2,893 Inspirational Passion Project Ideas

Turn inspirations into your passion project.

This collection of project ideas, shared by Polygence mentors, is meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

People working on laptops
Arts

Exploring Intergenerational Perceptions and Experiences of Gender and Sexuality

This project encourages students to interview individuals across generations on topics of gender and sexuality. Some research questions the student can tackle are: - How do individuals of older generations perceive contemporary gender and sexual culture? - How have individuals of older generations resisted normative constructions of gender and sexuality? How do they compare to those of younger generations? - In what ways can conversations between older and younger generations around gender and sexuality contribute to our current understanding on the topic? What are some barriers to having these conversations? Guided by these questions and with Shio's mentorship and research background, the student will not only be able to gain knowledge on the history of gender and sexuality through primary and secondary sources, but also acquire research skills in oral history and interviews. Specifically, the student will learn how to write a research proposal and determine the scope of the project, learn how to write an interview schedule, and figure out how to access different tools to record and transcribe interviews. Depending on the student’s capacity and preference, this research can result in an oral history project, podcast, research paper, and/or presentation.

Arts, History, Literature

Christine
Christine

Music Psychology and Cognition Research Paper

How does the human brain process music? Why do so many cultures feature music so predominantly? How does music engage our perception and what does it do to us? If you're interested in the intersection of music and perception, a research project on the topic of music cognition or music psychology would speak to these fascinations. In such a project, we would work together to narrow down on a particular music topic or question (ex. What is perfect pitch? What kinds of methods do music psychologists use? How does the brain handle rhythm?) and work to create a research paper or creative project around this line of inquiry.

Music, Psychology, Arts, Social Science, Cognitive

Natalie
Natalie

Write a 10-Minute or One-Act Play

Ten minutes doesn't sound like much time - and it's not too many pages, either. However, a ten minute play can be in the works for months before it realizes its potential as a highly concentrated theatrical work. The same can be said for a one-act of 40 minutes or less. A student interested in writing a short theatrical work may expect to: - Explore the basics of playwriting, major tenants of theatre history, and the context in which the student writes (this is what is known as dramaturgy) - Conduct research concerning their chosen setting or context for a play - Extensively, creatively, brainstorm and challenge convention - Write the play, of course - Edit the work based on feedback from professional sources, and/or anticipated audiences - Learn the standards of formatting convention for playwriting - Witness a reading of the work and take note of its impact and opportunities for growth - Be encouraged to share the work on the National New Play Exchange, or a different platform or publisher of choice This experience may be challenging, but the project may also be exceptionally rewarding. Whether a lighthearted piece or a somber one, there is much to be gained in seeing one’s imaginary friends take to the stage!

Arts

Sarah
Sarah

Visualizing virus structures with microscopy techniques

Viruses have caused pandemics and epidemics that have impacted millions globally, especially with the spread of Mpox, SARS-CoV-2, MERS, SARS, Zika virus, Ebola virus, and HIV in recent decades. But what do these viruses look like? What do we know about the protein structures of viruses? Various microscopy techniques, ranging from scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and tomography (cryo-ET), have been used to visualize viruses - both inside and outside of cells. You would choose a virus of choice and review the literature to determine what types of imaging techniques have been used to study this virus's structure, what each technique has revealed about this virus's mechanism of infection, and what questions remain regarding this virus's protein structure. You would synthesize your findings in a scientific research paper that shows how each microscopy technique provides new information about this virus's structure, and what information can be leveraged from the combination of these microscopy techniques.

Biology, Arts, Engineering, Computer Science

Lily
Lily

The Intersection of Fashion & History

In 2023 it seems that it would be easy to conduct research, but due to so many mislabeled and yet plentiful images across the internet stratosphere, there is a saturation of disinformation. We may think we know the styles of the 1970’s or of the 1920’s, but do we really? Can we break down and map the progression in style within a decade. Can we note the difference between the 1970’s in London or NYC versus a small town in Illinois; or between different social groups or subcultures. Costume Designers and Fashion Historians must meticulously research and distill to know exactly when a photograph was taken or to confirm the origin of a garment. Think about what you’re wearing right now. Will researchers in 2060 see a difference between your current outfit and that of someone in Beijing in 2010? Most likely! In order to do thorough research and delineate the changes and nuances in how humanity has dressed, we must have a keen eye, seek out accurate information, and we need to look beyond the internet to other sources of information. I will discuss better ways to research including tips and tricks and ways to decipher nuances in photographs and garments. That includes quality and style of clothing, fabric, fit, socio-economic influences, as well as political and war-time changes; not to mention the changing fashion of hairstyles and makeup too. I want to teach you how to really see and what real people, not just celebrities and musicians in magazines, dressed like. Lastly, I aim to help you accurately decipher and document status in dress. Whether it’s the difference between a Civil War Brigadier General and a member of the Company or an 1850’s woman of privilege versus her scullery maid you seek to find, there are many exciting nuances and vast distinctions to explore in status. As technology changes, how has fashion? Fashion history is an exciting discovery of and foray into history, they are deeply intertwined. Understanding how cultures have changed creates a better understanding of why fashion has too. It's not just about magazines and style, pretty dresses and luxurious fabrics, it's about getting a clearer picture of the people in those clothes and the environments in which they dwelled, the time in which they lived, the money they had, and the world at large. Trading, travel, the cross-pollination of cultures and the advent of various technological advances all contribute to fashion and what we wear.

Arts, History, Fashion

Desira
Desira

(Un)Dutchable Multicultural Citizenship

Netherlands is well-known for its multicultural policies accepting people from different backgrounds including from its former colonies. However, a recent controversy over "Black Pete" during Christmas parades requires rethinking of Dutch pluralism. Every year on December 5th, tens of thousands of Dutch people paint their faces black, dress up in antique costume, and assume the persona of Zwarte Piet (“Black Pete”) to help Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) distribute candy and presents to children throughout the Netherlands. In recent years, Dutch citizens of Caribbean ancestry have spoken out against the portrayal of Black Pete as a racist caricature. In early October of 2013, Quinsy Gario, a Curaçao-born Dutch performance artist, argued on TV that Black Pete perpetuates a stereotype of African people as second-class citizens in Dutch society. Most people and Amsterdam's mayor are willing to make some incremental changes to the "Black Pete" character. This year, they have removed the earring. Next year, they might paint the character with lighter color to fit the story line that Black Pete is black only because he enters homes from chimneys to drop the gifts. However, Geert Wilders, the leader of the far right Freedom Party, has proposed the adoption of a law to protect Black Pete against any alterations in his appearance “to protect our (Dutch) culture.” This incident is one among many that indicates that once “received” understandings of integration, including various models of multiculturalism, are now in question. This has pushed questions of pluralist co-existence to the center of discussion in the Netherlands. What are the best public policy options to address the rethinking of Dutch multiculturalism?

Arts, History, Languages

Matt
Matt

Race and Gender in Young Adult Literature

This study compares issues of gender and/or race in contemporary young adult literature. The researcher chooses three popular YA books and examines the ways in which the author addresses topics such as gender, racial identity, and/or social interactions revolving around race. The researcher can pose the following questions as they interrogate the texts: 1. How does the author present a unique perspective or viewpoint regarding race or gender? 2. To what extent does the author challenge or reinforce conventional thinking around race and gender? 3. To what extent is the author’s work a response to an existing text? 4. To what extent does the author deliver a message about these topics? 5. To what extent is that message implicit or explicit? 6. Considering that the author is most likely an adult, how accurate is their depiction of issues around gender and/or race? (The researcher would probably insert their own experiences and observations about these topics in their own lives.) This study can also target children’s books or young adult books from different decades. For example, one could compare “The Indian in the Cupboard” (1980) by Lynne Reid Banks to “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” (2007) by Sherman Alexie.

Arts, Literature

Jeanne
Jeanne

Create a Video Essay

A fantastic way to learn about the toolbox of a filmmaker is through film analysis. Is there a specific aspect of filmmaking you’d like to learn more about? Perhaps how different shot sizes (close ups, mediums, wide shots) convey different meanings to audiences? Or maybe how television shows structure their pilot episodes to hook you into watching a whole season? We’ll pick a filmmaking technique that interests you, and analyze how one of your favorite films or television shows utilizes it. You will culminate the project in a video essay breaking down and explaining what you have learned!

Arts, Literature

Sarah
Sarah

Self-Expression Through Artistic Means

Painting, drawing, collage, sewing, writing, weaving, crochet, rug making, furniture painting, and cooking all all things I love to do. How do and how can we express ourselves through artistic means.

Arts, History, Fashion

Desira
Desira

Images of the Past and Visions of the Future

The work of artists like Albrecht Dürer, Hieronymus Bosch, and Pieter Bruegel the Elder often engages with time periods other than the present. A student could do a research or curating project that considers how a specific group of images of the past (showing classical topics, for example) and/or visions of the future (showing the Apocalypse, the afterlife, or a utopic future world) relate to the present.

Arts

Sarah
Sarah

Houseplant Helper Robot

In this project, you will design an Arduino-based robot to help with the keeping of houseplants. By connecting different sensors to the Arduino, you can monitor plant conditions, such as soil moisture, sunlight, temperature, and more. After processing this data using the Arduino, plant conditions can be communicated via simple LED lights, LCD display, or even a webpage.

Arts, Engineering, Computer Science

Gillian
Gillian

Cracking a Case Study

Graphic design involves a lot of creative leaps from start to finish, but it's not just the final draft that matters - clients and employers want to see your thinking throughout the process. This project starts with a finished design and asks you to retrace your steps, writing out your design reasoning, branding choices, visual research inspirations, accessibility audits, and alternate options. How can you craft a narrative that supports your work?

Arts, History

Patrick
Patrick

Neuroscience of Optical Illusions

Publish a compiled article on the current neuroscience knowledge of optical illusions. This might involve a range of topics from cell biology at the retina level to higher order systems topics aimed at understanding how optical illusions are produced in the brain. The end goal might be a research article compiling different neuroscience concepts associated with optical illusions in the style of a review article.

Biology, Neuroscience, Arts

Gil
Gil

Environmental research / creative work

I can support a student in writing or making creative work (a film, a mixed media portfolio, etc) in relation to their own research into ecology, environmental history and justice, climate crisis, interspecies entanglement, etc. My own focus tends to be on fungi, water, pollution and symbiosis, but I am happy to support any focus.

Arts, Literature, Creative Writing

chloe
chloe

Write and Direct a Short Film

The best way to learn filmmaking is, of course, by making a film! Together, we’ll walk through the process of writing and directing a short. You’ll pitch your idea, draft the script, create shot lists, floorplans, and storyboards, and then shoot and edit your footage. Throughout the process you’ll learn about the job of a director at each stage of filmmaking!

Arts, Literature

Sarah
Sarah

User-centered Design in Healthcare System

Have you ever wondered why healthcare apps mainly use blue as their primary color? Have you ever been frustrated with a healthcare system? How can we reduce the feeling of anxiety while waiting in an emergency room? In this project, you will learn about the scientific process, user interviews, secondary research, gather data, and present that data on multiple different forms or a research paper. More importantly, you will explore many different ways of how system design can improve or impact people's lives and use your creativity to come up with a solution.

Biology, Arts, Languages

Tian
Tian

Is a Portrait of the King Propaganda?

In 16th century Europe, artists like Hans Holbein the Younger worked for royal courts and rich citizens. A student could do a research project about how the art made in these settings relates to propaganda as we now understand it.

Arts

Sarah
Sarah

Introduction to Historical Research

Do you have a historical question you've always been curious about? Are you curious about how to ask a historical question?This project will provide instruction and guidance about how to do historical research and develop a research paper, on a topic of your choosing.

Arts, History, Literature, Social Science

Sophia
Sophia

Explore your family's global history: Family ancestry & migration project

Students would have the opportunity to research their own family's history, using public historical databases, and create an artistic representation of their lineage (collage, Prezi, graphic design, etc.). Students could focus on learning more about each country and city where their family lived, including art, culture and traditions. They also could focus on interviewing family members and recording stories and tales that have been passed through their family for generations. This project is very flexible and would be adapted to each student, depending on their family's history and their level of connection to family knowledge.

Psychology, Arts, History, Literature, Social Science, Organizational Leadership

Mimi
Mimi

Innovative Iphone App for Health Monitoring

Healthcare is trending towards increasing personalization of health data tracking. This project will propose an innovative app to track and record relevant health data as it pertains to patients with diabetes to improve their health related outcomes.

Biology, Arts, Healthcare, Business

Avery
Avery