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I need a topic for my Independent Research High school senior

  1. Aug 25, 2009 #1
    I am having an awful time trying to find a topic..... any help would be appreciated
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 16, 2009 #2
    I'm in a similar position, luckily my independent research project doesn't start until the second semester but I still can't think of a good topic.
  4. Sep 16, 2009 #3


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    Oo oo, I know. You should build a volcano.

    Okay, sarcasm mode off. The issue at hand is that these are supposed to be INDEPENDENT research projects. What you might want to do is check out some popular science magazines to see what topics are hot out there. A recent issue of Popular Science featured a very interesting article on high school innovators and the projects they undertook. This might give you some ideas. You could also talk to your teachers and figure out what other people have had success with in previous years (especially what projects earned top marks).

    Or, you know, there's always a volcano.
  5. Sep 16, 2009 #4
    I actually happened to read that article earlier this summer, and I think those are pretty high goals in comparison to an average student. Those were the future geniuses of American inventing geothermal vent generators, nanotube solvents, and cancer medicine with less side effects at the age of 18. I'm looking for a small scale physics experiment, and although I have no doubt an idea will come to me in time, I was just wondering if any physicists had any quick ideas to get the ball rolling.
  6. Sep 20, 2009 #5
    Anyone have ideas for tasman and I?
  7. Sep 20, 2009 #6
    E-mail some faculty that do research at a local university and see if you can do it in their lab. They would probably be able to come up with a project for you.
  8. Sep 20, 2009 #7
    Thanks for responding naele. Thats a great suggestion, one I will probably pursue since my High School doesn't posses the necessary materials to conduct an experiment that would produce viable results.
  9. Sep 20, 2009 #8
    that's sort of a vague question. What are your interests and what sort of facilities do you have access to?
  10. Sep 20, 2009 #9
    Its kind of hard for me to specify my interests, I've been reading physics books on all different topics ever since my first year in High School (including my normal physics class) so my understanding and education in physics is quite varied. Many of the things I've found interesting in the books I've read are purely theoretical so I don't think it would help me much. I live near Danbury, CT so I have access to a few nearby universities such as WestConn and Fairfield. Other than that its really just my High School science department (which isn't much).
  11. Sep 20, 2009 #10


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    While it would be great if you could get a chance to work with a professor, understand your chances are slim. Professors have their own grad students and undergrads to supervise, as well as teaching classes and doing their own research (and applying for grants and writing papers and serving on committees...). It's often hard for a undergrad to get a chance to work with a professor - they don't have as much time or background in the field as a grad student, so they take up a lot more of the professors time for less result. A high school student would take up even more time, in theory, and require a lot more training. Many undergrads will start out working in a lab on someone else's research project - defining your own project you can do in a semester or two with original results may be unfeasible.

    You might have a bit more luck contacting grad students than professors - some of them are capable of advising you in a research project and might be able to 'outsource' some of their research to you. But this is just speculation - as a grad student, I'm helping my adviser oversee a few undergrad research projects. And yes, it's taking up a lot of my time that would be better spent on my dissertation - but it will look good on my resume when applying for faculty jobs. Good luck.
  12. Sep 20, 2009 #11
    what about generalizations. Are you a laser geek? Would you rather work on an earth-science type problem or an astrophysics type problem? See where I'm going with this? Have you looked at what people have done in years past?

    You still might contact the universities or talk with your HS teacher. Some universities have funding set aside for this sort of thing.
  13. Sep 20, 2009 #12
    As for generalizations I'm very interested in astrophysics, in fact I'm hoping to do my internship at a near-by observatory, but I also did very well in earth science so that is also an option. I'll talk to my HS teacher again since the first time I asked him about an independent study he didn't go into details about the actual research I would be able to do. I agree with eri though, working with a HS student would be a huge hassle so I think it might be more of a last resort if grad student or professor would be willing to help me.
  14. Oct 3, 2009 #13


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    I would suggest an experiment involving magnetohydrodynamics (MHD). you could get pretty creative with that one. Also, a maglev train/ roller coaster. those are some of the interesting ones. although you would need pretty good math skills to understand MHD and some cash for buying all the magnets for a maglev train. another option is to build a solar powered car (classic i know...). also a type of battery from the sludge at the bank of your local river. as well as geothermal power generation exercises. I would also suggest a solar water-heater. all these things you can find on the internet. all but the MHD jet is pretty simple. a Stirling engine would be fun as well if you have the machine shop skills and tools.
  15. Oct 6, 2009 #14
    Thanks for the response taylaron. I'm really intrigued by the MHD jet, but I can't find any additional info on the research or mechanics behind it. Would you mind explaining a bit more about it?
  16. Oct 6, 2009 #15


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    This is a good explanatory video of MHD mechanics.
    its basically a jet for water. you can do it using two very strong magnets (Neodymium) parallel to each other, insert it in salt water and run current through the water and magnets in a way that water is attracted to the magnetic field lines between the two magnets. This might deviate from actually how it works.
    to be honest I dont fully understand the concepts behind it entirely; I havent finished my college education yet.

    search for MHD water jet or Magnetohydrodynamics water propulsion. there is plenty out there if you look in the proper places. im afraid i cant be much help.


    some good searches on youtube

    another suggestion for a project would be a tesla coil, pancake coil or electroscope. those you can all find online. a Tesla coil is somewhat dangerous; if you choose to do it, definitely use a rotating belt to generate electricity opposed to stepping up the voltage using a transformer from electricity from the wall. its like rubbing a baloon on your head and shocking something with it... raw basics. static electricity. there are kits online, but they can be a bit expensive for my estimate of your budget.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  17. Oct 10, 2009 #16
    Thanks again taylaron, you've been a huge help with this. The only problem with a few of these projects is that I need something that I can conduct research on over the coarse of a semester. I need to meet with my project adviser once a week and show him my progress, then at the end i present my findings to a committee. I love the ideas I just don't know if they can last for several months.
  18. Oct 10, 2009 #17


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    if this is research, you need to have an objective. Building things is fun, but there needs to be a purpose.

    for MHD you could put some work into it and calculate exactly how much energy it takes to move a cubic centimeter of water 1ft. then, take that and calculate or research how much energy it take to move a submarine or other underwater object and calculate how much energy it would take to accomplish that and with what provisions (e.g. supercooled magnets, etc...). The mass of the underwater object (or displaced volume) would need to be incorporated because for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. that is vital in this experiment.

    you could build a miniature "wind tunnel" for water and calculate how much power goes into moving a piece of e.g. floating oatmeal 2ft inside a 2in diameter pipe. then, compare those results with the energy required to move the same amount of water around a crude "scale model" of a submarine.

    you can really put a lot of thought into this project and if you make your objective specific enough. "is a MHD propelled military grade submarine reasonable with today's technology?"
    do some research on this objective; its been officially researched. i'll let you figure that one out. the objective results dont HAVE to be positive.
    Be creative!!
    haha, now this makes me want to do this project. lol.
  19. Oct 10, 2009 #18


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    dang! that would be a blast for a science project!!!

    *note to self: stop giving brilliant ideas away...
  20. Oct 12, 2009 #19
    Wow that is an amazing idea! Hope you don't mind if i borrow your brilliant science project ^^. I'll talk to my adviser about it tomorrow. Thanks again for all of your help.
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