The Iowa Junior Sciences and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) is a high school science research competition, grounded in engaging students in unique research experiences. The uniqueness of Iowa JSHS begins with students submitting a symposium proposal in the form of a scientific article. (See how to write a scientific article.) The symposium proposal is an authentic audience for whom students write. Students put their work out into the world, and a panel of experts reviews each submission for potential inclusion in the symposium.
The premier event of Iowa JSHS is students listening to presentations of research that has been conducted by their peers. Presenting at Iowa JSHS is an exciting experience, but for students in the audience, seeing what is possible through near-peer mentorship is an impactful experience. Yet, Iowa JSHS is more than students presenting research. Time is provided for the students to socialize, forming impactful connections resulting in life-long friendships. Iowa JSHS also enables students to experience a research-intensive university first hand. Through laboratory tours, students get a backstage pass to world-class labs and the professional scientific community.
Any school in Iowa can bring five students to attend Iowa JSHS free of charge, thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Tri-Services and the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. Iowa JSHS truly is an experience that goes beyond the ordinary science fair. If you’re interested in learning more, send us an e-mail at email@example.com and check out our website.
Interested in doing research, but worried about the costs? Looking for an outlet to share your ideas, that may lead to college scholarships? We’ve rounded up a helpful list of funding sources and prizes for you!
Iowa students who conduct research related to pigs, pork, pig production, swine care, or in a related subject area will be eligible to receive a $200 scholarship for their project from the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation. This scholarship can assist in the development of a project, be used to purchase supplies to conduct or present research, or for travel to one of Iowa’s science competitions like the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium! The deadline for application is February 1, 2020.
For students seeking creative solutions to environmental problems, check out the International Young Eco-Hero Award. This award is offered by Action for Nature and recognizes students between the ages of 8 and 16 for environmental action. Students can receive up to a $500 cash prize for creative and independent environmental research projects. The deadline for application is February 28, 2020.
The Regeneron Science Talent Search is one of the oldest national science competitions for high school seniors. To enter, students complete an online application that includes a research manuscript describing their original research. Around 2,000 students submit the application each year with 300 of them becoming scholars receiving $2,000 each; each of the scholars’ schools receive $2,000 as well. The top 40 scholars are selected to travel to Washington D.C. to present their research and compete for one of the top ten awards ranging from $40,000 – $250,000. The deadline for application has passed for this fall but be sure to check them out next year! (And consider submitting a project to the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium to prepare for next year’s Talent Search competition.)
The Davidson Fellows Scholarship has been named one of the ten biggest scholarships in the world and is available to extraordinary young people 18 and under, who have completed a significant piece of work. The Davidson Institute awards scholarships in categories of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Literature, Music, Philosophy and Outside the Box. The Davidson Institute denotes on their website that this award is for students whose projects are at, or close to, the college graduate level with a depth of knowledge in their particular area of study and not geared toward students at the novice level. Applying to this scholarship is worth the time as the winners are awarded $50,000, $25,000, or $10,000 and are honored with a trip to Washington D.C. for some congressional meetings and a special reception. The deadline for application is February 12.
Even though it is not a requirement for an applicant to conduct high school research for the National Institutes of Health NIH Undergraduate Scholarship Program, we thought this would be of some interest to students who love research. This scholarship program offers up to $20,000 per year in aid and summer research training at the NIH! High school students must be in the top 5% of their class, from a disadvantaged background, and enrolled in a University committed to a career in biomedical, behavioral, or social science – health related research.
You can create engaging learning experiences for teens by making it possible for them to conduct original research and connect with a larger scholarly community through citizen science. While collecting original data has tremendous merit, sometimes barriers to the necessary equipment or resources for effective data collection are challenging to navigate. Publicly available real-world data sets are one way to circumvent these obstacles and get teens researching—for real.
Did you know that there are more than 244,000 data sets publicly available to anyone on data.gov? This website has data from a wide variety of sources from agriculture, climate, and ecosystems, to manufacturing, energy, and finance. Looking at the available data, you and your teen might wonder how public parks might affect a neighborhood’s resilience to natural disasters. With a research question in mind, teens are ready to learn how to design their investigation and then dig into those data!
Student research doesn’t have to involve a lot of expense or fancy equipment. With nothing more than a laptop and an internet connection, students can produce high-quality original research from their bedrooms or the classroom. Publicly available data sets abound and they can be the spark that ignites a lifetime of STEM curiosity.
For more information on student research, be sure to check out our other posts on this topic!
As the school year has come to a close, excitement and planning for summer fun is in the air! What are you imagining for these sun-drenched days—beaches, camping, novels, hiking, blockbuster movies? If you are a teacher, which of your students might be dreaming about digging into a science or engineering challenge this summer and how can you encourage them? Perhaps you have a child whose curiosity needs an outlet and encouraging nudge. Summer science to the rescue!
With the increase in the number of researchers looking for
everyday citizens to aid them in research projects, opportunities to contribute
to actual research projects right from home or the classroom are more abundant
than ever! In today’s information-rich world these opportunities are available
We have collected a few projects that span a variety of interest areas to nurture the curious indoor and outdoor kids in your life:
Join the Zooniverse (https://www.zooniverse.org/) and get
connected to projects ranging from analyzing images identifying wildlife,
analyzing images and data identifying celestial bodies, to transcribing
historical documents. These projects seek out ordinary individuals to
contribute to research, making an impact in the world. One example project is
Bash the Bug (https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/mrniaboc/bash-the-bug),
a project in which an individual analyzes the antibiotic resistance of M.
tuberculosis, helping hospitals around the world accurately predict which
antibiotics are effective at treating this disease.
National Geographic (https://www.nationalgeographic.org/idea/citizen-science-projects/)
lists several projects on their website such as bird counting projects,
monitoring light pollution with the night sky, or participating in water
quality monitoring with people from around the globe. Some of the projects such
as the Global Garlic Mustard Field Survey (https://garlicmustard.wordpress.com/)
even give teachers tips on how they can use the project in their classroom: “Educators
can offer their students an invaluable opportunity for hands-on participation
in peer-reviewed scientific research, and compare class results to the larger
dataset involving hundreds of populations.”
is a website in which students can help track seasonal changes and seasonal
migrations of different species right where they live. This site also offers
teacher resources (https://journeynorth.org/tm/educators_index.html)
to help a teacher drive discussion using data that was input by citizen
scientists just like your students.
If you want to search for projects by location,
then check out Scistarter.org. This
website connects citizen scientists to local projects. Projects range from
migration tracking to water and air quality. One project, School of Ants USA, (https://www.scistarter.org/school-of-ants-usa)
asks citizen scientists to help track ant diversity by collecting and sending
in a sample of ants.
What if you have a high school student on your hands who wants to take summer science to the next level? No problem! Citizen science projects and the associated publicly available data sets can be used by students to ask their own questions and conduct their own research. Then, they can submit their work to the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS)!
Iowa JSHS showcases research conducted by high school
students each year to provide students with an outlet to share their work and
be recognized for their efforts. Attending the symposium provides youth with
exposure to Iowa high school research, and they also benefit from networking
opportunities with other student researchers and research professionals.
Want more information on student-led research? Be sure to
check out our previous posts on this topic!
1st place: Pooja Kasiviswanathan (Ames High School) — “Farming on Mars: potential strategies for sustainable agriculture in Martian conditions”
2nd place: Isabella Hoeger-Pinto (Iowa City West High School) — “Examination of plasma etch rate on silicon substrate with photoresist mask”
3rd place: Radha Velamuri (Valley High School) — “Involvement of the AhR in reproductive function with exposure to PCB 126”
4th place: Kayla Livesay (Van Buren Community High School) — “Accelerating plant growth to improve crop production and soil fertility: analyzing the effects of macronutrients and mycorrhizal fungi for Zea mays: Phase III”
5th place: Amara Orth (Lewis Central High School) — “What is honey? A comparison of honey from Iowa beekeepers versus national store brand honey using pH, pollen, and chemical composition analysis”
In addition to scholarships, these five students qualified to compete at the 57th Annual National JSHS in Albuquerque, New Mexico last week.
Approximately 230 high school students from all over the world attended the National JSHS to compete for scholarships and recognition in the fields of environmental science; life sciences; biomedical, cellular and molecular sciences; medicinal, behavioral and health sciences; engineering; mathematics and computer science; physics; and chemistry and material sciences.
Like the Iowa finalists, these impressive students qualified for the symposium by submitting and presenting original scientific research papers in regional symposia held at universities nationwide. Approximately 130 high school teachers, mentors, university faculty, ranking military guests and others also attended to encourage the future generation of scientists and engineers and celebrate student achievement in the sciences.
For the second consecutive year, an Iowa regional finalist placed at the national competition! Kayla Livesay (Van Buren Community High School) won second place in the Life Science division of the poster competition for her project, “Accelerating plant growth to improve crop production and soil fertility: analyzing the effects of macronutrients and mycorrhizal fungi for Zea mays: Phase III.” Congratulations to Kayla, as well as her teacher, Amanda Schiller (a former JSHS competitor herself)!
Congratulations to all who participated in both the Iowa regional and National Junior Science and Humanities Symposia! For more information on getting started with student research or the JSHS program, visit:
As a teacher, we know you have many goals for your students.
First and foremost, you are helping your students develop an understanding of
your discipline’s fundamentals. But we know that you do so much more than that!
You work to create opportunities for students to be creative and curious,
effectively identify and solve problems, think critically, set goals, make
decisions, communicate well, express confidence, and actively participate in
The goals you have for your students are abstract, so you
create actual experiences in your classroom to help students develop and
demonstrate these behaviors. But you’re busier than ever, and resources are
scarce. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a way to promote the many goals you
hold for them through a single project?
When you support students in conducting original research
projects, you are creating an environment for them to be curious and identify
problems that spark their interest. You are requiring that they think
critically about what questions are fruitful to ask and evaluate what can be
investigated given their constraints. You are expecting them to solve problems
that arise while designing and implementing their methods, determine how they
will collect and analyze data, generate conclusions that make sense and determine
the extent to which those conclusions are trustworthy.
When students participate in Iowa JSHS, they write scientific
papers detailing their investigations. Any high school student in the state of
Iowa can submit a research paper to Iowa JSHS at no cost. Each one is evaluated
by a panel of judges at the University of Iowa, creating an authentic audience
for whom students must develop a written product. The paper submission deadline
also creates authentic space that imposes the need for students to set
continual goals throughout their research project.
All students who submit papers are invited to attend the spring Iowa JSHS competition. The top 15 finalists are invited to deliver oral presentations to a panel of judges and a ballroom full of their teachers and peers. This differs from all other regional- or state-level science competitions, where students typically present a poster to individuals or small groups. Teachers tell us that the oral presentation component of Iowa JSHS deepens their students’ understanding of their project and helps them develop strong communication skills and confidence in their own abilities.
It’s not all business at Iowa JSHS, though. Research is a
collaborative experience, so we work to foster a sense of community. Students
in attendance have the opportunity to meet trained researchers, from
undergraduates to professors, during presentations and University lab tours.
They also have a chance to get to know other high school student researchers
through meals together, swimming in the hotel pool, and even a trivia night!
Students tell us that they value developing friendships with peers from other
districts who are also interested in STEM and research. In these ways, Iowa
JSHS invites students to actively participate in their newfound community.
of the common
characteristics of gifted students is a deep curiosity about the topics
they are interested in. They may spend hours scouring Google for more
information, ask complex questions in class, or observe how the topic relates
to one they learned about in another class.
As a classroom teacher, this level of interest can be exciting to witness. However, it may also present logistical challenges when trying to simultaneously maintain curriculum standards and balance the various learning needs of a classroom full of students.
school student STEM research can help solve both of these challenges. These
projects offer a way to implement the Science and Engineering Practices of the
new Next Generation Science Standards
(NGSS) and help students develop 21st-century
skills, while also naturally differentiating instruction through inquiry
and student choice.
The performance standards of the NGSS emphasize the role of students actively generating conceptual understanding while engaging in the practices of science. In this way, the NGSS reflect the idea that understanding the practices of science is just as important as the content knowledge itself. Research projects also help students develop important skills necessary for success in the 21st century. According to P21, essential life and career skills needed today include flexibility and adaptability, initiative and self-direction, social and cross-cultural skills, productivity and accountability, and leadership and responsibility. Student research projects offer a chance to practice each of these skills.
research also helps the classroom teacher engage students in science content by
allowing them to pursue an individual inquiry into a problem or generate new knowledge
about a topic of their choice. Having the opportunity to choose an individual
project exposes students to design and problem solving skills, as well as
hands-on, minds-on, and collaborative learning.
can differentiate instruction for students who are enthusiastic about diving
even deeper into their topic by encouraging them to submit their projects to
various high school student research competitions. These offer students an authentic audience to
which to present their work and a chance to win accolades, prizes, and even
college scholarships for their work. Competing for a prize adds a level of student
engagement by having a real, tangible benefit to completing their projects and
putting together a well-written research paper and presentation.
Research competitions, such as Iowa’s regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS), provide students an opportunity to engage with experts who will critique their work, and valuable experience presenting and communicating science to a broad audience. These events often offer students a chance to interact with STEM professionals, listen to presentations on other students’ research, or go on tours that expose them to real-world research environments and various STEM careers. This connects students to the STEM community and exposes them to the culture of science.
Iowa’s regional JSHS allows teachers to bring non-competing students as delegate attendees. Students who attend as delegates have the opportunity to see the top projects presented, attend lab tours, and interact with research professionals and other student-scientists from around the state. The top presenters advance to the national competition, where they join student researchers from around the nation to compete for substantial scholarships. There are also opportunities for hands-on workshops, panel discussions, career exploration, research lab visits, and student networking events. Last year, Iowa high school students took home a 1st place win at the national competition and more than $20,000 in scholarships! Next year, it could be your student.