DNA Residency for High School Students

High school students in the DNA Residency Program work in the lab.

The DNA Residency provides Chicago and suburban high school students a paid opportunity to conduct genetic research alongside accomplished Field Museum scientists. Participants are integrated into and trained in the importance of Field Museum research- becoming part of a current research program and utilizing samples (blood/tissues) from the collections to extract, amplify, sequence, and analyze DNA. Projects provide students an understanding of genetic diversity throughout the tree of life and at all taxonomic levels, from relationships among individuals and populations to classes and phyla of organisms. 

This year’s project will build on the research program that began with a 2015 summer internship project. At that time, we began work on the innate immune system in crows, beginning with Toll-like receptor genes. These proteins are important in recognizing conserved molecular elements of pathogens and generate immune system responses accordingly. We began several projects looking at these genes across crows from before and after West Nile Virus came through the Chicagoland area (2015 internship project), across crow-like birds to understand the results from crows (2016 internship project), and across all birds (graduate student lead project). The lack of genetic variation in crows and the genus Corvus is still puzzling and raises questions about crows and crow-like birds in a changing world. This summer, we propose to expand to other immune system gene families, Major Histocompatibility Complex and ß-defensins, for example, in crows and other crow-like birds. The goal is to see if these genes are evolving differently in crows and crow-like birds and if a similar lack of genetic variation holds.


Participants are responsible for creating a digital media project based on their learning experiences during the program.

  • Must be Chicago or suburban high school sophomore or junior.
  • Must be at least 16 years of age by June 26, 2017-no exceptions.
  • Must submit an essay (300-500 words) describing why they would like to take part in this particular internship program.
  • Must provide a letter of recommendation from a science teacher. An additional letter from a teacher/coach/mentor may be submitted (2 letters max).
  • Must fully commit to program dates and times.

Program Dates:  Monday, June 26- Friday, August 4, 2017 (excluding Tuesday, July 4) from 9:00 am-4:00 pm  

Application Process: CLOSED

  • The application is available: Friday, March 3 - Sunday, March 26, 2017
  • Letters of recommendation on school letterhead are due by: Monday, April 3, 2017
  • Qualified applicants will be asked to interview: April 17-21, 2017
  • Final notifications to all applicants will be made no later than: Friday, April 21, 2017

Email DNAprograms@fieldmuseum.org for more information.  No phone calls please. 

Further Exploration

From Our Galleries


On The Blog