2,893 Inspirational Research 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.

Biology of Aging

Aging is a heterogeneous, stochastic process by which an organism shows declines across physiological systems over time. Similarly to organismal aging, cells show aging through a process known as cellular senescence, in which cells age over time. This process is accompanied by a series of declines in cellular systems including accumulation of DNA damage, expression of specific proteins, and pro-inflammatory secretions, and these senescent cells avoid cellular death known as apoptosis. A healthy immune system usually responds to cellular senescence by eliminating senescent cells. However, with age, an organism's immune system becomes less functional, allowing senescent cells to build up in tissues. Also, aging is accompanied by weakening of the musculoskeletal systems (bones and muscles), increased prevalence of neurodegenerative diseases (such as dementia), and increased prevalence of cancer. Aging across systems is an incredibly complicated and interesting process and I would love to help a mentee study aging in the immune system, on the cellular level, in the brain, in the cardiovascular system, or any other systems of interest to a mentee to produce a scientific review article, vlog or blog or news and views article for the public, or anything else a student is interested in! There are also very interesting ethics around studying aging that we could learn about and develop a story, blog, vlog, article, or other piece about.

Biology, Ethics

Emily
Emily

Proteins and Enzymes, Natural and Designed:

Proteins are one of the primary types of molecules that make up your body. For example, collagen in your skin and keratin in your hair and nails are both proteins. Enzymes are a special kind of protein that perform chemical reactions in your body. In this project you will explore different types of naturally occurring proteins and enzymes and learn how their chemical structure allows them to perform their functions. In addition, you'll learn about efforts to design artificial proteins for bio-engineering and therapeutic purposes. You will also learn how to use the protein structure viewing software pymol, and use this software to produce a primarily graphical (or video) final project explaining how a protein's structure allows it to perform its desired function.

Biology, Cancer

Emma
Emma

Neurodegenerative disorders and the disruption of mitochondrial structure

The mitochondria is the power-house of the cell and a major site of cellular stress and immune responses. Its complex and beautiful structure (outer membrane, inner membrane space, cristae infoldings, and matrix) is critical for these functions. These structures have been observed to be disrupted during the progression of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's or Huntington's isease, but the functional links to structural changes remain unclear. Are there themes in mitochondrial structure across different neurodegenerative diseases? What can this tell us about the roles of mitochondria in neurons? Can therapeutics regulate mitochondrial structure to restore neuronal function? This project would involve developing visual representations (cartoons, figures, citing microscopy images from published research) of mitochondrial structures, coupled to a research paper that summarizes the major findings and interpretations of the student.

Biology

Katelyn
Katelyn

Designing a Novel CAR T Cell Therapy

Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells are immune cells genetically engineered to attack specific proteins implicated in cancer, autoimmune diseases, or viral infections. This project will challenge students to design a CAR T cell therapy for their disease of interest by 1) reviewing literature on antigen(s) specific to their chosen disease; 2) learning basics of T cell biology and genetic engineering; and 3) writing a research proposal (also known as a specific aims page) to assess the safety and efficacy of their designer T cell therapy.

Biology, Cancer, Public Health

Josh
Josh

How do vaccines work?

During the COVID pandemic, vaccines have been all over the news! But how do they work? Through this project, you will explore how vaccines work and the history of science behind vaccine development. While the final project will be up to you, the ultimate goal of this project is for you to be a true public health advocate for vaccines and to be able to communicate why vaccines are so important.

Biology

Helen
Helen

Neuroscience methods

Get your feet wet with some neuroscience methods. Want to learn how MRI works and how to analyze fMRI data? This is an ambitious project for a motivated student where you can learn how to preprocess and analyze fMRI data, model a behavioral task, correlate brain activity with that behavior, and make a figure that presents your analysis. Could be a fun enrichment project, part of a science fair submission, or whatever else you can think of.

Biology, Music, Psychology

Matthew
Matthew

Air Pollution and Neurological Impacts

With climate change effects impacting more and more communities, one possible research question could focus on how air pollution affects neurological pathways and influences neurodegenerative diseases. I have conducted a study that analyzed the impacts of air pollution exposure on Alzheimer's disease at acute and chronic exposure levels. Other projects could examine air pollution impacts on other diseases, such as Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson's disease, or on symptoms such as headaches and blurred vision. The final product could take on several different forms such as a formal report, a poster presentation, and even a policy memo.

Biology, Public Health, Languages, Chemistry

Melanie
Melanie

Stay out! History of Combating Infectious Diseases

Public health is constantly evolving, but what have we done previously to stop epidemics? How did different societies face different threats? In this project, students can pick an (infectious) disease they are interested in and compare ways different societies (of the same or different time period) tried to eliminate this threat. We will then work turning this question into a project! Can be video, review paper, etc.

Biology

Vivian
Vivian

Finding the Optimal Study Method

There is no shortage of suggestions found from a variety of sources on the best way to study for an important test. Are flash cards the best way to memorize things? What about writing a song with lyrics based on the test subject? How about teaching a friend or family member? Using research design and computer science skills we can find the answer to which study method is best within a particular school/community. Some important questions to think about include: -What kind of test would we use to measure study effectiveness? Would it be memorization or analysis based, or both? -How would we set up the experiment and control our variables to best ensure that the results come only as a result of the students' method of study? -How would we represent our data and perform the necessary statistical tests in a programming environment?

Biology, Comp Sci

Benjamin
Benjamin

Changes in the microbial community of seawater brines

As seawater evaporates, it precipitates out salts such as halite (NaCl) which can be favorable for specialized microbes such as halophilic (salt-loving) archaea and fungi. However, as brines concentrate with continual evaporation they become hostile for life, and eventually sterile. As the brine concentrates becoming more extreme, what microbes can survive in these environments? This project would explore the changing microbial community in brine environments.

Biology

Luke
Luke

Efficacy of Marine Protected Areas for Predator Populations

Using open-source databases and established marine protected areas (MPAs) around the world, investigate the effectiveness of these conservation tools for the protection of keystone predatory populations. Additionally, the unique factors influencing the success of these MPAs can be studied in order to make recommendations for policy. (Image Credit: Jillian Morris-Brake, Oceanographic Magazine)

Biology, Environmental Science

McClaran
McClaran

Investigating Mechanisms of Action of Potential Antibiotics

We know that antibiotics kill harmful bacteria that make us sick, but how exactly do the antibiotics that we take actually enter and bind to cellular targets, stopping infection? Why does a certain antibiotic kill certain types of bacteria, but not others? Through a genetic engineering approach, we can investigate how many antibiotics are responsible for killing certain types of bacteria.

Biology, Chemistry

Drew
Drew

How climate change can affect future distributions of rare species?

Climate change, such as global warming and longer drought, can threaten the existence of some of the rarest plants on earth. It is important to understand how future suitable habitats will change for these rare species so that we can target our conservation efforts in specific areas. In this project, you will identify a rare species that you like (it can be animals, plants, or fungi!), and gather the data online on its current occurrences. Then you will learn how to perform species distribution modeling to map its current and future suitable habitat areas. The changes in the amount or location of future suitable habitats can significantly affect the destiny of a rare species. By doing this project, you will not only learn skills in data analyses but also become the best ambassador for this rare species that you love. I hope that you can be vocal about species conservation by presenting your findings at society conferences, social media, etc.

Biology, Environmental Science

Yingtong
Yingtong

How cell motility contributes to disease

Many cell types in the body are capable of movement, this is known as "cell motility". However, this motility can be altered in many diseases, where cells either move too quickly or not enough. Understanding how cell motility is altered in disease can be important for determining disease treatments

Biology, Physics

Colbie
Colbie

Sustainable Meal Alternatives

Analyze a local food system within your community, like your high school, your religious community, or even a local eating establishment. Measure and analyze the potential sources of greenhouse gas emissions from the ingredients in a specific dish. Design an alternative to this dish using your understanding of the social and environmental components of eating.

Biology, Environmental Science, Arts, History

Alyson
Alyson

Health Psychology - Coping with Stress

What is psychological stress? How do people deal with stress, especially in the midst of a pandemic such as COVID-19? This project would focus on gathering information and data to write a research paper/review on stress levels, coping strategies, and the psychological (and physiological) implications of stress. Stress can be defined as acute and chronic, each of which acts on our bodies and minds in different ways. Furthermore, not all stress is "bad" stress. In fact, a hot part of this research is focused on resiliency in the face of stress. How people respond given their previous experiences and psychological state has been extensively studied, but is always worth an updated exploration and review!

Biology, Neuroscience

Alexandra
Alexandra

Medical Device Development

I have experience working with engineers and industry and medical professionals in developing effective medical devices that address a clinical need. In this project, you will learn how to navigate the engineering design process from establishing user needs through research and user interviews to creating a minimal viable product through electronic design and prototyping. Together, we will work on personal and technical skills you need to effectively identify and addressing gaps in current medical solutions.

Biology, Math, Physics, Engineering

Carolyn
Carolyn

Protein designing

The structure of proteins defines their functions. For example, a "cage"-like shape gives protein fluorescent features. Do you want to try your “superpower” to explore common protein building blocks and utilize them to design a protein from scratch, it is as fun as building Lego. Scientists designed a puzzling game Foldit for us to learn protein folding.

Biology

Changfan
Changfan

Science Communication about Cancer

While there are many factors predisposing a person to getting cancer, it is important to share the ways we can work to control being exposed to certain risk factors. I would love to help my students explore these risk factors to prepare a review article or presentation at their high school to educate the next generation about how limiting factors such as sun exposure, poor diet, alcohol use, and getting genetic testing early if your family has a history of cancer (just to name a few) can decrease your risks on getting certain cancers. Through this project my students will learn how to literature search, how to read academic journals and can even talk to local physicians and scientists studying cancer to get first-hand knowledge.

Biology, Cancer, Chemistry

Carly
Carly

Chemical X: Creating the Next Great American Snack Food

Conceive, develop, and go-to-market with a scalable consumer packaged good product. The project will involve culinary ideation and R&D as well as detailed work-planning and execution on product iteration and design. Project will result in a product launch and potential to extend into sales tracking and growth strategy.

Biology, Business, Literature and Languages

Michael
Michael