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.
- Comp Sci
- Creative Writing
- Environmental Science
- Game Design
- Literature and Languages
- Organizational Leadership
- Public Health
- Social Science
- Sports Analytics
Hallmarks of Cancer
Cancer is a tricky disease and can develop in any part of the body. Luckily decades of research has identified key molecular characteristics, or hallmarks, that ultimately lead to cancer. Explore one or two of these hallmarks in a specific cancer or all.
One of the most important parts of medical/STEM studies is the ability to explain complex scientific ideas to the lay population. Physicians need to be able to explain diseases and treatments to patients. Public Health officials need to be able to explain why certain policies are necessary or why certain ideas need to be examined further. For this project: -Students will choose a topic they feel passionately about -Perform a comprehensive literature review -Create educational materials such as a PSA video, brochure, and/or presentation to describe their topic to a lay population
Biology, Public Health, Cancer
Identifying molecular targets of small molecules
Small molecules can be used to modulate different proteins and pathways within the cell. While some small molecules have known molecular targets (proteins, lipids, etc.) that they bind to, others act via an unknown mechanism. You will first identify a small molecule that kills cells but that does so via an unknown mechanism. You will then use the Broad's Dependency Map to examine the lethality of the molecule in various genetic knockout backgrounds and compare this with co-dependencies of genetic knockouts with each other to identify potential targets of the small molecule. Lastly, you will use this information to hypothesize the mechanism by which the molecule kills cells and assess its potential translation as a cancer drug.
How do neighbors to cancer cells become accomplices in cancer progression?
When we think of our immune system and our microenvironment, we think of cancer cells invading the space (through dissemination). We don't often consider that they recruit other cells to help them continue to grow and divide. How are cancer cells able to influence other cells to be accomplices and disrupt the body's normal regulatory functions? The goal of this project is for students to form hypothesis on ways to target cancer cells by focusing on the environment around them, their neighboring cells, and the proteins that cancer cells may use to continue to grow. Students will conduct guided research of their own and write a report, article, or oral presentation on what we can target to treat certain cancers. By reading academic papers and having discussions, students will learn fundamental principles about cellular biology, molecular signaling, cancer progression, how to design experiments and ask critical questions, and how to creatively apply these hypotheses and experiments into real-world treatment scenarios. The proposed projects will help students feel more confident in their abilities to problem solve at a collegiate level for pre-medical or pre-graduate/laboratory research in the future.
How genetically engineered mosquitoes are reducing rates of vector-borne diseases such as Zika
Many countries are already releasing millions of genetically engineered mosquitoes into the wild every week. What could be the potential pros and cons for this? The project will mainly focus on doing meta analysis of articles and watching informative videos to understand how/why genetically engineered mosquitoes can be used to reduce rates of different diseases. Students will have the chance to use critical thinking and do in-depth research on genetic engineering techniques, how scientists determine breeding rates and number of insects released, and epidemiology of different bloodborne diseases.
Biology, Cancer, Neuroscience
Double-Edged Sword: How Off-Target Drug Effects can Hurt More than Help
Create a literature review, either in long-form format for journal/popular science magazine publication or blog-style format (potentially a series of posts), describing (1) how drugs might target disease, (2) what off-target and side effects are, and (3) how off-target effects might be unexpectedly detrimental, with examples/case studies
Exploring Immune Memory - Creative Writing
Write a short story based on the immune system and how it remembers the past to better protect you in the future, and what happens to your body when your immune system malfunctions.
How does a cell manage so much information?
Cells in the human body are constantly exposed to so much information - for example, they receive messages sent by nearby cells, they monitor their own progression through the cell cycle, and they check to make sure their DNA, RNA, and proteins are maintained and produced without any mistakes. Proteins involved in "signaling networks" ferry this information throughout the cell, but there are only so many signaling proteins and networks. How does a cell encode complex messages about its status and its environment? When all the signaling proteins are mixed together in the cell cytoplasm, how does it keep all of this information organized? These are some of the questions related to cell signaling and signaling network crosstalk that would serve as excellent inspiration for a review paper focused on a specific topic of interest to you.
Biomedical Device Design: Orthotics
Have an idea for a device you think might solve modern problems in medicine? Or maybe you see a solution to limitations in the devices we use every day. Learn how to identify design criteria, draft design blueprints, determine product relevance, perform patent searches, choose raw materials, and determine product relevance. Develop a product pitch and create a prototype!
Biology, Engineering, Chemistry, Cancer
Imaging Techniques for Brain Tumors
Distinguishing between Tumor Progression and Necrosis is a extremely difficult task for radiologists/neurosurgeons. There are several potential projects in this area, ranging from review papers to survey data analysis.
Biotech, Cancer, Neuroscience
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.
Using DepMap to visualize gene expression and genetic dependency in cancer cell lines
The Dependency map (DepMap) portal provides access to key cancer dependencies analytical and visualization tools. the DepMap uses CRISPR gene knockout to describe genomic dependencies in cancer cell lines. In this project, we will first identify a gene of interest through literature review and understand the qualitative nature of mutations of this gene in cancer cell lines. Then we will visualize dependency scores for genes of interest for each major type of cancer. Using the data and literature, we will be able to understand the correlation between levels of gene expression and genetic dependency in cancer cell lines, potentially leading to interesting research targets. If the student has a background in coding, there are numerous ways to visualize gene expression in R. However, no background in coding is necessary, as DepMap provides a user-friendly interface.
Music, Chemistry, Cancer
Frontiers in reproductive medicine - literature review and topic selection
Reproductive medicine is a field that has made significant progress in recent years, adopting state of the art techniques to tackle important clinical questions in the field of reproductive biology and medicine. These techniques integrate multiple fields in novel ways and can range from generation of induced pluripotent stem cells to use as individualized model systems or the development of artificial "organ on a chip" systems. This project will provide students with an initial introduction to some of these scientific frontiers and encourage students to explore a specific frontier of interest. In doing so, the student will develop skills in reading and interpreting scientific research, consider the ethical conundrums that may arise in this field, and develop a research plan for furthering their "frontier of interest."
Health-Related Review Paper
The student will choose a disease of interest and write an in-depth scientific review of the disease process as well as clinical implications. The student will compare normal body functioning and compare it to pathological states at both the cellular level and at a systemic level. The student will also look at clinical features of the disease such as risk factors, diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, and current research.
Public Health, Cancer
Investigating the cultural inclusivity of current nutrition guidelines in medicine: a literature review
This proposed project would investigate whether current nutrition guidelines for US adults reflect cultural humility, awareness, and inclusivity and work in tandem with (rather than in opposition to) the various cultural food practices of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities, highlighting the potential need for potential updates to current dietary recommendations.
Nutrition, Cancer, Medicine, Neuroscience
Host on Health Disparities
In this project you will explore an area of health disparity -- whether that be in socioeconomic class, race, sex, or another population -- and then review sources that allow you to formulate an evidence-based opinion. Your project will include that opinion and possible solutions, to be featured online in print or via podcast!
Biology, Surgery, Public Health, Cancer
Science funding is super important for our community to continue to make advancements in medicine. However, a lot of scientific details are complicated for people to understand. The goal of this activity will be to learn a scientific topic of your interest. Then, you will practice explaining this science during a 1-minute elevator pitch to different audiences. For instance, how you explain blood vessel development to a five-year old might look a lot different compared to explaining science to your grandpa. This is an excellent exercise to learn about science communication! We can then reflect on what worked with different audiences and what did not.
Solving Medical Problems
Let's identify a problem in patient care and develop a device design or other solution to help address it. We will learn the basics of the design process including needs assessment, research, prototyping, and testing. Students can learn to use any tools they need, including but not limited to CAD, 3D printing, physical manufacturing methods, and Matlab. If you can dream it you can make it!
Engineering, Chemistry, Photography, Cancer, Neuroscience
Covid Communication: Vaccines
In this project, students will learn the principles of vaccines, including the similarities and differences between the three Covid-19 vaccines currently authorized by the FDA, and the principles of how vaccines impact the immune system. Students will create an output of your choice, either a short video, podcast or review paper outlining the key information regarding how these vaccines work and the pros/cons of each.
Podcast discussing the efficacy of different cancer therapies
Students conduct background research on historical, current, and cutting edge cancer treatments. Students then generate a list of researchers and physicians in the field of oncology for interviews. Students contact researchers with interview requests, formulate questions based on researchers' expertise, conduct recorded interviews, edit audio, and publish interviews as podcast episodes.