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How to Pursue Research in High School! Part 1!

Written By: Brianna Schulstad

Most high school students will not get to experience university level research until they are in undergrad. Research is considered a very unique extracurricular for a high schooler and can help you develop a passion for a subject or a potential career in academia, especially if you are STEM inclined. It can also help you further develop your writing skills if you go on to publish academic papers on your research.

Research opportunities for high school students can be hard to come by. Many students agree that for every 10 professors you reach out to, 9 of them will either say no or not respond. This means that reaching out to dozens of professors might be your best bet! If you are thinking about doing research at a local university, first compile a list of all the labs you are interested in, the email of the professor who runs them, and a small description of each lab (this will help when cold emailing!)

When joining research labs, there are three main paths to go through. The first one is an unpaid, informal internship. This is the main route high school students take when they do university level research. When they complete this research, they usually get similar tasks as undergraduate students do. You receive the experience of an undergraduate without the stipend. As a paid intern, you are probably completing the more boring tasks. This includes cleaning supplies, entering data, helping the professor and undergrads with their work. Lastly, doing research through a specialized program for high schoolers which can either cost money, free, or paid. At a specialized program, you get much more freedom of the research you want to complete. But, you only get 5-8 weeks spent on that research project which can be a small amount of time to find publishable results.

The best route of research in my opinion is to cold call emails asking for an unpaid internship. With this opportunity you receive guidance and mentorship from professors and graduates which can be helpful if you are in need of help. Also, these projects usually last a couple years and make large impacts on their respective fields. Even though these internships are not paid, you are paid through experience and knowledge!

Finding professors might seem a bit overwhelming at first. It can become a tedious process if you decide to individually reach each professor's faculty page. A quick and simple way is usually to look up [university name] [department] research:

  • ex. Harvard University Economics Research

Research universities usually have a page dedicated to faculty and their research which makes the research process smoother. If there are not many universities in your area and none of them have easy to navigate research websites, you might have to individually go through the faculty pages of professors you are interested in. Remember: when finding professors, contact every single one that has a project you are at least mildly interested in. By doing this, you have a large chance at getting a spot on the research team!

In the next article I will outline the email format I used to receive my research internship and some tips and tricks!

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