A Complete Guide To The Junior Science and Humanities Symposium

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

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A Complete Guide To The Junior Science and Humanities Symposium

The Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) is a premier national platform promoting high school research in STEM fields. It recognizes and supports aspiring scientists and engineers by inviting students from all over the United States to showcase their original research. Winning requires innovative and in-depth research and the ability to effectively communicate complex scientific ideas clearly and convincingly to a diverse audience.

What is the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium?

The Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) is an annual national-level science fair in the US, sponsored by the Department of Defense. It encourages high school students to conduct original research in STEM fields.

Regional and national symposia are held in the second half of the academic year, involving over 8,000 students and teachers from the US, Puerto Rico, and DoD-affiliated schools globally. Students first compete in regional symposia to qualify for the national event. The program aims to enhance STEM research and development skills in the future U.S. workforce.

The Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) emphasizes STEM education by encouraging students to conduct research in science and technology. It’s designed to foster growth in young researchers, potentially leading to significant discoveries.

A key feature of JSHS is the interaction between students and experienced researchers, facilitating idea exchange, advice, and long-lasting connections. Teachers also benefit by participating in a community shaping STEM education’s future.

Organized by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), students must excel at regional levels to qualify for the national competition. The symposium focuses exclusively on STEM topics, challenging students and offering opportunities for recognition and scholarships.

How does the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium work?

The Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) operates through regional and national symposia. Students first participate in regional events, presenting their original research through oral and poster presentations.

Students working on a library while working.

The top finalists from these regional symposia are then invited to compete at the national symposium. The presentations focus on students’ abilities to effectively communicate their research findings to an audience of peers, educators, and professional scientists.

Despite its name, the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) focuses exclusively on STEM research. The categories include:

  • Environmental Science
  • Biomedical Sciences; Cell/Molecular Biology
  • Life and Behavioral Sciences
  • Medicine and Health
  • Engineering and Technology
  • Math and Computer Science, Computer Engineering
  • Physical Sciences (Physics, Astronomy, Internet of Things)
  • Chemistry (Physical Chemistry, Materials Science, Alternative Fuels, Geochemistry)

Participants engage in these STEM fields, aiming to advance scientific knowledge and innovation.

How to participate at the regional and national level


Here’s a list of the qualifications to participate in the regional and national level:

  • High school students in grades 9-12
  • Regional Participation: Students can compete in only one regional symposium, determined by their school’s address, except for the Virtual Region.
  • Citizenship: Participants must be U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.
  • Continuation Projects: Research that extends a previous project must include new methods or data.
  • Project Types: Work can be from class, science fairs, or summer research.
  • Team Projects: Only the team leader presents and registers the project but must recognize the entire team’s contribution
  • Team Awards: The same presenter must present at both regional and national levels if selected.
  • Inappropriate Projects: Demonstrations, library research, or purely informational projects are not suitable.
  • Presentation Timing: Students must present at assigned times or risk disqualification.

Students wishing to apply to JSHS should use their region’s registration link to submit all required work. Written and oral reports must present original research results. While assistance from teachers, mentors, parents, or peers is allowed, students must clearly state their role and understanding of the research.

The use of ChatGPT or other AI tools to write reports is prohibited, and any AI use must be identified in the Statement of Outside Assistance. No teacher or mentor sponsorship is required for registration.

Students apply to JSHS by submitting a written report (abstract and/or paper) and a Statement on Outside Assistance via Ideal-Logic. Additional forms and regional policies will be provided as needed. University faculty and STEM professionals conduct an initial review to select participants for the regional symposium.

Selected students present their research in either an oral or poster competition, showcasing original laboratory, field, or applied research. Both formats offer a chance to advance to the National JSHS, with the number of advancing students varying by region.

Students listening in front of the class.

Regional Symposium

The JSHS experience begins with a Regional Symposium, hosted by local universities and organizations. These symposia are held across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Department of Defense schools in Europe and the Pacific. American citizens and residents attending DoD schools abroad can also participate.

To apply for JSHS, students must submit a written report (abstract and/or research paper) and a Statement on Outside Assistance via CVENT. Registration is free. University faculty initially judge these submissions to select participants for the regional symposium. At the regional level, students can present their research in oral or poster competitions or attend as non-competitive delegates.

The top five finalists from each region advance to the National JSHS with all expenses paid. The first two finalists compete for scholarships through oral presentations, while the remaining three compete for cash awards in the poster category. 

Selection criteria and presentation formats vary by region. Oral presentations are generally considered more prestigious and compete for higher scholarships. Some regions decide on presentation formats after initial screening, while others may require additional competition rounds.

Each region awards a total of $4,500 in undergraduate tuition scholarships:

  • 1st Place: $2,000
  • 2nd Place: $1,500
  • 3rd Place: $1,000

National Symposium

Students who advance from their regional fair are invited to the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, where 245 high school students present their original scientific research papers. 

A total of $192,000 in undergraduate tuition scholarships is awarded to the top three finalists in each subject category of the National Symposium’s oral research paper competition.

  • 1st Place: $12,000 per finalist
  • 2nd Place: $8,000 per finalist
  • 3rd Place: $4,000 per finalist

The top three finalists in the research poster competition receive smaller cash awards, typically around $300, which are significantly less than the scholarships for oral presentation winners.

Junior Science and Humanities Symposium Regional and National Categories

Student research presentations are organized into eight categories at the regional and national symposia. These categories are assigned based on a review of the abstracts and the suggested research area. While students can suggest categories for their research, final category assignments may change after the review of all abstracts.

Students working on something while in the classroom.


Category Specific Fields
Environmental Science Bioremediation, Ecosystems management, Environmental engineering, Land Resource Management, Pollution, toxicity, and their impact on ecosystems.
Biomedical Sciences Biomedical medicine, Microbiology, Cellular/Molecular Biology, Genetics, Immunology, Pharmacology, Virology.
Life & Behavioral Sciences Developmental Biology, Plant Physiology, Population Genetics, General Biochemistry, Microbiology.
Behavioral Sciences Medicine & Health, Biochemistry, Bioengineering, Disease Diagnosis and Treatment, Epidemiology, Immunology, Neuroscience, Physiology, Pathology.
Engineering & Technology Aerospace, Aerodynamics, Electrical Engineering, Solar Energy, Vehicle Development, Devices, Mechanical Engineering, Robotics
Mathematics & Computer Science Probability and Statistics, Mathematics, Computer Science (Algorithms, Databases, Networking), Computer Engineering.
Physical Sciences Astronomy, Theoretical and Solid-State Physics, Acoustics, Optics, Thermodynamics, Particle Physics, Quantum Physics, Nuclear Physics, Internet of Things (IoT).
Chemistry Physical Chemistry, Materials Science, Alternative Fuels, Organic Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Earth Science, Geochemistry, Alternative Energy.

Important Dates

Take note of the following timeline to help you prepare better:

  • October – January: Regional Symposium registrations open (deadlines vary by region).
  • January – February: Regional Symposia presentation
  • May: National JSHS presentation

The 62nd National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, from May 1-4, 2024.

National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium Past Winners

Category Presenter Project
Environmental Science Aditya Sengupta

The Overlake School – Washington

LeAF: Leveraging Convolutional Neural Networks for Plant Anomaly Detection and Classification for Farmers with Large Language Models for Natural Language Interaction
Neel Ahuja

Millburn High Schoo – New Jersey Northern

Reducing Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Water Contamination With Mycorrhizal Hydroponics Plants
Biomedical Sciences Saathvik Kannan

David H. Hickman High School – Missouri

Revolutionizing Cancer Drug Discovery with DrugGen: Identifying a Novel Drug for DNA polymerase
Amara Martin

Kamehameha Schools Kapālama – Hawaii & Pacific

Using Aspirin to Mitigate Renal Toxicity of Lithium for Bipolar Disorder Using HEK293 Cells
Life and Behavioral Sciences Faith You

Hellgate High School – Intermountain

microRNAs in Action: Regulation of Feeding Behavior
Ashu Anand

Alabama School of Fine Arts – Alabama

The Effects of Electrical Stimulation on Planaria Tissue Regeneration
Medicine and Health Joseph Yu

Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science – New England Southern

Using Immune Footprints in a Novel Deep Learning Model to Detect Human Diseases
Jingjing Liang

The Harker School – California Northern

SEL Fusion System: Multisource Digital Biometrics and Stimuli for Early ASD Screening
Engineering and Technology Shrihan Ganesh Babu

Spring Valley High School – South Carolina

Reducing Tracheal Complications in Endotracheal Intubation Patients Using Automated Cuff Pressure Modulation
Luc Nguyen

Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology – Georgia, Gwinnett

Low-Cost, Adjustable, Pediatric Prosthetic Leg
Math and Computer Science Om Shah

Lakeside School – Washington

Serum Bilirubin Prediction for Neonates using Segmentation-Guided Neural Networks
Antonia Kolb

King School – Connecticut

DETICKT IT: A Machine Learning-Based Application for Real-Time Tick Identification and Spatiotemporal Disease Risk Assessment
Physical Sciences Emily Alemán

CROEC – Puerto Rico

Discovery of New Extragalactic Planet Candidates: A Novel End-to-end Machine Learning Pipeline for Efficient Transit Detection in the X-ray Spectrum
Cayden Shen

Roslyn High School – New York – Long Island

Using an Inexpensive Night Vision Camera as a Detector in NIR Spectroscopy
Chemistry Aarush Tutiki

Albuquerque Academy

A Two-Pronged Method for the Identification of Highly Biocompatible Nanomaterials
Calvin Mathew

American Heritage Broward – Florida

3D Printing Personalized Knee Implants: Novel Computational Geometric Models for Stem Cell Regeneration in Meniscus Tears


1. What’s unique about the JSHS?

The JSHS Virtual Mentorship Program offers a unique feature not commonly found in other science competitions: year-round access to mentors through an online platform called Chronus. This program connects students with mentors from diverse STEM backgrounds, including science, engineering, education, and Department of Defense experts. Students can receive feedback and support throughout the competition season and during research or project improvement phases. Local mentors can also join Chronus to utilize its features. Personalized mentor recommendations are provided based on the student’s specific research interests.

2. Is the JSHS prestigious?

The Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) is a highly prestigious competition, second only to ISEF among science fairs. According to the JSHS website, around 8,000 students compete in regional symposia for just 245 spots in the finals, resulting in an acceptance rate of about 3%, higher than ISEF’s. JSHS attracts top scientific talent, with many students participating in both ISEF and JSHS. Winning a category in the oral competition highlights a student’s expertise in scientific research at the high school level.

Two students talking to a professor.

3. What is the JSHS acceptance rate?

The acceptance rate for the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) finals is approximately 3%. This is based on the competition’s structure, where around 8,000 students compete in regional symposia for 245 spots in the national finals.

5. Are there any costs involved in participating JSHS?

Participating in the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) typically involves no cost for students at the regional level. Registration for regional symposia is free. For students advancing to the national level, all expenses are covered, including travel and accommodation. This ensures that financial constraints do not hinder participation in the competition.

How to excel in the JSHS

Junior Science and Humanities Symposium attracts some of the brightest young minds, making the competition fierce. To stand out, you must possess a set of unique and usable skills. Here are surefire tips that we came up with to help you stand out in the competition:

Craft a strong abstract

Your abstract is crucial since it’s the first document judges review. It should clearly and succinctly summarize your research within 250 words. An effective abstract highlights the key aspects of your research, including the problem statement, methodology, results, and conclusion, all in a concise format.

To improve your abstract:

  • Review the Abstract Handbook: Look at previous national-level participants’ abstracts to understand how to balance different sections of your research in a single paragraph.
  • Problem Statement: Clearly define the issue your research addresses.
  • Methodology: Briefly describe the methods you used to conduct your research.
  • Results: Summarize your key findings.
  • Conclusion: Highlight the significance of your results and their potential impact.

A well-crafted abstract not only demonstrates your research’s importance but also showcases your ability to communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively.

Maximize mentorship opportunities

Take full advantage of the JSHS mentorship program, which connects students with experienced mentors in various STEM fields. Engaging with a mentor can provide you with invaluable insights, constructive feedback, and guidance throughout your research process. If the mentors available through the JSHS program don’t align perfectly with your research interests, don’t hesitate to seek external mentorship opportunities. Having a dedicated mentor can significantly enhance the quality of your research, help you troubleshoot issues, and refine your project to meet high academic standards.

Study winning projects

Analyzing past winning projects is crucial for understanding the types of research that succeed in JSHS. Review these projects to identify common themes, methodologies, and presentation styles. This analysis can help you grasp the expected standards and inspire your own research direction.

Young woman using a laptop while holding a pen.

Here’s what to focus on:

  • Structure: Observe how previous winners structured their investigations and addressed their research questions.
  • Methodology: Note the methods they used and how they justified their choices.
  • Presentation: Look at how they presented their findings, ensuring clarity and impact.

Pay attention to the originality, depth, and clarity of their work. Understanding these elements can guide you in designing a compelling and competitive project, ensuring your research stands out to judges.

Consider your audience

Since Junior Science and Humanities Symposium is sponsored by the Department of Defense, projects with potential applications for the military or defense might have an added advantage. While this is not a requirement, aligning your research with the interests of the competition’s sponsors can be beneficial.

Here are some project ideas to consider:

  • Medical Technology: Innovations that could improve healthcare for military personnel.
  • Engineering Advancements: New technologies or materials that could enhance defense capabilities.
  • Cybersecurity Solutions: Techniques to protect sensitive information and systems.
  • Environmental Sustainability: Methods to ensure sustainable practices in defense settings.

Tailoring your research to reflect these interests can make it more relevant and impactful, potentially resonating well with the judges.

Plan Ahead

Start your research well in advance, ideally at least six months before the deadline. This early start allows ample time for thorough investigation, data collection, and analysis. By pacing your work, you can meticulously refine your methodology, troubleshoot any issues, and polish your findings.

Steps to ensure an impressive research project:

  • Early Preparation: Begin your project early to avoid last-minute rushes.
  • Seek Feedback: Use the extra time to get feedback from mentors and make necessary adjustments.
  • Refinement: Continuously refine your methodology and findings to improve quality.
  • Final Submission: Ensure your final submission is polished and of the highest quality.

This strategy helps prevent last-minute rushes and ensures a well-developed, robust research project.

Practice Presentation Skills

Both oral and poster presentations are crucial components of the JSHS competition. To excel, practice presenting your research clearly, confidently, and concisely. Develop a strong narrative that explains your research question, methodology, results, and conclusions in an engaging manner.

Male student using a laptop to write an essay.

Here are some tips to enhance your presentation:

  • Visual Aids: Use visual aids effectively to support your points and make complex information accessible.
  • Rehearse: Practice multiple times, both alone and in front of an audience, to refine your delivery.
  • Feedback: Seek constructive feedback to improve your presentation.
  • Engagement: Ensure your narrative is engaging and keeps the audience interested.

Strong presentation skills can significantly enhance judges’ perceptions of your work, making your research stand out in a competitive field.

Is the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium worth it?

The Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) is highly worthwhile for high school students interested in STEM research. It provides a national platform for students to showcase their original research, gain recognition, and compete for significant scholarships. Participation can enhance college applications by demonstrating your research skills, dedication, and ability to communicate complex ideas effectively.

Furthermore, JSHS creates valuable connections with peers and mentors, which help with personal and professional growth. The mentorship program and feedback from experienced judges can improve your research skills and open doors to future opportunities in STEM fields. In summary, JSHS is a prestigious competition that offers numerous benefits for aspiring young scientists and engineers.


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