Headwaters Research Experience

Get out of the classroom and immerse yourself in hands-on research
Work hand-in-hand with a professional scientist
Get published and wow those college recruiters


An affordable and accessible way for students looking to take their science education to the next level and bolster a college resume, participants design and create an original research project while being mentored by a professional scientist. Students see through the project from conception to publication by conducting field research (or compiling pre-existing available datasets) and learning 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 from prestigious organizations such as UC Davis and Berkeley, University of Virginia and NOAA, to name just a few, and  are experienced in research and in mentoring students with a variety of research interests. They guide students to utilize a diverse array of research skills that can be used to study almost any topic imaginable.

Students emerge from the program with real-world, hands-on experience they can add to a college resume, contacts in the professional scientific community, a network of peers embarking on their own scientific endeavors and life skills that will better prepare them for any career.

Program Information


Location: Online meetings, independent research in the location of student’s choosing.

Fall 2022 program dates: Week of Sept. 13 through the week of Dec. 13.

Session times: (students can choose either option based on their availability)

  • Tuesday: 5:30-6:30 p.m. PST
  • Tuesday: 7-8 p.m. PST

Cost: $1,399 (Use promo code CHECK during checkout for $50 off registration to pay by check to Headwaters Science Institute.)

Registration process: Fill out either the financial assistance application (if you need financial help) or register directly.
Regular registration is open until the program is filled. Financial assistance applications for fall can be submitted now.

Questions? Please visit the Frequently Asked Questions section at the bottom of the page or email us at info@headwatersscienceinstitute.org

Experience the program:

Part 1:  Developing Research Skills

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

What To Expect

Students will meet digitally with the entire cohort once a week and in digital private sessions with their assigned mentor twice per week.

Topics Covered:

-how to design, refine, and apply an original research question to a research project

Part 2: Hands-on Research & Analysis

Students use data collection techniques they designed to gather information, and refine their processes as needed to follow the scientific method. 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.

What to Expect:

Students continue to meet with their cohort and mentors and spend complete independent data collection and analysis outside of these meetings. This requires 4-8 hours of independent work per week outside of group sessions.

Topics Covered:

-how to analyze data collected
-using digital statistical analysis tools

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.

What to Expect:

Students’ papers are published in the Headwaters Research Journal and submitted to a youth science journal for publication.

Topics Covered:

-how to create a digital research presentation
-how to author a scientific research paper

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.

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:

  • Environmental Science/Ecology
  • Systematics
  • Social Science
  • Geology
  • Weather and Climate
  • Health, Medicine, and Genetics

Meet The Mentors

Some of our past research mentors:
  • Jennifer Heppner: Ph.D. student at the University of Nevada Reno studying urban ecology using birds and other vertebrates
  • Morgan Long: M.S. student at University of Nevada Reno studying wildlife disease ecology
  • Heather Raimer: Ph.D. student at the University of Virginia studying genetics
  • Keely Rodriguez: Ph.D. student at the University of Nevada Reno studying amphibian disease ecology
  • André Sanchez, M.S.: San Joaquin Valley Organizer at CalWild, focused on watershed management, aquatic restoration, and community organization
  • Katie Uckele: Ph.D. student at the University of Nevada Reno studying plant-insect interactions and chemical ecology
  • Tara Webster: Ph.D. student at the University of Nevada Reno focused on science education and diversity, equity, and inclusion in the sciences

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. In order to keep this program safe and contactless, students learn from their mentors and peers through digital meetings. 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 programs 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. 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 impression on students than traditional science classes and reinforces what students have learned in science class through real-world applications.

What kinds of research projects can students create?

Students are encouraged 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 whose 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 accommodate participants located anywhere in the world, as long as they have a reliable 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: