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12 Chemistry Research and Passion Project Ideas For High School Students

8 minute read

Chemistry is much more than just a subject taught in classrooms, it's also the science that explains the world at the molecular level. For students with an interest in experimentation, the elements that make up our universe, and a desire to dive deeper into careers like nutrition, medicine, environmental science, or energy, creating a chemistry passion project can be a valuable journey. A unique aspect of a chemistry passion project is that it has the flexibility to be more research oriented, or more hands-on and experimental.

In this article, we’ll dive into chemistry research and passion project ideas that you can either try to execute on your own or use as inspiration for a project you design. We’ll also cover how you can decide which project or topic to focus on, and navigate the diverse range of ideas within the field of chemistry.

Finding Your Chemistry Passion Project Focus

There are many different directions you can take with your chemistry passion project, so first it’s important to sit down and think through what specific topics within chemistry you’re interested in. Maybe you’re more interested in the medical side of chemistry, or perhaps you’re intrigued by the environmental science applications of chemistry. If you find yourself in that position, great! You can choose to dive deeper into any of those interests. 

After you’ve found some initial passion project ideas, the easiest step from there is just to Google or YouTube those topics and start learning more about them. You’ll find that as you start to conduct preliminary research into a few ideas, one will start to stand out to you more.

12 Chemistry Passion Project Ideas

1. What's in my water? 

Most water contains heavy metal ions such as copper, iron, and zinc. Not all metal ions are bad but at high concentrations they can be unsafe. In this project you could collect water samples within your community and measure the metal ion levels such as ferric and ferrous water. Research techniques for how to accurately measure metal ion levels in water. In this project, you’ll learn more analytical chemistry techniques and explore a question relevant to public health.

Idea by chemistry research mentor Grace

2. Ocean acidification 

As the world moves towards global warming, we are seeing increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This constantly shifts the equilibrium of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the concentration of carbon dioxide in the ocean, forming an acidic compound that results in lowering the pH of the ocean gradually. This can have detrimental effects on organisms that live there. This project could be used to do a deeper dive into the acidification rate of the ocean and examine potential impacts to specific organisms living in the ocean.

Idea by chemistry research mentor Janson

3. Metals for life 

If asked about metals important to life, chances are iron and calcium would first come to mind, as they are important parts of our blood and bones. There are many more metals that are needed for essential biological functions, however. In this project you will dive into scientific literature to learn about different life metals, find out what their roles are in biology, and learn what kind of life forms need them. You will also learn about the newest addition to the life metals - the lanthanides. Then, choose one life metal and review two recent scientific articles involving your metal of choice. Finally, generate a description of the metal's function in biology. Your creativity is the limit as to how you show the importance of metals for life.

Idea by chemistry research mentor Nathan

4. Sustainable chemical production 

Most chemicals in our world today are produced with petrochemical feedstocks (e.g., oil, natural gas). Research and discuss the possibility for replacing the petrochemical feedstock with a renewable one, such as biomass. What are the current realistic options? Which chemicals can be (and are already) produced with renewable feedstocks and which chemicals will be more difficult or require more research to produce sustainably?

Idea by chemistry research mentor James

5. Sleep medication: a bottle of lies or a bottle of dreams? 

There are many drugs and other substances (such as melatonin) that are prescribed to people that have issues sleeping. However many of these medications have mixed efficacy and it is unknown exactly what they do. This project could revolve around investigating a currently known drug/ substance (e.g., Ambien, melatonin), and researching how the drug affects the brain and its efficacy. You could also investigate potential future sleep therapies that could have better results than the current sleep drug market. Another potential route is developing a survey to determine how well these drugs are helping people sleep.

Idea by chemistry research mentor Sean

6. All about rubber

Polymers are some of the most relevant and impactful materials for everyday life, and the basis of all polymer science lies in understanding the structure-property relationships present in these macromolecules. In this project, you will gain a better understanding of the chemical and mechanical properties of rubber, an extremely familiar yet remarkably unique polymeric material. Through either hands-on experimentation or an in-depth literature review, you will research the chemical structure of rubber in order to understand the effect of temperature and vulcanization on its mechanical behavior. 

Idea by chemistry research mentor Sarah

7. Battery storage 

Batteries are proving to be a great way to store large amounts of energy from intermittent renewable sources. This project could involve researching current battery technologies and showing through graphs or some other visual representation of how much battery storage a city (or state/province) would need to run 100% off of renewable sources.

Idea by chemistry research mentor Landon

8. Designing a chemical production process 

In this project, a student will work on designing a chemical production process for a chemical. They would research the chemical reaction, learn about the critical research and engineering decisions that go into engineering a process, and propose a design for a more efficient manufacturing route.

Idea by chemistry research mentor Lucas

9. Water absorbent polymers for home gardening 

You'll conduct experiments and/or conduct surveys to determine what commercially-available water absorbent polymers are useful and cost-effective for home gardeners and write a research paper summarizing your results. You'll dive into polymer and agriculture science while also learning core research skills.

Idea by chemistry research mentor Sarah

10. Why do some people respond differently to diabetes treatments?

Approximately 37 million Americans have diabetes. However, the response to diabetes treatment can be variable as a result of the many mutations. Using published literature and online databases, identify the most common type 2 diabetes medications and the genetic mutations that cause differential responses to these medications.

Idea by chemistry research mentor Geralle

11. Understanding novel non-opioid pain therapies 

Opioids, though very effective in managing specific pain states, are extremely dangerous and can often lead to overdose. The dual chronic pain and opioid epidemic outline the need for novel, non-opioid therapies to treat pain. In this project, you can look to understand more about current opioid shortcomings, the landscape of emerging pain therapies, and the future of pain management in the United States.

Idea by chemistry research mentor David

12. Is nuclear energy worth pursuing? 

The world faces a climate crisis, one in which immediate and drastic action is needed. Promising technologies such as nuclear power have faced public opposition and regulatory hurdles for years. Explore whether it is technically viable (i.e., is it better than other energy generation techniques?) and practically acceptable (i.e., is it safe and what are the long-term consequences?) to pursue nuclear energy.

Idea by chemistry research mentor Uday

How to Showcase Your Chemistry Passion Project

After you’ve put in all the hard work of researching and learning new skills, it’s also equally important to decide how you want to showcase your project. You can see that in many of the project ideas above, there is a clear topic of focus but the final product of the project is open-ended. You could try to publish a research paper, create a podcast or video, or even create an informative blog or website. You’ll find that although many project ideas may feel like they should culminate in a paper, many actually lend themselves well to another form of showcasing. Try to be creative and showcase your work in a way that feels authentic to you!

Examples of Chemistry Passion Projects Completed by Polygence Students

There are several chemistry passion projects created by Polygence students that we want to highlight and show for inspiration! 

Nicolette was able to explore how diseases like typhoid, malaria, and COVID-19 are cured using African herbal remedies and why the field is declining, culminating in a research paper and blog post. 

Natasha’s project explored how the inclusion of specific enzymes in sunscreen can help people with UV-induced skin diseases. Natasha’s project was presented in the form of a review paper.

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Summary

In this article, we covered how to find a chemistry passion project that interests you and shared 12 different research and passion project ideas from our extensive network of research mentors. Of course, these are just a few of many different potential chemistry project ideas, and we encourage you to be curious and explore chemistry project ideas beyond this list.

If you’re interested in pursuing a chemistry passion project, Polygence’s programs are a great place to start and learn from excellent mentors.

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