JEI Mini-PhD Program: Learning the Scientific Method from Hypothesis to Publication

Have you ever had a question, searched for an answer online, but couldn’t find it? We spend much of middle school and high school learning facts about science and math, so it might seem like we know everything about our world; however, in truth, we still don’t know a lot about how our universe works. But there is a solution: the scientific method can help answer any question you might have, from finding a cure to a disease to designing a rocket to Mars.

By learning how to generate a hypothesis, design an experiment, and collect and analyze data, you can begin to search for the answers to the questions you’ve always had and help your community overcome its greatest challenges. Equally important, however, is the skill of communicating your findings to others. Sharing your experimental results not only provides answers to people who may have the same question in the future; it is also important for getting feedback from other scientists about how to improve your work.

We understand that your schooldays are full of lectures, exams, and labs. But JEI wants to give students the opportunity to find the answers to the questions they’ve always been curious about. To learn the scientific method, JEI is running an eight-week program for 8th-10th graders nationwide. Students will learn the entire process of performing an independent research project, from generating a testable research question and hypothesis to writing a manuscript for publication. After generating a research question, students will work in teams to perform an experiment, collect and interpret data, and write a scientific manuscript with the guidance of Harvard graduate students. Additionally, students will learn about different opportunities to continue independent research, prepare for college applications, and learn about different career options.

After completing the program, students will have the knowledge, mentorship and resources to perform their own independent research projects at school or at home, which can be submitted to JEI for publication. Students will learn from Harvard graduate, medical, and postdoctoral students. In addition to generating new knowledge for your community, published manuscripts are an excellent way to stand out on college applications and to build connections with other young researchers.

To be eligible, you must:

  • Be in 8th-10th grade starting September 2021
  • Be available on Saturdays 1-3pm EST between June 19th-August 7th, 2021
  • Meet at least one of the following criteria:
    • Be from a racial or ethnic group considered underrepresented in the sciences (Blacks or African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders)
    • Individuals with disabilities, who are defined as those with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, as described in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended
    • Will be a first-generation college student
    • Be from a disadvantaged background (e.g. were or currently are homeless, in the foster care system, eligible for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program 2+ years)
  • Show interest in pursuing an independent research project. Interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is encouraged but not required.

Application Requirements:

To apply, please submit responses to our online application form. Our application requires one letter of recommendation from a teacher. When submitting your application form, please provide an email address for your chosen recommender. JEI will email your recommender with an electronic form that they can submit remotely.

Application decisions are rolling and the absolute deadline for applying is May 1, 2021, 11:59pm EST. The deadline for teacher recommendations is May 15, 2021, 11:59pm EST. Late applications will not be reviewed.

Application Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Is there a minimum GPA?

No, but competitive applicants typically have a past-track record of academic success in STEM. Nevertheless, students who have expressed great enthusiasm in performing independent research projects are highly encouraged to apply.

2. Do I need research experience to apply?

No, research experience is not necessary but certainly does not disqualify your eligibility. Past research experiences may be discussed as motivation for your interest in our program.

3. What sort of experiments will students be performing?

Given the time restraints, students will perform experiments with bacteria, which grow quickly. Although the focus of the experiments will be biological, the scientific method is applicable to all fields of engineering and science. Students will be encouraged throughout the summer to identify questions in any field that interest them for future independent research projects.

4. Where will the program take place?

The program sessions will be fully conducted online via Zoom on Saturdays 1-3pm EST from June 19th-August 7th, 2021. Participants will be sent science kits to allow completion of their experiments at home.

5. Do I need to attend all eight sessions?

We strongly recommend that participants attend all eight sessions of the program as each week will build upon concepts learned from previous weeks. Attendance will be necessary for learning how to complete experiments at home.

6. Are there any costs associated with the program?

No, the program is completely free.

7. How will my teacher know to fill out a recommendation form?

Once you have submitted your application we will send an email to the teacher's address that you provided on the form.