance.

Eligibility: High school students with good academic standing (>3.67/4.0 GPA) can apply. Most accepted students are 10th/11th graders! Only a couple of tracks require formal prerequisites, more details of which can be found here.

Horizon offers trimester-long research programs for high school students across subject areas such as data science, machine learning, political theory, biology, chemistry, neuroscience, psychology, and more! It is one of the very few research programs for high school students that offers a choice between quantitative and qualitative research! 

Once you select a particular subject track and type of research you’ll be paired with a professor or Ph.D. scholar (from a top university) who will mentor you throughout your research journey. You’ll work to create a 20-page, university-level research paper that you can send to prestigious journals for publication as a high school student. 

This program is a solid opportunity for you to pursue a research program in highly specialized fields, under the guidance of a top scholar. The program also provides a letter of recommendation for each student, as well as detailed project feedback that you can use to work on future projects and on college applications. Apply here!

Location: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL

Eligibility: Rising 10th-12th graders from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin.

Application Deadline: Applications are closed for 2024 and will reopen in early 2025 for summer 2025.

Program Dates: June 17, 2024 - August 2, 2024

Cost/Stipend: No cost to attend, other than transport to and from the university. Housing, meals, and a monetary award are provided.

The Young Scholars Summer STEMM Research Program allows students to work on hands-on research projects in neuroscience, cancer immunology, artificial intelligence, bioengineering, physics, quantum mechanics, electrical engineering, and more. This highly selective and competitive program accepts only around 30 students from over 600 applicants.

While applying, you should indicate your preference for 2 out of 3 of the following research groups, one of which you will be assigned after you are accepted.

You will also attend seminars, research activities, lab work, faculty mentorship, workshops, and a final poster symposium.

Location: University of Chicago | University of Illinois at Chicago | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign | Northwestern University | Rush University.

Eligibility: High school juniors or seniors who are at least 16 years old and from the Chicago and Urbana-Champaign areas.

Application Deadline: Applications typically close in January.

Dates: Second week of June through the first week of August every year (8 weeks).

Cost/Stipend: No cost. Students will receive a taxable stipend of $3,000.

The ResearcHStart program is a chance for high school students interested in cancer research to conduct full-time research in state-of-the-art laboratories at one of the participating institutions. At these laboratories, you will get to work under the mentorship of expert cancer researchers and gain practical experience in areas like bioengineering, cancer immunology, cancer disparities, experimental cancer therapeutics, and more.

You will receive research training and attend faculty lectures, career and skill development workshops, and a network of faculty and peer mentors to enhance your knowledge and increase support during the program. You will also get a chance to work individually and in research groups to explore and complete a research project in the field. The program will end with a research symposium in which you and your peers will present your research projects to faculty, students, family, and friends.

This program only accepts 30 students each year.

Location: Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.

Eligibility: Rising high school seniors (juniors at the time of application) and undergraduate college/university students who are at least 16 years old.

Application Deadline: Applications usually close in February.

Dates: Early June through the end of July every year (8 weeks)

Cost/Stipend: There is no cost to participate, but interns must arrange their own housing and transportation. Interns are paid a competitive stipend (amount not specified).

Northwestern University’s Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care organizes the annual Kimberly Querrey Summer Research Program providing students with intensive research training and academic and professional development support. If selected, you will be matched with a Northwestern faculty member who will assign you a hypothesis-driven or hypothesis-generating research project.

Through this project, you will contribute to the laboratory’s real and impactful lung disease research while learning new skills and techniques useful in the research process. You will also attend activities and workshops to improve your college applications, prepare for college, learn essential skills, and advance your professional development. You may also get a chance to attend additional social events and tours during your time here.

The program will conclude with a presentation from all participants at the Kimberly Querrey Summer Research Symposium.

Location: University of Illinois, Chicago, IL.

Eligibility: Illinois high school students who are at least 16 years old.

Application Deadline: Applications typically close in April.

Dates: June 10, 2024 - August 2, 2024.

Cost/Stipend: No cost. You will receive a stipend (amount not specified).

The University of Illinois’ College of Medicine Rockford annually hosts a summer science internship to understand the medical research process and how it can contribute to new and useful discoveries and innovations.

This internship is a collaborative program offered by the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the College of Medicine Rockford with sponsorship from Thermo Fisher Scientific (Pierce Biotechnology of Rockford). In this program, you will work in a research team while receiving one-on-one mentorship from professional scientists and faculty members who will impart essential laboratory skills to apply to your projects. Some project areas include vaccine development, drug development, and cancer cure research.

You will also receive career-building and professional development training. The program will conclude with a science forum where you will deliver oral presentations and display scientific posters. Note that only 5 students are accepted for this internship. You can also consider applying to the week-long STEM camp.

Location: Illinois State University, Normal, IL.

Eligibility: High school freshmen, sophomores, or juniors.

Application Deadline: Applications usually close in May.

Dates: July 22, 2024 - July 26, 2024.

Cost/Stipend: The cost of the ISRA is $300 per student (including daily lunches and a t-shirt). You can learn about scholarship offers by emailing Note that this is a commuter program with no housing offered.

The Illinois State University’s Summer Research Academy (ISRA) is sponsored by the Center for Mathematics, Science, and Technology (CeMaST) and allows high school students to spend a week at the university working on research projects in chemistry, physics, biology, and information technology. Here are some research opportunities offered for 2024:

  • Investigating stress resistance in pathogens

  • Bacteria

  • House wren evolutionary ecology

  • Microscopy

  • Biochemistry

  • Computational modeling to solve chemistry problems

  • Computational chemistry

  • Recycling waste materials and by-products to develop Green Concrete

  • Nanometer-scale materials growth and characterizations

  • Actuarial science

If selected, you will work with the university’s professors and students, learning important skills and conducting hands-on research with other high school students in your cohort. You will either work on ongoing research projects or your own group research projects. This research academy is also a great way to become familiar with the tools, technologies, techniques, and resources involved in the research process.

Location: Argonne National Laboratory, Lemont, IL.

Eligibility: Local Illinois high school seniors who are 18 years old by the start of the program and have a minimum GPA of 3.75 on a 4.0 scale.

Application Deadline: Applications usually close in March.

Dates: June 10, 2024 - August 2, 2024.

Cost/Stipend: No cost to participate, but students must arrange their own housing and transportation. You will receive a weekly stipend of $500.

Argonne National Laboratory’s College Bound Research Program lets high school students work in a laboratory or office environment under the mentorship of scientists and engineers. If selected, you will work full-time (40 hours per week) in the laboratory throughout the research program.

You will further receive access to the national laboratory’s state-of-the-art technologies and facilities while contributing to crucial ongoing research in advanced computing, energy, discovery science, global security, accelerator systems, biosciences, chemical sciences, and engineering, infrastructure sciences, transportation and power systems, high energy physics, materials science, nanoscience and technology, and lots more.

This research program is a prestigious opportunity to work at a laboratory of national importance, allowing you to learn useful skills and boost your college and job applications.

One other option – Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you are interested in research, consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students I 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.

Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard graduate. He founded Lumiere as a Ph.D. student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.


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