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The Frontiers Research Program is an advanced, school-year research program for committed, motivated, and bright high school students. Students conduct hands-on research and produce novel, high-level findings. The program helps students produce publications (in high school peer-reviewed journals, or in the professional peer-reviewed literature) and promising science fair competition entries at regional, state, national, or international competitions. The students from Fall 2019 are submitting over ten research papers for publication. See what our current research students are up to here


Applications for Spring 2020 are due on Jan 28, 2020 at 11:59pm. Apply online hereAdmissions is rolling, so apply as early as possible.


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Program overview

  • Students are expected to commit 10-15 hours of research per week during the school year.

  • Students conduct research in research teams, under the guidance and supervision of research advisors who are experts in the field (see below). Click here for a directory of current student researchers.

  • Students put in research time under the supervision of laboratory technicians, on a set schedule (minimum 10 hours per week). Students meet with advisors at a minimum of once per week, with a more rigorous schedule arranged if needed at the discretion of the research advisor.

  • The goal of the program is to produce research that can be successfully submitted to journals or science competitions.

Timeline and tuition

  • The publication-oriented research program will run 18 weeks in Spring 2020. The program will start on Jan 25, 2020 and run until May 31, 2020.

  • A program tuition of $1,300 for each student is charged per semester (18 weeks). This tuition covers all expenses, including research mentorship, lab use, research and equipment costs, safety training, laboratory supervision, publication and writing mentorship, publication submission guidance, and more. There are no other costs or fees.

  • The science fair oriented research program will start on Jan 25, 2020 and will end based on the fair schedule. The advisor would create the exact schedule. This option is arranged separately on an ad-hoc basis with the CAS program director.

Laboratory & equipment

We provide students with advanced lab spaces that house over $1M worth of research-grade instrumentation and equipment. All lab equipment and materials are provided -- these are apparatus that high school students usually don't have access to! Our state-of-the-art laboratory is at the level of many biotech companies and college laboratories. For detailed information on our facilities, please see here.


Research advisors

Our carefully chosen research advisors are ​experts in their fields and have experience conducting research and mentoring high school students. They design and supervise research projects and love to mentor motivated students. CAS advisors all demonstrated high performance in previous research mentorship positions.

PhD student at Stanford University in the Department of Chemistry, working in a world-renowned organic chemistry lab. Mr. Njoo has authored a number of papers in biochemistry, organic chemistry, and chemical education. He has extensive experience teaching high school students and advising them on research. He has won a number of awards for his scholarship and holds a BS in Biochemistry from LMU. Please see here for additional details.

His Frontiers research group is interested in applying the tools of organic chemistry and chemical biology towards developing a more rigorous understanding of molecular systems that underpin some of the most pressing modern questions in medicine and in materials. Further, they are interested in the chemistry of bioactive small molecules with therapeutic and medicinal potential.

Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry

E. Njoo

A biotech researcher, Ms. Suresh has extensive experience in using advanced molecular biology techniques to study pressing questions in environmental sciences. She has a strong interdiscplinary research track record, ranging from research laboratories and centers at UC Santa Barbara, to the California Institute of Environmental Studies, to biotech companies in the Bay Area. She holds a BS in Environmental Studies from UC Santa Barbara.

Molecular Biology, Environmental Science

S. Suresh

With over 30 years experience in tech Mr. Downing has made significant contributions to startups, consumer, small to medium businesses and enterprise organizations, such as Blade Network Technologies, HP/IBM, and NEC. He has worked with such leading-edge companies as Cisco, 3Com and IBM, in technology, product management and business development roles, with emphases in processors, networking, software products and architecture. He has a number of authored technical publications and has extensive experience teaching and mentoring high school students. 

Data Science, Computer Science

R. Downing

Research projects

Research projects are designed to maximize the potential for students to obtain publishable results in one semester. Importantly, these projects are designed to make new findings that have never been previously described, thus allowing students to publish and/or present their novel results.


Advisor: S. Suresh | Field: Molecular Biology, Genetics


Genetically modified crops are becoming increasingly common at the global scale, and this has generated both praise and cause for concern from scientists and the general public alike. Our group is interested in comparing genetically modified (GMO) plants and non-GMO pea plants to determine the extent to which sucrose synthase enzyme genes have been altered between these two strains of peas. This is probed using the tools of molecular biology, including PCR (polymerase chain reaction), gel electrophoresis, etc.

DNA Analysis of Genetic Biomarkers of Sequence Variants in Genetically Modified (GMO) Crops

Advisor: E. Njoo | Field: Organic Chemistry & Biochemistry


Modern synthetic protease inhibitors require two things at hand - recognition/binding of the inhibitor to the protease active site, and covalent trapping of a nucleophilic active site residue; many small molecules fail to demonstrate effective inhibition of proteases by emphasizing one at the expense of the other. In this research, we aim to synthesize a robust library of amino acid-based protease inhibitors. Further, we explore the synthesis of ring-strained heterocyclic electrophiles in covalent inhibition of serine proteases. Specifically, facile synthetic routes to access 𝛽-lactams, activated oxiranes, and pyrrolidine-2,5-diones moieties will be explored.

Design, Synthesis, and Antimicrobial Structure-Activity Studies of Novel, Amino-Acid Based Peptidomimetic Protease Inhibitors: Studies in Ring-Strained Electrophilic “Traps”

Advisor: S. Suresh | Field: Biology, Environmental Science

Various environmental conditions contribute to oxidate stress in plants, and this can have significant ecological and physiological implications. Here, we use various biological and chemical probes to better understand the mechanisms of and timings of oxidative stress responses in plants, as well as the environmental factors that lead to oxidative stress pathways. Additionally, we are interested in the broader implications of this in climate change and in understanding plant adaptations at the molecular level.

Mechanisms of Oxidative Stress in Plants

Advisor: E. Njoo | Field: Organic Chemistry & Biochemistry

Azo compounds have long been used as dyes and as coloring agents, and have come under contemporary interest as having potential to act as isomerizable photoactivated molecular switches. Here, we aim to understand the role of regiochemistry on the photochemical properties of such molecules with both spectroscopic studies and TD-DFT excited state calculations. Finally, we aim to provide empirical evidence of specific intramolecular electronic perturbations that are key in differential photochemical behavior of regioisomers.

Theoretical and Spectroscopic Studies in Photochemical Behavior and Photoisomerization of Regioisomeric Azobenzenes

Advisor: R. Downing | Field: Data Science, Computer Science

In this project, we employ data mining and machine learning, in conjunction with modern cryptographic practices, to extract potential meaning from a previously indecipherable corpus - the Voynich Manuscript. The Voynich Manuscript is a parchment codex written in an unknown script likely from the Middle Ages that has attracted tremendous academic interest. However, it is still unknown whether the text is plain, encrypted, or constructed language. We use a textual version of the Voynich Manuscript, modern computer science tools, and custom algorithms developed in our research group to investigate the corpus for markers such as word frequencies and possible encryption mechanisms. 

Decryption of the Voynich Manuscript Through Computation and Machine Learning

Advisor: E. Njoo | Field: Organic Chemistry, Chemical Biology


Berberine, a naturally-occurring pentacyclic alkaloid extracted from plants, has attracted the curiosity and imagination of synthetic chemists for decades. It  has been previously demonstrated to possess unique antimicrobial behavior, and has also been investigated for potential therapeutic behavior for cancer, metabolic disorders, and other applications. Here, we seek to develop methodology towards the synthesis of novel berberine and dihydroberberine analogs for unique biological activity. 

Chemical Synthesis and Biological Activity of Novel Berberine Analogs

Advisor: R. Downing | Field: Data Science, Computer Science, Physics & Astronomy

In this project, we take existing data from NASA, Caltech, the European Space Agency, etc., reflecting known exoplanets (planets outside our solar system), and query that data to determine what subset of them may contain planets capable of supporting life. We employ data mining and machine learning to extract these potential life-bearing candidates. This process involves examining data for objects lying within the "Goldilocks" zone, the region whose orbital parameters would allow for liquid water.

Exoplanet Search for Habitable Planetary Bodies Using Machine Learning

Advisor: E. Njoo | Field: Organic Chemistry & Biochemistry

Monastrol, a potent small molecule inhibitor of Kinesin-5, has been identified as having potential application in the treatment of cancer. In this work, we aim to develop conditions for the one-pot synthesis of a library of monastrol analogs in order to establish a robust structure-activity relationship towards the design of potential lead compounds in anti-cancer pharmaceuticals that target the mitotic machinery of rapidly-proliferating cells. Results from in vivo and in vitro assays are rationalized by in silico computations.

Synthesis and Antiproliferative Activities of Monastrol Analogues

Advisor: E. Njoo | Field: Organic Chemistry & Biochemistry

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and other retroviruses rely upon reverse transcriptase (RT) for the conversion of their RNA genome into double stranded DNA, which in turn is essential for viral replication. Previously, much work has been done in the design and synthesis of RT inhibitors as potential therapeutics for slowing the progression of retrovirus infection by allosteric inhibition of reverse transcriptase - though diverse in structure, known RT inhibitors generally adopt a “butterfly” geometry with a central carbonyl moiety flanked by aromatic or aliphatic substituents. Here, we utilize the tools of synthetic chemistry, biophysical chemistry, and molecular biology in the design and evaluation of potential reverse transcriptase inhibitors. Specifically, we are interested in utilization of the Beckmann rearrangement as a strategy for introducing late-stage ring expansion towards the synthesis of a library of molecules that fit the “butterfly” pharmacophore model and share a common caprolactam core.

Molecular Design and Synthesis of Novel Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors as Small Molecule Antiviral Therapeutics


Applying to the program

Students must be selected to join the program through a selective admissions process. We are looking for students who are dedicated and driven, who can demonstrate knowledge, inquisitiveness, and problem solving skills. Quality over quantity is emphasized, so that CAS can offer the most benefit to its students, while advisors find their mentorship to be maximally rewarding. You will have the ability to apply into specific research groups.

Application deadline: Jan 28, 2020 at 11:59 pm. Apply online hereAdmissions is rolling, so apply as early as possible. The application process is described below:

Online application

The initial step is for students to apply online.

We take a holistic approach and evaluate students on academic qualifications, in addition to personal traits such as passion and dedication.

Review of applications

CAS will review every single application carefully. A subset of applications will be chosen for the next step.

Brief informal interview

Admission to the program is contingent on a meeting between each student, his/her parents, and the CAS program director Mr. Nishit Vasavada. This meeting serves as a way to ensure that all parties understand the expectations of the Frontiers Research Program and can commit to following them.

If you are admitted to the program, you will gain tremendous opportunity to produce work that has a high likelihood of being published or receiving awards at regional/state/national/international science fair competitions. Such achievements can catapult you into rarified air among all high school students in the world, giving you a very unique and powerful tool in your college application. Students will also have the opportunity to ask their CAS research advisors for strong letters of recommendation. These accomplishments can help you gain admission to the world’s best universities, and nurture your intellectual abilities to their fullest potential.

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