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12 Research Opportunities + Internships for High School Students

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What’s Covered:


Research drives innovation across every field of study, from health sciences to sociology to economics. Pursuing curiosity can impact industries, drive policy, and help us to better understand the world around us. Without it, society will stagnate.


Contrary to popular belief, however, you don’t have to be a seasoned professional to conduct meaningful research. There are plenty of opportunities for high school students to get a head start on their future careers and contribute to change. Keep reading to learn about 12 great opportunities for students looking for early opportunities to conduct research.

Research Opportunities and Internships for High Schoolers


1. Memorial Sloan Kettering Summer Student Program


Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) is one of the most well-known cancer centers in the world. The Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program (HOPP) at MSK hosts a Summer Student Program for students to conduct independent research projects while participating in extracurricular activities, training, and other opportunities. 


During the eight week program, students are mentored by a postdoctoral fellow, graduate student, or research technician. They will present their projects at a poster session at the end of the summer.


2. Rockefeller University Summer Science Research Program


The Summer Science Research Program gives high school students the opportunity to conduct real, innovative research over the course of seven weeks through the renowned Rockefeller University, all while studying under the guidance of leading scientists. Students must be at least 16 years old to participate. Participants will receive a stipend for their work. 


NB: SSRP will take place virtually in 2021.


3. Research Science Institute (RSI)


The prestigious RSI takes place at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) annually, bringing together 80 top high school students from around the world. The free program blends on-campus coursework with off-campus science and technology research. Participants complete individual research projects while receiving mentorship from experienced scientists and researchers before presenting their findings through oral and written reports in a conference-style setting.


4. Applied Research Innovations in Science and Engineering (ARISE)


Open to high school sophomores and juniors, this program combines college-level workshops and lab research across fields like civil and urban engineering, mechanical and electrical engineering, and robotics. Over the course of seven weeks, New York City students from underrepresented communities receive guidance from graduate or postdoctoral students at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Participants receive a stipend of at least $500.


NB: The program is mostly virtual in 2021.


5. Simons Summer Research Program


Through the Simons Summer Research Program, high school students conduct hands-on research in areas like science, math, or engineering while working with faculty mentors. Students have the opportunity to join real research teams and learn about laboratory equipment and techniques. 


You must be at least 16 to apply. Students receive a stipend for their participation.


6. Spark Summer Internship Program


Spark SIP is ideal for students with an interest in computer science and related disciplines. Through the internship program, students learn from, receive guidance from, and connect with leading industry experts while conducting research in real-world contexts. To participate, students must be able to work full-time (30-40 hours per work) for 8-12 weeks over the course of the summer.


7. Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory – High School Student Summer Research Fellowship


In this fellowship, students join MDI Biological Laboratory to develop their lab science research skills. Participants receive hands-on training and experience in research at a premier lab. Before applying, students must be nominated by a teacher. Students receive a stipend for their participation.


NB: The fellowship may be online in 2021.


8. Research in Materials Science Program (RIMS)


Hosted by the CUNY Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC), RIMS gives students the opportunity to conduct research in laboratories throughout the ASRC. During the 8-week program, they also attend career development seminars. Admission is highly competitive, and students receive a stipend for their participation.


9. Research in Science & Engineering (RISE) Internship


RISE is a 6-week program for rising seniors with an interest in pursuing a major and career in STEM. There are several tracks available, such as astronomy, chemistry, computer science, and neuroscience. In each track, students conduct research under the mentorship of Boston University faculty, postdoctoral fellows, or graduate students. They will also attend weekly workshops with their peers.


At the culmination of the internship, participants present their work at a Poster Symposium. 

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10. Coriell Summer Experience for Students


Located in Camden, NJ, the Coriell Institute for Medical Research is a leader in stem cell research and genomic discovery. A small group of talented students participate in the four-week Summer Experience each year, working with leading scientists and researchers. Students conduct their own research, attend lectures, join resume-building workshops, and deliver presentations at the end of the program. Participants receive a $1,000 stipend.


NB: The program has been cancelled in 2021. Check back next year.


11. The Wistar Institute High School Program in Biomedical Research


A leading biomedical research organization, The Wistar Institute is an ideal setting for students to learn research skills. Participants complete their own research project while being trained in a principal investigator’s laboratory. They also attend seminars, receive mentorship, and deliver a final presentation about their work.


NB: The program has been cancelled in 2021. Check back next year.


12. California Academy of Science Careers in Science (CiS) Intern Program


This long-running program, established in 1996, gives San Francisco students from underrepresented communities in STEM fields the opportunity to learn about the world of science and sustainability while receiving mentorship, developing career skills, and more — all while getting paid for their work. Students also attend workshops and conferences throughout the course of the program.


NB: The internship is remote in 2021.


How to Find Research Opportunities in High School


Define your area of interest.


Before you start looking for opportunities, hone your area of interest, whether it’s cancer research, engineering, computer science, neuroscience, or something else. Bear in mind, too, that while there may be more STEM opportunities available for high school students, research isn’t limited to these fields — research is also a key part of social science, humanities, and other non-STEM fields.


While you should be somewhat specific about what you’re hoping to research, don’t narrow your scope so much that it’s impossible to find a valuable opportunity.


Talk to people in your immediate circle.


Teachers, neighbors, your family, parents of friends, friends of your parents — any of these people could know someone or know someone who knows someone. Networking is often the key to finding career opportunities and the best opportunities aren’t always hosted by large universities or programs. Leveraging your network can help you to uncover unique opportunities crowdsourced by the people who know you best.


Reach out to local institutions and laboratories.


In addition to networking with your immediate circle, reach out to local facilities, such as labs, hospitals, clinics, and universities that conduct research. Even if opportunities aren’t publicized, these institutions and laboratories may be willing to make room for you. Remember: when pitching your idea, don’t make it too niche — this will make it more difficult to find a fit and market your skills to labs.


Cast a wide net.


Research opportunities are hard to secure, especially when you’re a young student. So, you need to be persistent. It may take a hundred emails, but if you put in the effort and cast a wide net, you’ll improve your chances of landing that great opportunity.


Try not to be too picky, either. Of course, you shouldn’t just accept any offer, particularly if it doesn’t appeal to you. But even if the opportunity doesn’t align perfectly with your skills and interests, it can still be a great opportunity to gain experience and make you a better candidate for future experiences.

How Will Doing Research Impact Your College Chances?


Extracurricular activities are divided into four tiers. Tier 1 includes activities that are exceptional and rare, while Tier 4 includes the most common ones, like volunteering or playing an intramural sport. You should aim to have at least a few Tier 1 or 2 activities on your application to set yourself apart from other top students.


Research usually falls into Tier 2, and some particularly prestigious opportunities could even be Tier 1. That’s because it’s somewhat unusual for high school students to conduct research in professional and collegiate settings, so it’s more likely to impress colleges.


To find out the impact research and other extracurricular activities have on your chances of admission to top colleges and universities, try CollegeVine’s chancing engine. Our tool evaluates your admissions profile, taking into account factors like your grades and standardized test scores to show you how you stack up against other applicants. You’ll also receive tips on how to improve your profile — all for free.


Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.