Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

To ignite and nurture creative, ethical, scientific minds that advance the human condition.

Student Research

"Approach each new problem not with a view of finding what you hope will be there, but to get the truth, the realities that must be grappled with."

- Bernard M. Baruch



The student investigation is conducted as an interactive partnership with a research mentor to pursue a question or topic about which the student is keenly interested. While pursuing this investigation, the student acquires further knowledge and a deeper understanding of the topic, and develops skills in planning, investigating, analyzing, and communicating results of innovative research.

Participation Requirements for Students

SIR is an academic year-long (e.g. two semester) course; once admitted to the program, students must participate for the entire academic year. (Note that for students participating in SIR, course load limits as described in the “Course Load” section of the IMSA Student Handbook will be increased.) Since SIR is a student-centered endeavor, to remain in good standing with the SIR program and to earn academic credit the participating student is expected to meet all requirement deadlines.

The Research Project

Initially, students consider possible areas of investigation and potential research mentors. For some students, this step begins with the identification of a faculty member on campus or off campus at a local university or research laboratory that they'd like to do work with. For other students, this step involves reaching out to us in the SIR office to identify opportunities that already exist.The SIR office maintains a list of active projects that students can join in the fall semester. With the guidance of that advisor, students develop a specific plan to investigate the chosen area or topic. Limited funds and other IMSA resources may be available to support approved investigations.

Progress on the investigation is documented regularly by the student in written work that should be approved by the research mentor and submitted to the SIR office to allow for structured reflection on the investigation. A research project follows five basic phases:

  1. Getting acquainted with the field
  2. Development of a research question
  3. Development of a research plan
  4. Execution of the research plan
  5. Communication of results

The research mentor and SIR team together provide guidance and support for students to work through this process.

Sharing Results

Near the end of each academic year, all SIR students participate in an annual on-campus showcase of student investigations: IMSAloquium. Parents, research mentors, IMSA staff and students, and outside visitors are all welcome.

Students are also encouraged to share their work and results with relevant organizations outside of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy when the project has reached an appropriate state of maturity. There are many outstanding additional opportunities to leverage SIR experiences and results, and IMSA students have received many external achievements with them.

Research Mentors

IMSA is grateful for the generosity of all professionals who undertake the serious commitment of supporting students engaged in research. Great mentors are people who are enthusiastic about their profession and who have an interest in guiding others to learn more in their field. If you are interested in working with IMSA students or know of others who might be, please encourage them to peruse our website and contact us for further information.

Additional Information

Information for students and parents regarding registering for SIR in the 2017-18 academic year is available in this document (pdf).

Before beginning an SIR project, students and parents/guardians will need to sign the Parent/Guardian Permission and Student Agreement form.

During the academic year the Director of Student Inquiry and Research will ensure that parents/guardians receive updates about the student's approved SIR investigation via email and through the IMSA online school management system provided by PowerSchool® as needed.