10 Biology Research Project Ideas for High School Students To Try This Summer

Jin Chow

Biology and biomedical research are two of the most popular academic disciplines among high schoolers. If you’re one of them and you’re looking for research opportunities this summer, you’ve come to the right place! Whether you’re just starting out in your exploration of biology or looking to do some advanced research to submit to your state’s science fair, we have level-appropriate ideas for you!

Whether you’re interested in cancer, bioengineering, anatomy, or genetics, we’ve got you covered. Here is a curated list of 10 different research project ideas to get those creative juices flowing. If you’re hungry for more, head over to our comprehensive Project Ideas database here and browse over 2800 more ideas!

1) Rate of Cognitive Decline in Different Elevations

Level: Beginner

The human mind needs a constant supply of oxygen to function properly, yet oxygen’s partial pressure decreases with altitude, making it difficult for blood to oxygenate. So what happens to cognition as elevation increases rapidly, such as on a climb to the top of Mount Everest? Do people who are frequently exposed to high altitudes have a greater chance of developing dementia? This research project would involve a literature review and meta-analysis examining the effects of altitude on brain function.

Idea by mentor Alyssa

2) Building a Blood Vessel

Level: Beginner

In this project, great for visual learners, you’ll generate a graphic to demonstrate the formation of blood cells. First, you’ll learn about vasculature through conducting a review of existing scientific literature. Then, this information will be used to create an image to teach people how blood vessels form without any verbal explanation. A wordless graphic can make scientific education accessible to people regardless of their language or education level.

Idea by mentor Natalie

3) Teach a chemistry/biology concept two ways: to your fellow students and to the general public

Level: Beginner

The best way to know you understand a concept thoroughly is to try your hand at teaching it. In this project, you’lll choose a topic from chemistry or biology that interests them and then make a lesson plan for it. You’ll video-record yourself in a Khan Academy-style video, but otherwise, you’re free to experiment with teaching strategies to find what works best for you. You can incorporate demonstrations using items around the house or create a simple animation to aid your explanation. The lesson should include opportunities for your students to check their understanding of the concepts and skills you’re teaching them. You can take your lesson a step further by preparing two versions – one for your scientific peers and one for the general public. How will your tailor your lessons to these two different audiences? Through this project, you’ll learn what it’s like to teach, you’ll develop a deeper understanding of your topic, and you’ll practice communicating science to a variety of audiences.

Idea by mentor Alexa

4) How genetically engineered mosquitoes are reducing rates of vector-borne diseases such as Zika

Level: Intermediate

Countries around the world have already developed and released millions of genetically engineered mosquitoes into the environment. This project will give you a scientific understanding of how genetically engineered mosquitoes can be used to reduce incidence of various vector-borne diseases and give you the opportunity to examine the pros and cons of this practice through a meta-analysis of scientific articles and informative videos. This project will help you develop an in-depth understanding of genetic engineering techniques, the ways scientists can determine reproduction rates of insect populations, and the epidemiology of some common mosquito-borne diseases.

Idea by mentor Vanessa

5) Examining the bacterial profile of various households

Level: Intermediate

Bacterial microbiomes have received a vast amount of attention from the scientific community lately because of the critical role they play in human health and well-being. In this project, you will examine the variations in the skin microbiomes between individuals in different households. This project will involve manipulating different homemade bacterial media, selecting for particular microorganisms.

Idea by mentor Hamilton

6) The Understanding of a New and Upcoming Treatment: Immunotherapy

Level: Intermediate

In the last few years, immunotherapies have been emerging as a strong alternative to chemotherapeutic and radiation treatments for a variety of cancers. These treatments stimulate a patient's immune system to fight cancerous cells, but they are not always effective. This project will involve picking one type of immunotherapy and developing a deep understanding of its biochemical mechanisms and how effectively it treats its type of cancer.

Idea by mentor Hannah

7) Efficacy of Marine Protected Areas

Level: Intermediate

Although marine protected areas can potentially be impactful guides to sustainably managing resources, there are a host of reasons why they are not currently effective. This project will involve looking into those reasons and culminate in developing a framework for mapping, modeling, and implementing an effective marine protected area.

Idea by mentor Natalie

8) Correlating The Cancer Genome Atlas data with sc-RNAseq data

Level: Advanced

This project involves making use of the recent explosion in publicly-available, high quality cancer data, even up to a single-cell resolution. A more robust image of tumor purity and the tumor microenvironment can be captured through combining scRNA-seq data with bulk RNA-seq data. This work has a potentially strong impact on tumorigenesis, disease progression, and therapeutic intervention.

Idea by mentor Hersh

9) Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Physiological Benefits of Fasting-induced Autophagy

Level: Advanced

From the Greek for “self-eating,” autophagy is a process where damaged or unwanted cells are disposed of by the body. Autophagy has links to the pathologies of serious diseases like cancer and heart disease. Autophagy may be behaviorally induced by fasting or extreme diets. This project will involve a literature review and meta-analysis on fast or diet-induced autophagy and its effects on the body. Through this project, you will learn to search and review primary scientific literature, develop data analysis skills in the R language, and practice effective scientific communication through writing about what you find.

Idea by mentor Jose

10) The Amyloid Hypothesis: Sifting through the controversy

Level: Advanced

The Amyloid Hypothesis which posits that amyloid beta is the protein responsible for the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease symptoms has recently been questioned in light of new clinical data. Drugs that have been proved to reduce amyloid beta in patiences have not likewise slowed the Alzheimer’s disease pathology. Does this disprove the Amyloid Hypothesis or at least indicate that amyloid beta is less important to disease progression than was one thought? In this project, you would work to clarify these issues and establish where ALzheimer’s researchers stand in their understanding of amyloid beta’s role in the disease’s development.

Idea by mentor Patrick

Ready to take one of these ideas and run with it? Kickstart your passion project journey with us by registering here. If you would like some help with coming up with your own idea, book a complimentary consultation call with our admissions team here!