Summer Science Programs for High School Students

Summer is a great time for high school students to explore their scientific interests. A quality program can introduce them to potential college majors in the sciences, provide hands-on research experience, and strengthen their resumes. Residential summer programs also provide an excellent introduction to college life.

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 rising high school seniors offered at both the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro, New Mexico, and at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. The SSP curriculum is centered around a group research project, and participants also study college-level astronomy, physics, calculus, and computer programming. Students attend guest lectures and go on field trips as well. 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 internship where students conduct their own individual research project. RSI is cost-free to students, and admission is highly competitive. Notable program alumni include mathematician Terence Tao and physicist Jeremy England.

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 a 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. Using practical lab techniques, students work on independent group projects and deliver presentations at the end of the course. Several students 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 through Stony Brook University’s seven-week Simons Summer Research Program. 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 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 to 18 on the molecular biology of cancer at UC Berkeley, Yale University, and UCLA. Through lectures and laboratory experiments, campers explore basic concepts related to molecular cell biology and learn about how the development of cancer affects these structures and processes. Students put theories into practice by creating their own research projects, which are presented at the end of each 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 scientific techniques used in forensic laboratories. They attend lectures and conduct experiments on topics such as drug chemistry, fire debris analysis, toxicology, DNA analysis, and fingerprinting. Students also learn about the legal aspects of forensics and the education and training required to pursue a career in the field. At the end of the two weeks, each student presents an individual 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 offers 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.

California NanoSystems Institute NanoScience Lab

This program, offered by the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA, is a workshop for rising high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors who want to explore advanced scientific methods and technology. Participants complete hands-on nanoscience activities and experiments related to subjects including biotoxicity and photolithography. The workshop runs for five days and is worth two-quarter units of UCLA course credit.