Upper School
US Curriculum

Independent Research Program

Established in 2015, the Independent Research Program at Hackley provides students with a passion for science the opportunity to participate in authentic scientific research in a genuine setting.
This three-year program is designed to give students first-hand experience in conducting research, thus bridging the gap between a traditional high school science curriculum and the process behind real-world scientific discoveries.

Students accepted in the program will spend each summer after their sophomore and junior years working closely with research scientists to conduct self-designed experiments, either in an academic, medical or industrial lab. The program culminates with the students submitting their results to regional, national and/or international science and engineering fairs.

Students prepare for the challenges of conducting research during the school year by learning foundational skills such as performing proper literature reviews, reading and analyzing data, and presenting results. The program also aids students in identifying and contacting potential mentors at universities and research facilities. Once a student has paired with a mentor, they work together to design an experiment to be carried out over the summer. Ideally, the mentor and student find the experience mutually rewarding, so they can continue working together throughout the academic year in preparation for future experiments during subsequent summers.

Independent Research Program

List of 3 items.

  • Independent Research 10

    • 6 meetings per seven-day cycle/3 credits.
    • Pass/Fail. Approval via application process.
    This course is the first year course for the Independent Research Program. The goals of this course are for students to decide on their independent research project and to contact potential mentors to host them for the following summer. The course focuses on basic skills associated with research, such as literature reviews, designing and conducting experiments, data analysis and presenting their results to an audience. Students are expected to be motivated to work efficiently and independently throughout the course.
  • Independent Research 11

    • 6 meetings per seven-day cycle/3 credits.
    • Pass/Fail
    • Prerequisite: Independent Research 10 and permission of the instructor.
    This course is the second year course for the Independent Research Program. The goals of this course are for students to finalize their research project for the program and to secure a mentor to guide their research for the following summer. Students continue to hone their skills in analyzing and presenting data in the form of written reports and presentations. They will also serve as mentors for students in IRP 10. At the end of the year, students will be expected to present their results in local science competitions. Students are expected to be motivated to work efficiently and independently throughout the year.
  • Independent Research 12

    • 6 meetings per seven-day cycle/3 credits.
    • Pass/Fail
    • Prerequisite: Independent Research 11 and permission of the instructor.
    This course is the final course of the Independent Research Program. The goal of this course is for students to submit their work to regional and national competitions. The deadlines of these competitions are during the first trimester of school, which coincide with early decision college applications deadlines. As such, students need to be highly motivated and be able to work independently. During the latter half of the year, students will be expected to serve as mentors for students in IRP 10 and 11.

List of 2 news stories.

List of 9 news stories.

  • Talking Science in IRP

    Arielle Stern (Class of ’16) came to visit the Independent Research students during her fall break from UPenn, and talked about her rich experiences at Regeneron, starting in their immunology lab, spending a summer in their genetics lab, and most recently working in bioinformatics.
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  • Dr. Friedrich Boettner (P ’18 & ‘19) visits IRP

    Dr. Boettner (P ’18 & ’19) visited Hackley’s Independent Research students on Thursday, May 10. Read on.
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  • Hackley IRP Group Learn About Problem Solving

    Michael Derby P ’28, ’30, Founder and CEO of Castle Creek Pharmaceuticals, visited the Independent Research Program students on April 20, 2018. Read on.
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  • Hackley senior Jasmine Bayrooti '18

    Jasmine Bayrooti ‘18 Competes at WESEF

    On Saturday, March 17, 2018, Hackley senior Jasmine Bayrooti presented a poster of her work on the “Applications of Algebraic Topology for Video Compression and the Classification of Pseudo Random Number Generators” at the Westchester Science & Engineering Fair (WESEF). Read on.
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  • Pavel returns for his annual visit to meet the student’s in Hackley Independent Research Program.

    Pavel Litvinov visits Hackley’s IRP

    Legendary physics and calculus teacher, Pavel Litvinov, returned to the Hilltop for his annual visit to Hackley’s Independent Research Program on March 5, 2018. Read on.
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  • Vinay Bijoor '18

    Hackley Independent Research Program students compete at the W.R.J.S.H. Symposium

    On Saturday, February 3, 2018 Hackley students Vinay Bijoor '18, Will Crainer '19, and Josh Zhang '19 presented posters of their past summer's research at the Westchester Rockland Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.
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  • Vinay Bijoor '18

    Hackley IRP Students Compete

    On February 3, Vinay Bijoor '18, Will Crainer '19, and Josh Zhang '19 presented work completed last summer as part of their participation in the Hackley Independent Research program at the Westchester Rockland Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. Read on.
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  • Jules Oppenheim ’15 (Bright green shirt) with IRP students.

    Jules Oppenheim ’15

    Jules visited Hackley’s Independent Research program on Friday, September 15. He is currently a junior at Caltech, and conducting research under Professor Goddard where they are developing the next generation of universal force fields for molecular simulations.
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  • Mike Leonard ’14 (Back row center) with the IRP students.

    Mike Leonard ’14

    Mike visited Hackley’s Independent Research program on Thursday, September 7. He is currently a senior at Northwestern, and spent the summer conducting research in computer science.
    Read More

List of 1 news stories.

  • IRP Application Process

    Students apply to the program during their freshman year, and are evaluated on their academic accomplishments and essays that demonstrate their passion for science.
    Read More

IRP Application FAQs

List of 8 frequently asked questions.

  • What is the time commitment for this program?

    Each year, the students will be enrolled in a major course that meets 6/7 days per cycle (as with Math, Language, Science, History and English). Since it is a major class, students will have minimal free periods to do their homework or meet with teachers During the summers between sophomore/junior and junior/senior years, students are expected to work 6-8 continuous weeks in a laboratory.
  • Does the program have internships / mentors / lab placements for the students during the summer already lined up?

    No, it is the responsibility of the student to secure a mentor / lab placement for the summers. The program guides the students in the background research, and helps students gain the necessary skills to be competitive in finding a mentor / lab.
  • Are there homework, quizzes or tests?

    There is nightly homework of 30 minutes (max) per night. There are no quizzes, tests or exams associated with this class. However, students and parents need to be aware that since it is a major class, students will have minimal free periods to do their homework or meet with teachers.
  • What if the student does not find a mentor/lab placement for the summer?

     If the student does not have a mentor/lab placement for the summer between 10th/11th grade, there is no consequence except they will not have had the lab experience. If the student does not have a mentor/lab placement for 11th/12th grade summer, they will not be allowed to participate in their senior year.
  • How do students decide on what project they want to pursue? Are they assigned a projects?

    Students pursue projects based on their individual interests, within reason. No projects are assigned. The program may guide students away from certain projects if they do not seem feasible, or if the safety of the student or community is at risk, the project topic will not be allowed.
  • Can students switch projects, or are they locked in for 3 years?

    Students may change projects at any time. However, it is highly encouraged that students continue working on the same projects for at least a year to fully develop it. Projects that stay similar in scope in the three years will likely be stronger by the end of the program.
  • Can students leave after 1 year?

    Yes, there is no requirement to complete all three years. However, only students that are passionate about completing scientific research are encouraged to apply.
  • How is the course graded?

    The course is pass/fail. As long as students meet their deadlines, they will pass.