Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

igniting and nurturing creative, ethical, scientific minds that advance the human condition

Student Inquiry and Research

"Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose."

- Zora Neale Hurston, in Dust Tracks on a Road, 1942


IMSA students please refer to the SIR Moodle site for current SIR information; this website is intended to provide general information to the public.



Formalized in and evolving since 1989, the Student Inquiry and Research (SIR) Program serves as a model learning environment that provides a framework for students to conduct original investigations on compelling questions of interest, collaborate with other students and on-campus or off-campus professionals such as educators, researchers and scholars, and to share their investigation results through public presentation and publication.

SIR is a one credit, graded course that extends for the entire academic year; note that this credit does not count toward the minimum requirements for graduation. Academic credit is also available for summer investigations, depending on the nature of the proposal.

Eligibility Requirements

Students must have completed their first year at IMSA and be in good academic standing to be eligible for participation in the Student Inquiry and Research program. Eligible students may enroll in SIR for both their junior and senior years and in both summers following their sophomore and junior years at IMSA. For summer enrollments, approval must be secured in May before starting the summer investigation.

Conducting Investigations

The focal point of each Student Inquiry and Research investigation is a specific question or topic identified by the student. Students investigate the question or topic by following an inquiry-based process for conducting investigations. Inquiry Days (usually Wednesdays) are set aside for IMSA students to pursue this self-directed learning experience; with few exceptions, regular academic classes are not held on I-Days.

Resources to support Student Inquiry and Research

IMSA provides a variety of unique resources to help facilitate SIR investigations.

Outcomes of Student Inquiry and Research

Annual IMSAloquium Publication

Chief among the outcomes of Student Inquiry and Research is the investigation results. In the spring of each school year, learnings gleaned from participation in the Student Inquiry and Research program are shared at a student investigations showcase, the IMSAloquium, on the IMSA campus. Abstracts for the most recently completed SIR investigations are published for distribution at this annual showcase.

The Advisor

The student conducts the investigation with the support of an advisor. The advisor is a professional who is currently working at a laboratory, educational institution, museum, field site, corporation, or other facility, and who is qualified to provide expert guidance based on professional training and experience in the field associated with student's question or topic. 

Additional Information

For questions and information about SIR, please explore this website, read the FAQs, and/or contact the Director of Student Inquiry and Research.  Students and parents/guardians are encouraged to review and discuss the  safety tips together.