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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.

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Environmental Science

Writing a literature review

In this project, you will write a literature review on a topic of your choice. Topics could be anything related to food systems or food policy, from “the history of community gardens” to “how will we feed an ever expanding population?”. This process will teach you how to find, access, and critically analyze existing literature to identify gaps and overarching themes. You will gain skills in writing and editing, as well as an in-depth knowledge of your chosen research topic.

Environmental Science

Yolanda
Yolanda

Learn about the underlying biology of a specific topic.

The Freshman in my course How Does Your Brain Work? learn how different parts of their brain interact to create their experience of the world around them. Students would select a topic in Biology they are curious to learn more about. For example, how does our body recognize novel viruses or what happens in the brain when someone is addicted to a drug or how does cancer spread throughout the human body. This type of project would involve learning how to navigate scholarly work online, how to explore online research databases, and how to communicate scientific concepts. Possible final projects include a podcast telling the story of what goes on in the body or a review paper of important research in the field. This type of project would be great for a student that wants to tackle a complex biological topic and get a deeper understanding than what is presented in a college introductory biology textbook.

Environmental Science

Lupita
Lupita

Friend or foe? Local human-wildlife interactions

As human populations grow and increasingly overlap with wildlife, there are many potential interactions. This project could investigate the social and/or environmental aspects of human-wildlife interactions based on the student's local neighborhood, town, region, or country.

Environmental Science

Erin
Erin

Infectious Disease and Us

Infectious diseases include viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic pathogens around the world that can strongly impact our way of life. For example, over 600 million people have been infected by COVID-19 worldwide and the pandemic has completely altered how we interact with those around us—from sheltering in place when sick to wearing masks to avoid infection. You may choose any infectious disease of your choice and we will investigate what it is and effects it may have on our way of life. This project will include reading scientific papers from peer-reviewed journals and will culminate in a research paper similar to a scientific literature review. This project can be tailored for all students regardless of prior experience with science or research.

Environmental Science

Isabel
Isabel

All of the lights: Discovering novel fluorophores in bioluminescent animals.

In this project, you will discover new fluorophores (molecules that emit light when illuminated by specific wavelengths of light) that are present in naturally fluorescent animals and plants. Here, you will explore nature (either in the wild, or through museums, conservatories and aquaria/zoos) using flashlights emitting specific wavelengths of light to discover new bioluminescent organisms. Finally, you will document these new fluorophores' light absorbance and emission characteristics. Depending on your access to basic laboratory and microscopy equipment, you will also be able to investigate the molecular basis to the fluorescence you identified.

Environmental Science

Oscar
Oscar

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

Common Garden Climate Change Experiment

I can help a student gain experience in experimental design by conducting a study that looks at the growth of different plant species under a present and current climate change scenario, using a common ecological study tool: The Common Garden Experiment. The experiment would involve planting a group of 3-6 plant species together outdoors and planting the same 3-6 spices together in a greenhouse where the environment can be controlled to simulate a future climate scenario. A variety of trait data could then be measured for each group for growth (plant biomass, growth rate, height), survival (total time survived, number of individuals, amount of herbivory), fecundity (seed count, pollinator interaction, length of flowering period), as well as a host of other physiological and environmental variables. After planting data on each individual of each species would be collected weekly or bi-weekly in a notebook and entered into a spreadsheet software. The data would then be analyzed in a statistical computation languages such as R or Python and written up into a scientific manuscript that could then be submitted for publication, or into a presentation (using Microsoft Power Point, Google Slides and InkScape Editor), if desired.

Biotech, Environmental Science

David
David

Citizen Science

Citizen science is a way to crowdsource data collection about the natural world and is also a form of community outreach. This project would allow the mentee to set up a citizen science project in their community, where they use community members to help them collect data. These types of projects are great for area-wide surveys of biodiversity and ecological phenomena.

Environmental Science

Ieva
Ieva

Spatial Variation in Air Quality across the United States

It is well known that air quality is an important matter of public health. By using publicly available datasets, the student will examine how air quality differs across the United States. Potential questions to explore include: How does average rainfall impact airborne pollutants? Does elevation play a role in pollutant load? These questions present an excellent avenue to lean about simple modeling, basic statistics, introduction to data analysis in R, Excel, or a another software. A more advanced exploration could include kernel density creation or statistical advanced modeling techniques. Potential outcomes include a poster for a science competition, a simple research paper, or an essay.

Biology, Environmental Science, Entomology

Christian
Christian

Exploring the drivers of regional carbon fluxes in North American forests

Using a variety of model output and observations this project will aim to explore the main drivers of regional carbon exchange in North American forests.

Environmental Science, AI/ML

Yoichi
Yoichi

Potential Solutions to Reduce the Environmental Footprint of My High School

Most of what we do as humans causes some effect on the environment. With the way we live now, our greenhouse-gas-emissions, water-use, and waste-creation (just to name a few) put an unhealthy strain on our environment. Fortunately, there are ways to calculate these metrics for a given place or process and later identify hotspot issues. From there, we can come up with action plans and more sustainable solutions. For this project, it is advised that the student start by identifying common streams of inputs and outputs at their school. For example, a student can note inputs like supplies, food, water and even energy sources like the gas for heating or school buses. Outputs like food waste, flushing toilets, and all those old homework papers can be noted, too. The student will attempt to quantify and analyze all these streams… especially focusing on potential hotspots like energy/CO2 emissions. Data may be available (monthly fuel for buses, building heating bills) or some data could be collected by the student (average portion of lunch food thrown away). The student should practice creating data tables and graphs, and most importantly, interpreting these results. Finally, the student should do thorough research to discover and present innovative solutions to reduce the environmental strain of their school. Most likely, there would be a written deliverable for this project; but, it could also be a great opportunity for the student to visually present this project to a principal, teachers, or school board. In summary, the student will gain knowledge about issues and solutions relating to environmental sustainability. In addition, the student will gain tangible skills in calculating environmental metrics, collecting data, and creating descriptive visuals like advanced graphs. The project can be altered to fit a student’s needs and interests.

Dance, Creative Writing, Environmental Science, Business

Mackenzie
Mackenzie

Develop New Environmental Policies

Review various environmental statutes such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Make suggestions on how these acts could be improved to further protect the environment.

Environmental Science, Healthcare, Public Health

Jayson
Jayson

History behind the Glass Case: The Curatorial Gaze

With great power comes great responsibility. Museum curators are blessed and challenged with the task of telling stories through artifacts, and this storytelling can be a daunting task. What story do you tell? Whose voices are highlighted and whose go neglected? How do you wrestle with the tensions of power and inequality often embodied in the museum? As an intern for the Museum of Discovery and Science and curator for the Lost in New Haven Museum, I have personally experienced many of these ethical dilemmas. In this project, we will curate an exhibit of your choice and learn how to tell stories in multi sensory, inclusive, and culturally sensitive ways.

Environmental Science

Rina
Rina

Bioremediation: the removal of desired contaminants from polluted soil

Bioremediation of soil is a process that utilizes the metabolic versatility of microorganisms to clean up hazard pollutants. It is hypothesized that plants, bacteria, and algae can be used to remediate soil on college campuses. Specifically, metals and organic pollutants found in samples of the soil on University grounds.

Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Public Health

Taylor
Taylor

Methods, Meta Analysis or Review Paper

Most of the fields related to Evolution and Ecology currently undergoing rapid advancements as more and more technology is brought to bear in conducting research. A student can gain valuable scientific research and writing experience, as well as a possible publication by doing an in-depth dive into a particular method or concept currently important in the Evolution and Ecology fields. Their research on the most up to date methods/ ideas would then be written up into a methods or review paper that covers the background and history leading up to the particular innovation, it's place in the current research landscape and the expected future contributions or importance of the innovation to the field. A student could also take advantage of previously conducted analyses, by conducting a meta-analysis. A meta-analysis uses standardized, quantitative methods to re-analyze previous research or data to extract new conclusions (and hopefully to be able to formally compare the methods/ analytical techniques used in those previous studies). The results would be written into a manuscript that could then be submitted for publication, if desired.

Biotech, Environmental Science

David
David

Using machine learning to identify patterns in carbon sources and sink

This project will focus on exploring the output from a set of carbon cycle models or terrestrial biosphere models. The project will apply machine learning algorithms to classify regions of the world based on their carbon cycle dynamics.

Environmental Science, AI/ML

Yoichi
Yoichi

Examining the effects of climate change on marine species distributions

My master's thesis examined the effects of cold tolerance on a tropical species of marine plant, where my research concluded that certain species of plants have local adaptations to survive in stressful environments. As a result of my past research, I am interested in asking questions related to how different organisms respond to changing or stressful environmental conditions, specifically related to temperature stress and climate change. Climate change is currently affecting sea surface temperatures, which is in turn impacting the species distributions for certain organisms. For example, increases in sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Maine has significantly impacted the lobster fishery due to the northward migration of the American Lobster. The main goal of this project is to examine similar distribution range shifts (e.g., like that of the American Lobster) in marine species that have been affected by climate change. This project will identify at least 3 groups of marine invertebrates, marine plants, fish, and marine mammals that have shifted distributions as a result of warming sea surface temperatures. Information on these organisms will be gathered from scientific research papers and will be organized into a Microsoft Excel sheet. The main deliverable of this project will be a scientific research paper in the form of a literature review. The student and myself will work together to choose which high school scientific journal to publish our final results in.

Biology, Environmental Science

Lindsey
Lindsey

Ecological Restoration Plan

Explore a habitat or ecosystem by addressing threats to ecosystem health and develop strategies for restoration.

Biology, Environmental Science, Social Science

Amanda
Amanda

The Other CO2 Problem: The Ocean’s Role in Climate Change

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the oceans have absorbed approximately 30% of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. While this process removes CO2 from the atmosphere and has slowed the rise in global temperatures, the ocean’s absorption of CO2 has led to another problem - ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is a phenomenon in which the absorption of CO2 causes ocean chemistry to change and become more acidic. What are the acid/base chemical principles behind this process? How is ocean acidification impacting marine ecosystems and food sources on which millions of people rely? In what places is ocean acidification posing the largest threats?

Environmental Science

Mary Margaret
Mary Margaret

Public perceptions and communication on controversial science & technology

Science and technology can create controversy in the public sphere, dividing dinner tables and whole communities on how different technologies should be used - or not used - in day to day life. In this project, the objective is to create educational materials designed to communicate with a chosen public audience on a controversial topic in science or technology. First, you will choose a topic of choice, preferably one that has some visibility and significance as an issue in the public sphere (vaccines; climate change; pollution; artificial intelligence; etc). You will then use survey and interview methods with a chosen public audience - maybe they are people who go to your school, live in your neighborhood, etc - , and ask them about their perspectives on scientific subject that you have chosen. By analyzing this data, you should build a robust understanding of how your chosen community thinks about the topic of choice. You will then use these insights to generate some effective means of communication on the topic of choice. The goal is not to necessarily convince people one way or the other, but to learn how to tailor science communication towards a public audiences values, interests, languages, cultural knowledge, ideologies, etc. Outcomes of this project can include a diverse array of outputs, such as a combination of educational videos, podcasts, short articles, blogs, artwork, or even songs and poetry. The most important thing is that your combination of materials reflect an effective communication approach for your audience.

Biotech, Environmental Science

Dalton
Dalton