Headwaters Research Experience

An engaging 3-part extracurricular experience that trains students to create a research project on any topic imaginable…


Experience the program:

Part 1:  Developing Research skills


Students work digitally alongside their entire cohort of peers and one-on-on with a professional scientist mentor to create questions around a topic of interest. These questions soon blossom into a developed research project. Students begin to imagine data collection techninques that will help them collect the information to answer their research question.

Part 2: Hands-on Research & Analysis


Students begin to explore the natural world, using data collection techniques they designed to gather information, and refine their processes as needed. Students are guided through statistical analysis to make sense of their data and bring meaning to all that they’ve seen through exploration. This analysis leads to an eventual answer to their initial research question.

Part 3: Present & Publish Research

Students produce digital research presentations including their research question, findings, and digital representations of this information. After presenting this research, students also author a research paper alongside their mentor. This is published in the Headwaters Research Journal and submitted to a youth science journal for publication as well. 

Questions? Please visit the Frequently Asked Questions section at the bottom of the page. 

Student Research Journal

Research Experience students model the work of a professional scientist by creating journal articles they submit to a publication for consideration. These articles are also published in the Headwaters Research Journal. Browse current and past editions through the link below. 

 Upcoming Program Info

 *Note: registration for this program is closed

Location: Online meetings, independent research on-location

2021 Summer Program dates: June 21 – August 20

Session Times: (students can select one of these four options based on their availability)

  • Tuesday: 12:30-1:30 or 5:00-6:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday: 12:30-1:30 or 2:00-3:00 p.m.

Cost: $1350

Financial Assistance: Deadline closed March 31

Program Details:


In the program, students will design and create an original research project mentored by a professional scientist, see through the project by conducting field research, and learn how to analyze their findings. Students complete the program with a finalized research presentation and a formal research paper that will be submitted for publication.

Our professional scientist mentors are experienced in research and in mentoring students with a variety of research interests. They will guide students to utilize a diverse array of research skills that can be used to study almost any topic imagineable.

Students emerge from the program with an experience they can add to a college resume, and life skills that will better prepare them for any career.

What To Expect

The program requires 4-8 hours of independent work per week, outside of group sessions.

Students will meet digitally with the entire cohort and in digital private sessions with their assigned mentor. They will complete independent data collection and analysis outside of these meetings.

Topics covered include:

  • how to design, refine, and apply an original research question to a research project
  • how to design and conduct an experiment
  • how to analyze data collected
  • using digital statistical analysis tools
  • how to create a digital research presentation
  • how to author a scientific research paper

Sample Study Topics

Students can conduct research on almost any area of interest! Our mentors are trained to help refine your topic. Here are a few sample topics from past projects:

  • Urban environments: How do organisms function in heavily impacted environments?
  • Microclimates: How do microclimates differ around a certain area? Does it affect what is found there?
  • Water quality: Sources of pollution and their impacts in your neighborhood.
  • Human impact: How do we affect the environments around us?
  • Entomology: Insect behavior and biodiversity.
  • Organism responses to the environment: How do plants, insects, or birds respond to different environmental cues?

Meet The Mentors

Examples of past research mentors:

Spencer Eusden – Group lesson lead and mentor – Spencer has been teaching
with Headwaters since its inception in 2014 and has experience guiding student
research projects in almost any topic imaginable.
Meg Seifert Ph.D. – In addition to being Headwaters’ Executive Director, Meg brings research experience in zoology from her doctorate and a passion for student-led research.
Dan Dudek – Dan holds a masters in evolutionary biology from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and is entering a Ph.D. program at the University of Texas Arlington with extensive amphibian and genetic research experience.
Ashley Pierce Ph.D. – As a former Headwaters Program Director and current science and technology policy fellow with the National Science Foundation (N.S.F.) Ashely brings her strong background in chemistry and atmospheric pollutants to
this program.
N.O.A.A Research Scientists – Several scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will also be serving as mentors sharing their knowledge and experience in studying weather, microclimates, and how they affect us.

Research Experience FAQ

Questions about the program? We’re here to help. Click any of the commonly asked questions below to expand and see the answer. 

With digital learning right now, students are at the computer so much already. Will this program just be more screen time?

This program is designed to be as screen free as possible. Students do gain research skills from their mentors through digital meetings, in order to keep this program safe and contactless. The weekly digital group meetings last 1 hour and mentor meetings are 30-60 minutes. However, all other components of the program are screen-free and mostly outdoors.

How does the program work with a pre-existing school schedule?

For progams during the school year, group sessions take place after school and individual mentor sessions can be arranged at a specific time that works for both parties. This program requires 4-8 hours of work per week, similar to the demands of a typical extracurricular program, except that it’s designed to reinforce science learning. You can expect concepts in this program to overlap with some parts of your child’s science class.

How is this program different than what students are already learning in science class?

This program reinforces the hands-on parts of science, and builds student creativity. Instead of learning from a textbook, students can create their own projects. This kind of confidence has a stronger impact on students than traditional science classes, and also reinforces what students have learned in science class through real world applications. 

What kinds of research projects can students create?

Students are encourage to create a project around any topic they feel passionate about! This can extend to any areas of science, including having a social science component. We try to pair students with a mentor who’s field experience is similar to their chosen project.

Who is this program for? Can students without research experience participate?

This program is for any child that is high school age (grades 9-12). We can accomodate participants located anywhere in the world, as long as they have a relaible internet connection.

No prior research experience is necessary for this program.

What is required to apply for a financial assistance, and how is this awarded?

On our application form we request a financial disclosure, transcripts, and a few answers to questions which provide us background information to help make our selection.

We try our best to weigh all of these materials fairly, looking beyond just transcripts or a strong academic foundation.

All applicants are required to demonstrate financial need. 

This program is supported by: