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Selected Resources and Opportunities in Biology

This list features some excellent opportunities available to middle and high school students.


4-H Wildlife Habitat Education Program

Each state sends a team of three–four members, ages 14–18, to the national contest, where scores are based on participants’ ability to identify wildlife species, judge quality of wildlife habitats, recommend wildlife management practices, and write rural and urban wildlife management plans. Students ages 8–13 can participate at the state level only.

BioGENEius Challenge
High school students submit descriptions of biotechnology-themed research projects. U.S. students compete in local or at-large BioGENEius challenges; winners of these contests advance to the international competition, where they present their projects to a panel of experts for judging. First- through fourth-place winners receive $7,500, $5,000, $2,500, and $1,000, respectively. In addition, 10 honorable mentions receive $500 each.

Davidson Fellows Awards
Students ages 18 and under submit a significant piece of work in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, literature, music, philosophy, or “outside the box.” Eight to fifteen students are typically selected each year and named Davidson Fellows. Fellows receive a $50,000, $25,000, or $10,000 scholarship and are recognized for their achievements in Washington, DC.

Discovery 3M Young Scientist Challenge
Students in grades 5–8 submit a video entry in which they explain a scientific concept. The field of semifinalists (one student from each state and the District of Columbia) is narrowed to 10 finalists, who receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC. There, students compete in a series of individual and team challenges for the top prize of a $25,000 savings bond.

Teams of three to four students in grades 6–9 use science, technology, engineering, and math to solve a real problem in their community related to alternative sources of energy; environment; food, health, and fitness; forces and motion; national security and safety; robotics; or technology. First- and second-place winning state teams receive a $1,000 or $500 U.S. savings bond per member, respectively; regional finalists each receive a $1,000 savings bond; and first-place regional winners receive an additional $2,000 savings bond per student and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC, for the national competition, where each member of the winning team receives a $5,000 savings bond.

Teams of high school students at the state, local, and national levels demonstrate their knowledge of soils and land use, aquatic ecology, forestry, wildlife, and a current environmental issue (2017: Agricultural Soil and Water Conservation Stewardship).

Intel International Science & Engineering Fair (ISEF)
Two individuals and one team from each of 450 Intel ISEF-affiliated science fairs advance to the international competition. These high school students compete for scholarships in 22 categories. The top winner at the international competition receives a $75,000 scholarship, and two $50,000 scholarships are awarded in Best in Show categories. Additional prizes include cash awards, scholarships, grants, and trips. Multiple special awards are also presented.

International Brain Bee
Students in grades 9–12 who win their local bee compete at the national contest, held in Maryland, on such topics as intelligence, memory, emotions, and neurological disease. The first-prize winner receives a summer internship at a neuroscience lab and a trophy, and represents the United States at the International Brain Bee World Championship (2017: Washington, DC).

International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM)
Teams of college and high school students design and build biological systems and operate them in living cells. The competition culminates in a jamboree where teams present their research. Medals are awarded in a variety of categories.

Junior Science and Humanities Symposium
Students in grades 9–12 who have completed original research in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics may apply to attend JSHS regional symposia. Three winners from each regional event win scholarships of $2,000, $1,500, or $1,000 and are invited to attend the National Symposium, where seven first-place, seven second-place, and seven third-place winners receive scholarships of $12,000, $8,000, and $4,000, respectively. Each first-place finalist also receives an all-expenses-paid trip to the London International Youth Science Forum, an exchange program bringing together over 360 participants from 60 nations.

National Ocean Sciences Bowl
Teams of high school students from across the nation participate in a timed competition in which they answer questions about the marine sciences, including biology, chemistry, physics, and geology. Regional winners advance to the national finals, where first- through third-place teams win prizes and trips to places such as Costa Rica, Bermuda, and Hawaii. Participating students are also eligible to apply for internships and scholarships through the competition.

Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Awards
Teams of high school students create projects for use in aviation and aeronautics, cybersecurity and technology, energy and environment, and health and nutrition. Finalist teams receive a travel grant to present at the Innovation Summit at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a chance to win a $10,000 seed grant to develop their product or service.

President’s Environmental Youth Awards
Individuals or teams of students in grades K–12 who have completed an environmental project are eligible to receive this award. Ten winners are recognized at an EPA-sponsored award ceremony, where they receive a Presidential plaque.

Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS)
High school seniors submit a written description of their independent research and a report of up to 20 pages. 300 semifinalists each receive $2,000 for themselves and $2,000 for their schools; of these, 40 finalists receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC, for final judging. The first-, second-, and third-place winners receive $250,000, $175,000, and $150,000, respectively. Additional cash prizes range from $25,000 to $100,000.

Siemens Competition
As individuals or as members of two- or three-person teams, high school students submit research projects in one of 14 categories. Up to 300 projects are selected as semifinalists; from that group, up to 30 individuals and 30 teams become regional finalists. Individual winners of regional competitions receive $3,000 scholarships; winning teams receive $6,000 in scholarships to divide among team members. Team and individual winners receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC, for the national finals, where they compete for scholarships ranging from $10,000 to $100,000.

Stockholm Junior Water Prize
Students in grades 9–12 conduct water-related projects and compete at the state and national levels, where one winner will receive $10,000 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Stockholm, Sweden, to compete at the international SJWP competition.

USA Biology Olympiad
High school biology students are registered by their school to take the national open exam; the top 10 percent of scorers then take the USABO semifinal exam. Twenty semifinalists are invited to attend the two-week USABO summer program in June, where four students are selected to represent the U.S. at the International Biology Olympiad (2017: United Kingdom).

Summer Programs

Grades specified refer to students’ 2016–17 status. All programs are residential unless otherwise noted.

Adventures in Veterinary Medicine (MA)
Grades 7–12; 1–2 weeks; residential and commuter. Students attend lectures, learn proper animal handling techniques, practice diagnostic skills, and shadow fourth-year veterinary students.

Boston University Research Internship/Practicum in Science and Engineering (MA)
Grade 11; 6 weeks; residential and commuter. Students in the internship track conduct university-level research in a discipline of interest. Research topics are typically available in biology, biomedical engineering, and medical laboratory research. In the molecular biology-focused practicum, students learn gel electrophoresis, DNA preparation, and computer-based analysis of nucleic acid and protein sequences.

Cornell University Summer Programs (NY)
Grades 10–12; 3–6 weeks. Students in the Research Apprenticeship in the Biological Sciences interact with Cornell professors, post docs, grad students, and undergraduates as they conduct research in an area of their choosing. Students in Biological Research and the Health Professions explore biology and related careers through coursework, lectures, labs, and discussions with practicing biologists. Also available are courses in biomedical terminology, comparative physiology, general microbiology lectures, investigative biology laboratory, and plant biology.

Cornell University Veterinary Explorations Program (NY)
Grades 11–12; 3 weeks. Students explore Conservation Medicine, Equine Practice, or Small Animal Practice through coursework, labs, and lectures.

Duke University TIP (multiple sites)
Grades 7–11; 3 weeks. Courses for qualifying students include Infectious Diseases; Introduction to Veterinary Medicine; Marine Biology; Modern Medicine: Disease and Immunology; Oceanography; Pharmacology; and Sports Medicine. Also offered are 2-week field studies, including Astrobiology; Innovations in Medical Care; Marine Biology; and Tropical Medicine and Ethnobiology.

Earthwatch Teen Expeditions (multiple sites)
Ages 15–18; 1–2 weeks. Students travel to locations all over the world, from the Arctic’s edge to Belize, where they contribute to peer-reviewed scientific research on issues that impact the environment.

Emory Pre-College Program (GA)
Grade 10–11; 2–6 weeks; residential and commuter. Course offerings include Advances in Cardiovascular Medicine and Technology; Biological Anthropology; Cancer: The Biology Behind the Disease; Concepts in Biology with Lab; Infectious Diseases; Introduction to Bioethics; and Pre-Med Studies: the Anatomy of Movement.

Exploration Summer Programs (CT and MA)
Grades 7–11; 3 weeks. Course offerings include Anatomy and Physiology; Genetic Engineering; Infectious Disease and Immunology; and So, You Want to Be a Doctor?.

Georgetown University Summer Programs (DC)
Grades 9–11; 1–3 weeks. In both the one-week Medical Institute and the three-week Medical Immersion Program, students explore a first-year medical school curriculum in varying degrees of depth, studying topics such as anatomy, pathology, immunology, and cardiology.

Harvard Secondary School Program (MA)
Grades 10–12; 7 weeks; residential and commuter. Course offerings include Imaging in Biology, Introductory Biology, Molecular Biology, Principles of Embryonic Development, Principles of Genetics, and Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology.

Johns Hopkins University CTY (multiple sites)
Grades 7–12; 3 weeks. Course offerings include Anatomy and Physiology, Fast-Paced High School Biology, Genetics, Genomics, The History of Disease, Introduction to the Biomedical Sciences, Neuroscience, Paleobiology, and Zoology. Online course offerings include AP Biology, Honors Biology, and Life Science.

Johns Hopkins University Pre-College Program (MD)
Grades 10–12; 2 or 5 weeks; residential and commuter. Course offerings include High-Throughput Sequencing in Biology, Introduction to Biological Molecules, Introduction to Biology & Medicine, Introduction to Laboratory Research, Phage Research, and Techniques in Molecular Biology.

Joseph Baldwin Academy for Eminent Young Scholars at Truman State University (MO)
Grades 7–9; 3 weeks. Course offerings include Biomusicology: The Study of Music from a Biological Perspective; The Human Lab; and Underwater Biology.

NIH Summer Internship Program in Biomedical Research (multiple sites)
Ages 16 and up; variable duration; commuter. Students apply for positions in research labs, where they conduct research in such areas as cancer prevention and treatment, the human genome, and alcohol-related issues.

North Carolina State University Summer College in Biotechnology and Life Sciences (NC)
Grades 10–11; 4 weeks; residential and commuter. Students participate in biology-related coursework and labs; interact with students, postdoctoral scientists, and faculty; tour research facilities; and visit with industry professionals. [Click on Find Your Path]

Northwestern University CTD (IL)
Grades 7–12; 3 weeks; residential and commuter. Course offerings include Anatomy and Physiology; Biology; Biotech: From Microbes to Genomes; and Introduction to Biomedicine.

Penn Summer High School Programs (PA)
Grades 9–11; 3 or 6 weeks; residential and commuter. Students in the Biomedical Research Academy explore cellular, molecular, and genetic aspects of biology through lectures, labs, and research. Additionally, course offerings in the Pre-College Program include Biology 101 with Lab.

Rockefeller University Summer Science Research Program (NY)
Age 16 and up; 7 weeks; commuter. Students are matched to a biomedical research lab according to their interests and are mentored by grad students, post docs, or lab heads.

Smith College Summer Science and Engineering Program (MA)
Grades 8–11; girls only; 4 weeks. Students take two research courses from offerings that include Biomedical Ethics; The Body in Motion: An Inquiry into Exercise Science; Fighting Infections Using Soil Bacteria; Global Young Women’s Health; and Your Genes, Your Chromosomes: A Laboratory in Human Genetics.

Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program (SIMR) (CA)
Grades 11–12; 8 weeks; commuter. Students conduct research in areas such as cancer biology, cardiovascular biology, and neurobiology; attend lectures; and present their work to the Stanford community.

Stanford University High School Summer College (CA)
Grades 9–12; 8 weeks; residential and commuter. Course offerings include Introduction to Biology and Introduction to Cancer Biology.

Summer at Brown Precollege Program (RI)
Grades 9–12; 1–4 weeks. Course offerings include Bacteriology; Cancer Biology; Emerging Microbial Pathogens; Hands-On Medicine: A Week in the Life of a Medical Student; Modeling Living Systems; Molecular Biology and Biochemistry; Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine; and Using Laboratory Organisms in Biomedical Research.

University of Chicago Summer Research in the Biological Sciences (IL)
Grades 10–11; 4 weeks. Students learn molecular, microbiological, and cellular biological laboratory techniques and apply them to group projects. As space permits, students who excel in the program will be invited to return the following summer to conduct research in a faculty lab.

University of Chicago Summer Immersion Program (IL)
Grades 9–11; 3 weeks; residential and commuter. Course offerings include Biotechnology for the 21st Century; Contagion: Infectious Agents and Emerging Diseases; and Explorations in Neuroscience: Neurons, Behavior, and Beyond.

University of Iowa SSTP (IA)
Grades 10–11; 6 weeks. Students conduct scientific research under the guidance of a faculty mentor. 2016 projects included Zombie Drosophila: A Genetic Investigation of Motor Activity of Swd Mutants; and Treatment for Usher Syndrome Type 1F Using CRISPR Tools. [Click Students, then SSTP]

University of Maryland Terp Young Scholars (MD)
Grades 9–12; 3 weeks; residential and commuter. Course offerings include Biopharmaceutical Production, Environmental Biology, and Kinesiology. Also available is the two-week Terp Discovery Program for middle school students, which offers courses that include Animal Biology and Modern Medicine.

University of Miami Summer Scholars Program (FL)
Grades 10–11; 3 weeks; residential and commuter. Tracks include Health and Medicine and Tropical Marine Biology. Each track features two courses, guest lectures, lab work, and hands-on activities.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute Frontiers in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering (MA)
Grades 10–11; 2 weeks. Students in the Biology, Biotechnology, and Bioinformatics track investigate molecular biology and genetic barcoding, learn about the pollinator crisis, and participate in a crowd-sourcing initiative to develop new antibiotics.


Animal Diversity Web
This online database and encyclopedia of animal natural history provides a wealth of information, from the general to the specific, about animals and their classifications, as well as photographs, animal sounds, and an extensive glossary.

Biocubes: Life in One Cubic Foot
At this site from the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, see what scientists found when they set up hollow cubes at various locations around the world and examined all the species that appeared in them during a 24-hour period. Then learn how you can make your own biocube experiment.

This site from the California Academy of Sciences draws you in with fantastic photography and keeps you focused with awesome articles, illustrative videos, editorials, and more—all on the topic of global biodiversity.

BioInteractive: Diversity of Organisms
At this site of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, you’ll find resources on the diversity of organisms, including visualizations of biological processes, short films, 3D models, and more.

Biology Online
Here you’ll find an open online dictionary featuring over 60,000 biological terms, a blog, and tutorials on such topics as human neurology, natural selection, and genetics.

BioMedical Picture of the Day
Each day, this site features a single remarkable image produced during the course of biomedical research. The images, submitted by scientists around the world, are each accompanied by a brief explanation of the image and its significance.

Untamed Science
This site features a plethora of videos on everything biological, from biomes of the world to cell organelles and major organ systems to molecular genetics.

Virus Explorer
This fascinating site features 3D models and cross sections of common and not-so-common viruses, including Ebola, influenza, HIV, and Zika. Compare viral particles and explore genome type, mode of transmission, prevalence, vaccine availability, and more.


  • The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner, 2016).
  • The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman (Penguin Press, 2016).
  • The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben (Greystone Books, 2016).
  • A Hydromancer’s Notebook by David M. Carroll (Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2009).
  • I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong (Ecco, 2016).
  • The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf (Knopf, 2015).
  • Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (Knopf, 2016).
  • Letters to a Young Scientist by E.O. Wilson (Liveright, 2014).
  • Redesigning Life: How Genome Editing Will Transform the World by John Parrington (Oxford University Press, 2016).
  • Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver (Penguin Press, 2016).