Pathways to Science Research

Any everyday occurrence can spark an interest in science, which is why Regeneron Science Talent Search Finalists and Scholars are an extremely diverse group.  They come from all walks of life, from schools that are large and small, rural and urban, public and private.  Some are just naturally drawn to science of their own accord, some have families with scientists, and some simply see a problem and use science to fix it.  Some students jump in as early as middle school, while others complete research in as little as a month, just before their last year in high school.  No single path is the right one for every student, but one thing always holds true – no matter which path you take, you have an equal chance of winning the Regeneron Science Talent Search.

Not sure where to begin?  Here are some of the pathways you might choose:

Pathway #1 – Complete Research at Your High School

Some high schools have science research classes in which you can enroll and complete a science research project over the course of a semester.  If an official course isn’t offered at your school, some teachers have research programs where students meet during lunch or on weekends to complete research right in the school.  If that isn’t established yet, try talking to your teacher or the sponsor of the science, engineering, math, or robotics club to see if you could work on some research during lunch, after school, or whenever their club meets.

Pathway #2 – High School Science Research Programs Outside of School

Across the country there are established research programs for high school students.  Most of these programs are through universities and companies who employ scientists.  Many summer programs have applications due in January, so start searching early.

Pathway #3 – Connect with a Scientist One-on-One

If you have an interest in a specific area of science, or you weren’t able to join an established research program, you can get permission from your parents to contact scientists on your own and ask if they would accept a high school student into their lab.  First you should decide what subject area interests you – see the section below entitled “Deciding on a Subject Area.”  Then look online at local colleges and universities to find professors in that subject area.  To increase your chances, it is best to read about the research each scientist does, then call or email the scientist explaining why you are interested in that particular topic.  Sometimes friends, family members, or teachers know scientists who might enjoy working with you.  Try to be as independent as possible in contacting those scientists and selecting a research question.

Pathway #4 – Solve a Problem in Your Community

Do you have a question about the world that you could investigate on your own?  Can you build a model to test a scientific question?  Is there a problem in your community that could be solved using science?  If any of these are true for you, you might be able to complete your research outside of any program or research institution.  If you live in an area that is not near research institutions, this might be a great option for you.

Pathway #5 – Theoretical Research

Some students choose to skip the lab bench and do some theoretical research.  Some mathematics research can be performed without any special equipment and without leaving your home (except for a few trips to the library).  You can read journal articles in the subject area of your choice and initiate your own exploration using your own ideas.

Deciding on a Subject Area

Sometimes a particular topic or subject area really stands out and gets you thinking.  If you’re not sure what subject areas you like, one good idea is to look at the topics in Science News and Science News for Students.  On the landing page, you’ll see articles divided by subject area.  Here are the subject areas of science that might match up with those topics:

Science News for Students 

Subject Headings

Science News

Subjects Heading

Regeneron Science Talent Search


Atoms and Forces Molecules

Matter and Energy

Atoms and Cosmos



Materials Science

Earth and Sky Atoms and Cosmos



Earth and Planetary Sciences

Physics and Space Science

Environmental Science

Humans and Health Humans

Body and Brain

Genes and Cells

Science and Society


Medicine and Health

Behavioral and Social Sciences


Bioinformatics and  Genomics

Life Life

Genes and Cells



Plant Sciences

Animal Sciences

Bioinformatics and Genomics

Environmental Science

Tech and Math Science and Society



Computer Science


Materials Science