Great Summer Science Programs for High School Students

If You Love Science, These Summer Programs Are Worth a Look

Summer is a great time to explore your scientific interests. A quality summer program can introduce you to potential college majors in the sciences, provide hands-on experiences, and give you an impressive line on your activities resumé.

Residential summer programs are also an excellent way to learn a lot more about a college than you would from the typical Saturday information session and campus tour, and they provide a valuable introduction to the residential life experience of college. Below are some excellent programs.

Summer Science Program

Headquarters for the Very Large Array are on the New Mexico Tech campus
Headquarters for the Very Large Array are on the New Mexico Tech campus. Asagan / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

The Summer Science Program (SSP) is a residential academic enrichment program for gifted rising high school seniors offered at both the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Sorocco, New Mexico and Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. The SSP curriculum is centered around a group research project to determine the orbit of an asteroid, and participants study college-level astronomy, physics, calculus and programming. Students also attend guest lectures and go on field trips. The program runs for approximately five weeks. 

Research Science Institute

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Justin Jensen / Flickr

The Research Science Institute (RSI) is an intensive summer program for outstanding high school students offered by the Center for Excellence in Education and hosted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Participants have the opportunity to experience the entire research cycle through coursework in scientific theory and hands-on practice in science and technology research, culminating in oral and written research reports. The program includes one week of classes and a five-week research internship where students conduct their individual research project. RSI is cost-free to students. 

Research in the Biological Sciences

University of Chicago
University of Chicago. Luiz Gadelha Jr. / Flickr

The University of Chicago’s Biological Sciences Collegiate Division offers this rigorous summer program in biological research techniques for rising high school juniors and seniors. Participants learn about molecular, microbiological and cell biological techniques being used in modern laboratories through a project-based curriculum, learning basic practical lab techniques and applying them to independent group projects that are presented at the end of the course. Several students each year are also invited back the following year to work with a University of Chicago research scientist. The program runs for four weeks, and students live in university housing. 

Simons Summer Research Fellowship Program

The Chemistry Building at Stony Brook University
The Chemistry Building at Stony Brook University. Atomichumbucker / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Motivated and independent-minded rising high school seniors may be interested in exploring scientific research at Stony Brook University’s seven-week Simons Summer Research Program. Simons Fellows spend the summer working directly with a faculty mentor, collaborating with a research team and pursuing an independent research project while learning about lab research concepts at faculty research presentations, workshops, tours and other special events. At the conclusion of the program, each student presents a written research abstract and a research poster summarizing their work.

Rosetta Institute Molecular Biology of Cancer Workshop

Royce Hall at UCLA
Royce Hall at UCLA. Photo Credit: Marisa Benjamin

The Rosetta Institute of Biomedical Research sponsors three summer workshops for students aged 13-18 on the molecular biology of cancer at UC Berkeley, Yale University, and UCLA. Through lectures and laboratory experiments, campers explore basic concepts of molecular cell biology and how the development of cancer affects these structures and processes. Students put these theories into practice by creating their own research projects, which are presented at the end of the two-week session.

University of Massachusetts Summer Academy in Forensic Chemistry

The University of Massachusetts Amherst
The University of Massachusetts Amherst. Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism / Flickr

Students enrolled in UMass Amherst’s two-week Summer Academy in Forensic Chemistry receive hands-on training in the current scientific techniques used in forensics laboratories. They attend lectures and conduct experiments on topics such as drug chemistry, fire debris analysis, toxicology, DNA analysis, and fingerprinting as well as learning about the legal aspects of forensics and the education and training required to pursue a career in forensics. At the end of the two weeks, each student presents an individual challenge project on a specific area of forensic chemistry.

Boston Leadership Institute: Biological Research

Bentley University
Bentley University. Allen Grove

The flagship program of the Boston Leadership Institute, this program is a three-week course in the field of biological research. Activities include hands-on laboratory work, private tours and fields trips to various sites around Boston, and in-depth research papers and presentations. The course is taught by Whitney Hagins, an award-winning biology teacher at one of the top public high schools in the country. Students can choose to commute or stay in one of the residence halls at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts.