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16 Best Biology Competitions for High School Students

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

a group of science student wearing their complete laboratory outfit and working inside the lab

16 Best Biology Competitions for High School Students

The best biology competitions for high school students provide a unique opportunity to explore life sciences deeply and comprehensively. These events challenge students, enhancing their knowledge and skills in Biology.

They range from local to international levels, allowing students to demonstrate their understanding, solve scientific problems, and meet others with similar interests. Winners often receive recognition, scholarships, or prizes. Read on to learn more about how you can participate in these enriching and exciting opportunities.

16 Best Biology Competitions for High School Students

Biology competitions allow high school students to dive into science, showcasing their knowledge and creativity.

These events test their understanding and inspire innovation and critical thinking, which is crucial for those aiming for a STEM career.

Top biology competitions that stand out for their relevance, impact, and opportunities they present to young scientists are highlighted below:

Research Laboratory

1. American Society of Human Genetics DNA Day Essay Contest

  • Location: Global
  • Registration Fee: No fee mentioned
  • Important Dates: Submission opens early January, closes March 6, winners announced April 25
  • Eligibility: Students in grades 9-12 worldwide

The American Society of Human Genetics DNA Day Essay Contest invites high school students globally to explore genetics through essay writing. This competition commemorates the Human Genome Project and the discovery of the DNA double helix, two pivotal events in genetics.

Participants are encouraged to discuss significant genetics concepts, presenting arguments demonstrating a deep understanding of the subject. This boosts their writing skills and enriches their knowledge of genetics. The essays are judged by genetics experts, focusing on accuracy, evidence-based arguments, and clarity. This rigorous evaluation ensures that the competition maintains high standards.

Winning this contest offers students recognition and cash prizes, but more importantly, it provides a platform to engage with the scientific community. For young scientists, this competition is an opportunity to explore discussions on genetics, showcase their ideas, and receive professional feedback. Nurturing future geneticists by encouraging academic excellence in this field is vital.

2. The BioGENEius Challenge

  • Location: Varies by state; finalists present in Boston
  • Cost: May vary by state
  • Contest Dates: January to late March annually
  • Application Deadline: Varies
  • Eligibility: High school students submitting research projects in specific categories

The BioGENEius Challenge is among the best biology competitions for high school students, focusing on biotechnology and life sciences. It encourages students to tackle challenges in healthcare, sustainability, and the environment through research projects. The competition is structured to begin with state and regional rounds leading up to the BIO International Convention in Boston for the finalists. This format allows participants to showcase and refine their research progressively.

Students gain exposure to the biotech industry by participating and interacting with professionals and experts at the BIO International Convention. This experience is invaluable, providing insights into biotech careers and the latest industry trends. Finalists get a rare glimpse into the professional world, opening up opportunities for future growth and collaboration.

Winners of the BioGENEius Challenge receive trophies, cash rewards, and recognition from industry leaders. This acknowledgment can lead to academic and career opportunities in biotechnology. The competition emphasizes innovation and ethical research, preparing participants for significant contributions to their fields. Through the BioGENEius Challenge, students can explore biotechnology deeply, develop solutions to pressing issues, and connect with a network of peers and professionals.

3. Brain Awareness Video Contest

  • Location: Global
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Contest Dates: Specific dates for 2024 not provided
  • Eligibility: High school students of all levels

The Brain Awareness Video Contest is a global competition that invites high school students to create videos about neuroscience, emphasizing the importance of sleep for teenagers. Sponsored by the Society for Neuroscience and BrainFacts.org, it challenges participants to convey complex neuroscience topics engagingly and understandably. This contest enhances participants’ neuroscience knowledge and improves their creativity and communication skills by requiring them to research, script, film, and edit their submissions.

The importance of sleep offers a practical angle that resonates with teenagers, encouraging them to explore and communicate scientific concepts that directly affect their daily lives. By participating, students can make neuroscience approachable to a wider audience, emphasizing the role of good sleep habits in enhancing health, safety, sports performance, and academic success.

Winners gain recognition for their ability to simplify and creatively present neuroscience concepts, contributing to public education. The contest serves as a platform for aspiring scientists to engage with the public, sharing valuable insights into neuroscience in an informative and captivating way.

4. Coleopterists Society Youth Incentive Award

  • Location: Global
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Contest Dates: Application due by November 1st annually
  • Application Deadline: November 1st
  • Eligibility: Junior (grades 7-9) and Senior (grades 10-12) categories

The Coleopterists Society Youth Incentive Award focuses on beetle research, providing financial support for high school students’ projects in this area.

This award encourages students to design and conduct research projects, offering practical experience in scientific inquiry and investigation. The financial grants help cover the costs associated with research, such as equipment and field trips, enabling students to undertake more ambitious projects and potentially make significant contributions to the field of entomology.

Participation in the award advances students’ understanding of beetles and their ecological roles and enhances their research and communication skills. It provides a valuable foundation for students interested in careers in biology, ecology, or conservation, promoting a deep appreciation for biodiversity and the scientific process.

A student looking on the microscope

 

5. American Academy of Neurology Neuroscience Research Prize

  • Location: Virtual
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Contest Dates: Closed (The deadline was November 2, 2023)
  • Application Deadline: November 2, 2023
  • Eligibility: Students in the U.S. in grades 9-12 with original research and writing

The American Academy of Neurology Neuroscience Research Prize is highly regarded among the best biology competitions for high school students, focusing specifically on studying the brain.

Entrants must provide a comprehensive research report that includes a 300-word summary of their project, showcasing their findings in neuroscience. The judging panel, consisting of neuroscience experts, evaluates submissions based on their originality, scientific depth, and clarity.

The competition awards cash prizes and offers winners the chance to attend major scientific meetings. These opportunities are invaluable for students considering careers in neuroscience or related fields, providing a platform to engage with professionals and learn about the latest research and developments. Additionally, it aims to deepen high school students’ interest and knowledge in neuroscience, encouraging them to pursue further studies and research in this exciting field.

6. Neuroscience for Kids Drawing Contest

  • Location: Global
  • Cost: Not specified
  • Contest Dates: Submission deadline in February
  • Application Deadline: February
  • Eligibility: K-12, college students, parents, and teachers

The Neuroscience for Kids Drawing Contest uniquely combines art and science, inviting students of various ages, including high schoolers, to illustrate concepts in neuroscience through drawing. This global competition is open to a wide audience, from young learners to adults, making neuroscience accessible and engaging through artistic expression.

Judges assess the submissions for creativity, scientific accuracy, and overall presentation, ensuring the winners blend artistic skills with a solid understanding of neuroscience. The contest’s broad eligibility criteria foster a diverse dialogue on neuroscience, bringing together different perspectives on how the brain is viewed and understood across cultures and age groups.

Students engage with neuroscience topics by participating, potentially sparking a long-term interest in the subject. Creating their artwork encourages participants to research and reflect on neuroscience, promoting a broader appreciation for the brain and its functions and highlighting the importance of blending scientific inquiry with creative thinking in education.

7. American Sleep Medicine Foundation High School Video Contest

  • Location: United States
  • Cost: Not specified
  • Contest Dates: Late May; winners will be announced in June
  • Application Deadline: Late May
  • Eligibility: High school students in the U.S.

The American Sleep Medicine Foundation High School Video Contest is a creative avenue for high school students in the U.S. to discuss the significance of sleep. Students are encouraged to create videos that explain how sleep affects health, academics, sports, and relationships. This contest aims to educate teenagers on the importance of sleep and the dangers of neglecting it, including its impact on mental and physical health.

In this contest, students use their creativity to produce informative videos. The challenge encourages participants to blend scientific knowledge with engaging storytelling, covering everything from sleep science to tips for better sleep habits. It’s an opportunity for students to study sleep health and present their findings in a way that resonates with their peers.

Participating in this contest allows students to hone their media production skills, from researching and scripting to filming and editing. It’s a practical exercise in communicating complex information through visual media, a skill increasingly valuable in today’s digital landscape.

By focusing on sleep health, the contest serves a dual purpose: it enables students to develop both their understanding of science and their creative talents and plays a crucial role in public health education. It demonstrates how creative projects can significantly raise awareness about health issues.

Bioengineer students working on a lab.

8. BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge

  • Location: United States
  • Cost: Not specified
  • Contest Dates: Not specified for 2024
  • Eligibility: High school students in the U.S. working in teams

The BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge, one of the best biology competitions for high school students, invites high school teams to explore bioenergy, creating infographics highlighting its production, advantages, and challenges. This U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored competition encourages students to investigate bioenergy’s scientific and environmental aspects, promoting awareness of sustainable energy.

Teams participating in the challenge must research bioenergy thoroughly, which aids in developing critical analysis and information synthesis skills. This research is crucial for understanding bioenergy’s impact on the environment and society, fostering critical thinking about renewable energy sources and sustainability.

Creating infographics for the competition allows students to combine science with creativity. Infographics are effective in simplifying complex topics into understandable and appealing visuals. This task challenges students to use graphic design skills to convey technical concepts in an engaging format, a valuable capability in the information age.

The BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge equips students with essential research, data analysis, and design skills, preparing them for future roles in science communication. It underscores the importance of presenting scientific information accessibly and compellingly, which is crucial for addressing global energy issues and promoting sustainable solutions.

9. iGEM Competition

  • Location: Global; World Championship in Chicago, Illinois
  • Cost: Not specified
  • Contest Dates: October 5-9, 2024
  • Eligibility: Winners of the highest level of Brain Bee in their country

The iGEM Competition is a top event for high school students interested in synthetic biology. It invites winners of the Brain Bee competition from each country. This competition merges engineering with biology to develop new biological parts and systems.

Teams from around the globe come together to design, construct, and test their projects, culminating in the iGEM Jamboree. This showcase presents their projects and allows students to connect with professionals and peers in the field. It encourages teamwork, ethical considerations in biotechnology, and innovation.

Through this competition, students push the boundaries of biological research and innovation. They learn to apply their theoretical knowledge to real-world problems, contributing to global solutions in science and technology. The iGEM Competition enriches students’ learning experiences, teaching them about the complexities and responsibilities of working in synthetic biology.

10. Junior Science and Humanities Symposium: Highlighting Excellence in STEM Research

  • Location: United States
  • Cost: Not specified
  • Contest Dates: May 1-4, 2024
  • Eligibility: U.S. high school students

The Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) offers high school students a venue to present original research in STEM. The 62nd National JSHS fosters scientific inquiry among students. It invites students to compete for scholarships and recognition by showcasing their research.

Participants gain experience in public speaking and receive constructive feedback, enhancing their research and communication skills. The symposium supports students interested in science and engineering careers, providing a platform for them to engage with the broader scientific community.

The JSHS connects young researchers with professionals and peers, allowing them to share their work and explore STEM careers. It underscores the importance of early research experiences in shaping future scientists and engineers, promoting research and collaboration.

Two young female scientist doing experiments in lab.

11. International Brain Bee

  • Location: Chicago, Illinois (Virtual)
  • Cost: Not specified
  • Contest Dates: October 5-9, 2024
  • Eligibility: National Brain Bee champions

The International Brain Bee is a premier event for high school students fascinated by neuroscience. It’s designed to encourage them to explore and understand the human brain, offering a stage for competitors worldwide. This competition uniquely focuses on real clinical cases, blending theoretical knowledge with practical insights.

Students must first win their national Brain Bee competitions to participate in the International Brain Bee. This ensures that the competition remains highly competitive, with participants who have already shown a strong understanding of and dedication to neuroscience. The competition rigorously tests students in neuroanatomy and neurohistology, closely reflecting the real-world challenges neuroscience professionals face.

Beyond just a competition, the International Brain Bee fosters a sense of global community among young neuroscientists. It promotes international cooperation and knowledge sharing, making it an important stepping stone for future leaders in the field. This global event offers young scholars early exposure to the international scientific community, encouraging networking with peers with similar interests.

12. USA Biology Olympiad (USABO)

  • Location: Host university (varies)
  • Cost: $95
  • Contest Dates: Closed (Deadline was January 14, 2024)
  • Application Deadline: January 14, 2024
  • Eligibility: U.S. high school students, including home-schooled, citizens or legal residents

The USA Biology Olympiad is recognized as one of the best biology competitions for high school students in the United States. It challenges participants with a series of exams designed to test their knowledge of biology, leading up to an intensive training program and an international competition.

Open to U.S. high school students from grades 9 to 12, including those who are home-schooled, the USABO requires participants to be U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents to advance beyond the Open Exam. The competition starts with this Open Exam, moves on to the Semifinal Exam, and concludes at the National Finals held at a university.

The National Finals are an educational experience where the top twenty finalists receive training in biological concepts and lab skills from leading experts. This part of the competition tests students’ knowledge and significantly broadens their understanding of biology, equipping them for their future academic and research careers.

The competition ends with selecting the top four students representing the U.S. at the International Biology Olympiad. Participating in the USABO offers invaluable experiences, making it a crucial opportunity for students passionate about biology and eager to contribute to the scientific community.

13. The Davidson Fellows Scholarship

  • Location: National
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Contest Dates: Applications open until February 15
  • Application Deadline: February 15
  • Eligibility: Science category for students with a research report and visual model

As one of the best biology competitions for high school students, the Davidson Fellows Scholarship recognizes high school students with outstanding achievements in science and other fields across the U.S. It supports students who have completed extensive research projects or visual models, aiming to foster creativity and knowledge in various disciplines.

Award winners receive significant scholarships to help with their academic endeavors, providing financial support and the honor of being a Davidson Fellow. This accolade motivates recipients to pursue further education and research, celebrating their past achievements while encouraging them to pursue excellence.

Young woman using a microscope to analyze a specimen.

14. Regeneron ISEF 2024

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Contest Dates: May 11-17, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school students

Regeneron ISEF 2024 is the largest pre-college STEM event globally, attracting high school students to present their scientific research. It’s set to take place in Los Angeles, California, and will feature a mix of in-person and online presentations, allowing for wide participation. Students must prepare thoroughly, including filling out detailed questionnaires and setting up their project displays for both physical and virtual audiences. This preparation highlights the event’s emphasis on scientific exploration and innovation.

The competition also includes networking sessions, allowing students to meet and learn from peers and professionals in STEM fields. These interactions are designed to provide insights into collaborative opportunities and further learning.

15. NSPC Health Science Competition

  • Location: Suffolk and Nassau counties, New York
  • Cost: $30
  • Contest Dates: Unspecified for 2024
  • Eligibility: Students in grades 9-12 in Nassau or Suffolk Counties, NY

The NSPC Health Science Competition is a unique event for high school students in Suffolk and Nassau counties, New York, focusing on STEM and health sciences. It is the only competition in the U.S., offering students a platform for scientific research and innovation.

Registration for this competition is annual, inviting students to submit projects for rigorous evaluation. The criteria include clarity of research question, design and methodology, execution, creativity, poster presentation, and overall presentation. This process ensures students present innovative ideas and develop scientific communication skills.

This competition allows participants to explore scientific research, fostering a generation of students knowledgeable in health science. Through participation, students gain experience that could influence their future medical careers.

By concentrating on health science, the NSPC Health Science Competition promotes critical and creative thinking about health issues, enhancing understanding of scientific processes in health science research. This event is crucial in inspiring future scientists and healthcare professionals.

16. National Science Bowl

  • Location: United States
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Contest Dates: April 25 – 29, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school students in teams

The National Science Bowl, initiated by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), is a leading academic competition. It challenges high school students nationwide to demonstrate their science and mathematics knowledge. The competition’s format and scope encourage students to develop a broad understanding of STEM.

Since 1991, the National Science Bowl has grown into one of the nation’s largest science competitions, engaging thousands of students annually. Its format, including regional and national levels, ensures widespread participation and promotes scientific excellence among high school students.

This competition is an essential platform for promoting STEM education. It tests their knowledge and problem-solving skills to prepare the next generation of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians. It also reflects the DOE’s commitment to fostering an interest in science and mathematics, encouraging students to pursue further education and careers.

The National Science Bowl’s impact goes beyond the competition, fostering teamwork, quick thinking, and scientific application skills. These abilities are valuable in scientific pursuits, life, and future careers.

In a classroom, students are busy taking their exam

The Impact of Participating in Biology Competitions

Participating in the best biology competitions for high school students profoundly influences a student’s academic journey and future career opportunities.

These competitions go beyond merely challenging students’ knowledge; they serve as gateways to the broader scientific community, offering profound experiences in research, critical thinking, and problem-solving.

Here, we explore how these competitions can shape participants’ futures, providing unparalleled educational and professional advantages.

Deepening Scientific Inquiry and Research Skills

Engagement in biology competitions propels students into the heart of scientific research. They explore subjects that often extend well beyond the standard high school curriculum, immersing themselves in the complexities of biological sciences.

This promotes a robust understanding of scientific concepts, encouraging students to question, investigate, and discover.

The research process for these competitions teaches students to formulate hypotheses, conduct experiments, analyze data, and draw conclusions, mirroring the work of real-world scientists and researchers.

Enhancing Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking

Critical thinking and problem-solving are essential in any field, but they are particularly valued in science. Biology competitions challenge students to apply their knowledge in new and complex situations, fostering a mindset that seeks solutions and innovations.

Through preparation and participation in these contests, students learn to approach problems methodically, think critically about data, and develop reasoned arguments—skills invaluable in academic and real-world scenarios.

Recognition and Scholarships

Achievement in biology competitions can bring significant recognition to students, setting them apart as exceptional talents in their field.

Many competitions offer scholarships, awards, and other forms of recognition that can ease the financial burden of higher education and provide students with opportunities to attend prestigious programs.

This recognition enhances a student’s academic portfolio and boosts confidence and motivation, driving them to further accomplishments.

Opening Doors to Advanced Education and Careers

Success in the best biology competitions can be a stepping stone to advanced educational opportunities and careers in the life sciences.

The skills and experiences gained through these competitions prepare students for the rigors of undergraduate and postgraduate study, making them attractive candidates for elite programs.

Furthermore, these achievements often catch the eye of universities and employers, opening doors to scholarships, internships, and research opportunities that might otherwise be inaccessible.

A male teacher and a student having a talk about caltech letters of recommendation

Fostering Collaboration and a Global Perspective

Many biology competitions have an international component, bringing together students from around the globe. Exposure to diverse perspectives and approaches to scientific problems fosters a sense of global community and collaboration among participants.

Participants learn to appreciate the value of working together across cultural and geographical boundaries, understanding that the challenges faced in biology and other scientific fields are universal.

The impact of participating in the best biology competitions for high school students extends far beyond the accolades and awards. These competitions cultivate a deep passion for science, hone essential research and critical thinking skills, and open up a world of opportunities for recognition, scholarships, and advanced studies. They prepare students for academic success and meaningful careers in the life sciences, contributing to their development as future leaders in the field.

Tips and Strategies in Preparing for Biology Competitions

Preparing for the best biology competitions for high school students demands dedication, curiosity, and a strategic approach. Here’s a streamlined guide to help students navigate their way to success in these competitions.

Understand Deeply

Success starts with a solid grasp of biology beyond what’s taught in high school. Extend your learning by:

  • Exploring Various Resources: Use textbooks, online courses, and scientific articles to dive deeper into genetics and ecology.
  • Keeping Up to Date: Regularly read science news from reliable sources to learn about the latest research and discoveries.

Research Skills

Research projects are central to many competitions, allowing students to showcase their investigative skills.

  • Choose Wisely: Pick a research topic that interests you and can make a meaningful contribution to science.
  • Find a Mentor: Seek advice from experts, such as university professors, who can guide your research process.
  • Use Available Resources: Take advantage of school clubs and local science facilities that support student research.

Presentation Skills

Being able to communicate your work effectively is crucial. Improve your presentation skills by:

  • Practicing Public Speaking: Gain confidence and clarity by participating in activities that require speaking in front of others.
  • Creating Engaging Visuals: Use tools to design visuals that help explain your research clearly.
  • Getting Feedback: Present to teachers and peers to refine your presentation based on their feedback.

Extracurricular Engagement

Joining science-related activities can enhance your preparation by providing additional learning and networking opportunities.

  • Participate in Science Clubs: Engage with peers in science clubs to discuss ideas and collaborate on projects.
  • Attend Workshops and Events: Seek biology workshops and events offering new insights and connections with professionals.
  • Enroll in Summer Programs: Consider university summer science programs for a deeper dive into biology, often including hands-on research experience.

A teacher helping her students in the library

Practical Experience

Hands-on experiments reinforce theoretical knowledge and foster a scientific mindset.

  • Experiment: Conduct simple experiments using everyday materials or school lab resources to apply what you’ve learned.
  • Join Citizen Science Projects: Participate in projects allowing you to contribute to real scientific research, enhancing learning and practical experience.

Preparing for the best biology competitions for high school students is a multifaceted journey. It involves deepening your scientific knowledge, researching, improving communication skills, participating in relevant extracurriculars, and gaining practical experience.

This comprehensive approach prepares you for competitions and enriches your understanding and appreciation of biology, setting a solid foundation for future scientific endeavors.

Conclusion

Biology competitions for high school students are more than just contests; they are gateways to discovery, innovation, and lifelong learning in the sciences. By engaging in these competitions, students challenge themselves academically and contribute to the global community’s understanding of biology and its applications.

Whether through essay writing, research projects, or creative presentations, these competitions offer diverse opportunities for young scientists to shine and lay the groundwork for their future careers in science.

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