Young Scientists Program

Sparking interest in scientific discovery

The Young Scientists outreach program, founded by Institute of Child Development (ICD) Professor Melissa Koenig and doctoral student Annelise Pesch, aims to educate middle and high school students in developmental psychology and foster their interest in scientific research and discovery.

Young Scientists Program participants
Young Scientists program participants work with ICD's Dr. Melissa Koenig.

How it works

Young Scientists Program - Engaging Young Minds with STEM

The Young Scientists program pairs ICD developmental psychology PhD students, post-doctoral fellows, and professors with groups of middle and high school students with the goal of assisting youth and teens in creating their own research projects in developmental psychology.

ICD PhD students and faculty visit participating schools biweekly for 1-hour sessions. PhD students teach youth and teens about developmental psychology experiments, research design, data collection, and analysis.

During each session, PhD students also work one-on-one with their mentees to develop a research proposal based on their interests. PhD students guide mentees as they define their hypothesis and create and execute a study to address their question.

The Young Scientists program occurs over the course of an academic school year (September - May) and culminates in a research fair, where mentees present their projects to their peers, teachers, and families.

Carrie Bakken, Program Coordinator/Advisor, Avalon School

Inspiring young scientists one project at a time

I feel very fortunate that our students had this real-world relevant learning experience because it taught them the essential skills of how to conduct rigorous academic research, mitigate bias, reflect on the data, and ask deep questions.

- Carrie Bakken
Program Coordinator/Advisor
Avalon School

Example programs

Avalon School

Avalon School is a project-focused middle and high school in St. Paul. Each student at Avalon has time set aside in their day to work on unique, year-long, individual projects. Avalon students interested in developmental psychology work with a team of ICD students in the Young Scientists program to design a unique research project. During the course of the year, the Young Scientists program helps deliver university-quality lessons about social and cognitive psychology, as well as personal guidance and consultation regarding individual student projects.

Ascension Catholic School

Ascension Catholic School is a K-8th grade school in Minneapolis. PhD students and post-doctoral fellows work with groups of 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students after school to develop a research proposal related to developmental psychology. Students at Ascension have conducted research projects on topics such as working memory, sharing decisions, number cognition, and executive function.

Melissa Koenig

From the Young Scientists Program: Thank you!

ICD Professor Melissa Koenig reflects on and shares the accomplishments of the Young Scientists program and extends a sincere thank you to all who helped make this program possible.

Read more

Bring Young Scientists to your school

Interested in participating in the Young Scientists program? To get started, click on the button below that best corresponds to your role. Questions? Contact us at