Public programs

Spring Lecture Series for High School Students

A person gestures to a microscope image on a screen while students look on.

Since its inception in 1990, Whitehead’s Spring Lecture Series for High School Students has encouraged students to explore the facts behind the science headlines through exposure to cutting-edge topics in biomedical research. 

This special three-day program will include presentations from pioneering scientists, hands-on workshops in laboratories at Whitehead Institute, visits to local biotech companies and research organizations, and lunches with young Whitehead scientists. The 2021 program will be held online, and will include virtual hands-on activities, laboratory modules and discussions with pioneering scientists. 

Registration has reached capacity and is now closed. 

Upcoming Session 2021
Program logo.Nature’s Library: Biodiversity in Biological Research

The stories written into the DNA of Earth’s many species can teach us how life on Earth evolved, how human beings arose, ways to improve human health and well-being, and how to preserve the planet’s biodiversity for the future.

Join us April 20-22 for a virtual edition of Whitehead Institute’s Spring Lecture Series for High School Students, Nature’s Library: Biodiversity in Biological Research. During this three day program we will explore how scientists are working to push our understanding of the natural world further, learning all we can from biodiversity and why it's more important than ever to conserve it.

The series includes virtual hands-on activities, laboratory modules and discussions with pioneering scientists.


Free! Whitehead Institute’s Spring Lecture Series for High School Students is free of charge for all accepted registrants.

What’s Provided

Professional science instructors, a professionally designed curriculum, and a pre-packaged lab kit containing all materials necessary for a fun, educational, and memorable experience. Lab kits will be mailed to each student prior to the start of the program.


Below is a sample schedule from a previous year's program. Times and activities are subject to change. 

*The 2021 schedule will include virtual hands-on activities, laboratory modules and discussions with pioneering scientists. The program will run from 9:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m. 

Day 1

9:00 am:

9:15  am:
Shawn Liu, Postdoctoral Associate, Jaenisch Lab, Whitehead Institute

10:00 am:
Whitehead Scientific Workshops 

12:30 pm:
Lunch with Whitehead scientists      

1:00 pm:

Day 2

9:00 am:

9:15 am:
Miniaturized drug delivery systems 
Canan Dagdeviren; Director of Conformable Decoders,
Assistant Professor of Media Arts+ Sciences, MIT Media Lab      

10:30 am:
Offsite biotech tours

12:00 pm:
Lunch at Whitehead

1:00 pm:

Day 3

9:00 am:

9:15 am:
Gene Drive Technology
Joanna Buchthal and Jianghong “John” Min of Dr. Kevin Esselte’s 
Sculpting Evolution group at the MIT Media Lab

10:00 am:
Whitehead Scientific Workshops

12:30 pm:
Lunch with Whitehead scientists

1:00 pm:

What is involved in participating in the spring lecture series for high school students?

The series, held annually during the Massachusetts public school spring vacation week, exposes students to cutting-edge topics in biomedical research. The three-day program features lectures from world-class scientists, hands-on laboratory demonstrations, visits to local biotechnology companies and research institutions, and interactions with young Whitehead researchers. To participate, students must commit to attend all three days of the series.

Who can register for the lecture series?

Registration is open to students age 14 and over who are enrolled in grades 9-12 (NOTE: Eighth-
grade students who meet the age requirement are not eligible to attend). Registration requires
parental consent. Students are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. No more than 5
students from a single school may attend. Because space is limited, registrants are encouraged
to apply early. Registration for the 2021 season will be capped at 30 students and is expected to
fill within a few hours of registration opening.

How many students participate in the series?

30 students will be accepted into the 2021 program.

Is there a fee to attend the series?

No. The series is free for all participating students.

What is the daily schedule?

The introduction and welcome session will begin online promptly at 9:00 a.m. A lunch break will
be provided between 12:00 p.m.- 12:30 p.m., and programming will conclude at 2:00 p.m. each

Is lunch provided?

Yes. Lunch is provided for students each day during in-person instruction, which will resume in
spring 2022.

Is housing provided for students?

Because most attendees live in the greater Boston area, Whitehead Institute does not arrange for student housing. Out-of-state students or those wishing to stay nearby during the program may find accommodations within walking distance of Whitehead Institute at the Boston Marriott Cambridge and Kendall Hotel. As the program is held the same week as the Boston Marathon, we strongly recommend that hotel reservations be made as early as possible.

May parents attend or serve as chaperones?

While we appreciate their interest in the program, space constraints prevent us from allowing parents to take part.

What if I've registered but cannot attend?

Registration for the series represents a commitment to attend all three days of the program. Naturally, we understand that conflicts occasionally arise. We ask that registered students unable to participate contact us immediately so we may attempt to accommodate those on our waiting list.


Registration has reached capacity and is now closed. For questions please contact Amy Tremblay at

Past programs

Whitehead Institute’s Spring Lecture Series for High School Student’s topics are current themes that reflect concerns voiced in the news, the latest developments in research, and science's impact on our daily lives.

Oh the Nerve! Neurological Disorders and the Brain
Game Changers: Emerging Technologies Transforming Tomorrow’s Biology (2018)
The Human Microbiome: What Your Gut is Telling You (2017)
Precision Medicine: Cancer and Beyond (2016)
Genetic Engineering Today (2015)
Picture This: Neuroimaging and the Brain (2014)

Contact & Directions

For more information on the high school student program, please contact Amy Tremblay at or 617-258-7270.

The program is held at the Whitehead Building at 455 Main Street, which is accessible by public transportation. Metered street parking is available but limited. Hourly garage parking is also nearby.