What are summer research programs for high school students?
Summer research programs are opportunities for students in high school to perform research under a mentor overseen by a university or company, and potentially present it or publish it. These programs range from topics in STEM to the humanities. Summer research programs typically last the entire summer to allow students enough time to make progress in the research. If a research project is near a student’s home or if a research project has components that do not require in-office lab work, students can continue conducting the research project during the school year.
Most high school students interested in sciences conduct research in basic science, which is often bench research.
Why should I do a summer research program during high school?
There are a variety of research programs available for high school students in the summer that can not only expand students’ knowledge and understanding of a specific aspect in the scientific field, but also enhance their college applications and BS/MD program applications. Partaking in a summer research program in high school can strengthen your reason and passion for entering a career in the medical field. These programs are also a way for you to develop strong connections with peers whom you share aligned interests with. Additionally, mentors and professors in said research programs can be sources for BS/MD or college recommendation letters, while being continuous guides throughout your high school and potentially your undergraduate career.
How do I apply to these summer research programs for high school students?
For the well-known, organized high school summer research projects, there is often a rigorous application that you must fill out to be accepted to these programs. Applying to these programs entails crafting essays to detail who you are and your interest in the research programs, letters of recommendation, evaluation of your grades, and more. Do not let this process intimidate you, as it can be great preparation for your application to colleges and BS/MD programs. Ensure that you keep track of all your application deadlines for these summer research programs.
Summer research projects include:
- Basic science research (most common)
- Artificial intelligence and applications of computer science (many high schoolers are learning how to code in high school!)
- Public health
- Public policy
- Medical literature reviews
High school students often cannot be involved with clinical research projects because of age restrictions.
If you missed the application deadline for the competitive summer research programs or there are not any in the vicinity you want to spend your summer, don’t fret! There are other ways you can get summer research projects. Many high-achieving high school students receive summer high school research projects through cold-emailing professors in nearby universities and medical schools.
[ Read more: How to Find Research For Premed Students ]
Summer research programs for high school students are full-time extracurricular activities. Treat this like a full-time internship program. Students typically spend 40-50 hours per week in lab, and there could be other science program opportunities for students like additional seminars, mentorship coffee chats, and field trips.
“Which programs should I apply to?” That depends on your own interests. When forming a list of programs to apply to, you should take into consideration your research field of interest, geographical location, program timeline, and other priority factors you feel you want to consider.
Now that you have a better idea of what summer research programs for high school students are, below is a table containing a couple of programs that you can start looking into. The table below that includes some summer research programs is a stepping stone for you to have a better understanding of the types of programs you want to apply to.
List of Summer Research Programs for HIgh School Students
“Simons Fellows are matched with Stony Brook faculty mentors, join a research group or team, and assume responsibility for a project. The Simons Fellows conclude their apprenticeship by producing a written research abstract and a research poster.”
Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY
- Must be in 11th grade at the time of applying
-US citizens and/or permanent residents
- At least 16 at the start of the program.
None, however applicant responsible for dorming costs and/or transportation with dining costs.
“This four-week intensive training program is designed to expose students to a broad range of molecular, microbiological, and cell biological techniques currently used in research laboratories. … Using a project-based approach, the course progresses from a survey of basic lab techniques to the application of current molecular techniques in developmental biology and microbiology.”
University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
-Must be current high school sophomore or high school juniors
-Must complete one year of high school biology by start of program
- Must have demonstrated passion for science, with strong performances in high school biology, math, and chemistry
$13,600. Need-based scholarships are available.
“RSI [is a] summer science & engineering program to combine on-campus course work in scientific theory with off-campus work in science and technology research. Participants experience the entire research cycle from start to finish. They read the most current literature in their field, draft and execute a detailed research plan, and deliver conference-style oral and written reports on their findings.”
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
- Must not be a high school senior
- Must include two letters of recommendation, transcript, and essays
“Topics vary year to year, but may include: public health interventions, global health, infectious disease, chronic disease, injury prevention, data analysis, surveys, school wellness programs, violence prevention, environmental health, emergency preparedness, outbreaks, scientific communication, laboratory technology, disease surveillance, epidemiology, and public health law. During camp students are immersed in the diverse field of public health.”
Centers for Disease and Control, Atlanta, GA
- Must be at least 16 years old
- Must be a rising high school junior or high school senior
-Must be vaccinated
None, however, applicant responsible for dorming costs and/or transportation with dining costs.
“If you’re passionate about the sciences … we invite you to apply for the Research in Science & Engineering (RISE) program. You will spend six weeks at BU conducting university laboratory research with some of the nation’s brightest scientific minds while advancing your STEM knowledge and skills.”
Boston University, Boston, MA
- Must be a rising high school senior
- Must be a US citizen or permanent legal resident
- Must submit 2 recommendation letters
“Formerly affiliated with CHORI, now fully integrated with the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland, this summer program provides a one-on-one mentorship with health care providers and researchers, along with access to unique workshops, seminars, trainings, simulations, and networking opportunities. The overall goal of the program is to stimulate interest in health sciences for under-represented students, arming them with professional skills and confidence, thereby improving their likelihood of success in STEM careers. “
University of California at San Francisco, Oakland, CA
- Must be at least 16 years old
- Must be in rising junior or senior that has completed one year of math and biology
- Must be a student with background considered under-represented in the sciences (individuals from racial/ethnic groups typically underrepresented in the sciences, individuals with disabilities, first-generation college students, individuals who reside with families who are low income or otherwise considered disadvantaged)
Free. Students will receive stipend of $3000-$4500
Frequently Asked Questions about Summer Research Programs
Q. When do students conduct research?
A. High schoolers typically conduct hands-on research at high school summer research programs after their sophomore and junior years. Depending on the research project and location of the lab, students may be able to work on their research projects throughout the school year (as high school juniors and high school seniors).
Q. What type of research questions and topics do students typically conduct research in?
Students particularly interested in medicine, science, or other healthcare fields typically pursue research projects that are related to these areas. From our 20-year experience of advising high school students, we have seen a wide range of research topics and approaches to research.
Disciplines high school students have conducted research:
- Biological sciences, specifically topics related to medicine
- Natural sciences
- Environmental science
- Biomedical engineering
Q. What happens if I do not get accepted to summer research programs?
A. You can still conduct research or spend your time getting involved with other extracurricular activities. In order to find other professors to conduct research with, look at university websites and find professors you would be interested in working with. Read this step-by-step guide to find a research professor and lab: How to Find Research For Premeds
Q. Do I need to conduct research through one of these summer high school research programs for high school students?
A. No, you can find your own research lab or do your own independent research project. Keep reading the frequently asked questions below to hear more about our thoughts!
Q. Can I conduct independent research projects?
Yes! Of course you conduct your own independent research project in high school! Sometimes, the independent research is through a class. Other times, there is a problem in the world that you want to solve and you create an experiment around it! Finally, we have seen students who are involved through Robotics Club at school conduct their own individual research projects.
Q. If I can conduct independent research, what are the benefits of being a part of a summer research program?
Being part of an organized lab with a Principle Investigator (person in charge of the lab) is a different experience than conducting your own research. First, you will have access to a lot of lab equipment. For example, the summer research lab can have the yeast, agar plates, pipettes, and all the chemicals you need to conduct your experiment. Second, research labs may already have access to databases you need to do statistical analysis and . Third, the mentorship is a different level! Typically, as a high schooler, you will be paired up with a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow mentor who will guide you through your research project OR you can help them with their own research projects. Finally, if you do a great job on your summer research project, you can submit your research for publication, enter high school summer science competitions and science fairs, and receive a strong letter of recommendation for your college application process.
Some summer research programs for high school students have other programming for its participants. For example, there may be a panel of undergraduate students, PhD students, medical school students, and postdoctoral fellows discussing what various health professional career tracks are like. This will help give you insight into various career tracks. You may be paired up with an undergraduate, graduate, or medical school student mentor. There may be field trips to the local science museum or tours around the university campus.
Q. Are research programs based in the United States open to international students?
Typically, research programs are not open to international students. If you are a Permanent Resident of the United States, you typically can apply! But, the program expects you to currently be living in the United States.
For applying to summer research projects for high school students like these, it may prove helpful to reach out to previous attendees for advice on applying to the program and being in it. You may have upperclassmen or alumni from your high school who have applied and gotten accepted to these competitive programs!
It is also helpful to consult with your parents to discuss financials before committing to any programs. Some programs are quite costly even with need-based aid, and some programs while free still require you to cover your own housing, food, and transportation costs. While there may be a few drawbacks, attending one of these summer research programs for high school students is an excellent opportunity to immerse yourself in the field of medicine and strengthen your chances for acceptance into BS/MD programs.