Anyone can observe that genuine interest makes learning more stimulating, and there are neurological studies to attest to the fact that people are better at learning and remembering information they are curious about.① Pioneer Academics differs from most high school academic programs because it not only allows but requires young scholars to craft their own research topic based on their individual passions and curiosities. This is particularly important, because the Pioneer research paper involves long hours and deep engagement with an original topic. While it may be tempting to use other criteria to decide on a research topic––such as its perceived ease, or how it would look on a college application––past Pioneer scholars urge current and future Pioneer students to be guided by their interests.
Even before homing in on a topic, Sydney (psychology/education, 2019), a Pioneer scholar from Vietnam, encourages future Pioneer scholars to mark their desired research areas in their application based on their interests. “Life is too short to do things that we aren’t interested in,” she says. “If you won’t have fun, and you don’t feel good and productive doing it, I don’t think you should choose it [as your research area]. It’s great that Pioneer has such a wide range of research areas you can choose from.”
After being placed in a research concentration, it may be tempting to choose what seems like an easier research topic rather than the one you are most interested in. Jahin (political science, 2020), a Pioneer scholar from the United States, wanted to conduct research on women’s access to microfinance in Nigeria, but was temporarily discouraged by the challenges it presented. “In the beginning I was very confused. I wasn’t sure if this was something I should do research on, because I had to collect a lot of data and conduct interviews, and that was really hard to do from the United States. I struggled a lot, and I actually ended up changing my research topic once to something that I thought would be easier, but I realized that it wasn’t something that really interested me as much,” Jahin explains. Jahin’s professor recognized that he was passionate about his original topic and encouraged him to keep working on it. In the end, he had a gratifying research experience and contributed knowledge to an understudied topic.
Tobi (math, 2020), a Pioneer scholar from Nigeria, agrees. “Always pick something you’re very interested in. No matter how much you know about it at first, you want to pick something you’re going to love to learn about, not something that is just simple and easy to find information about… If you research something you are actually interested in and want to know more about, it will help you do a very good job,” she says. David (political science, 2020), a Pioneer scholar from the United States, echoes this advice, noting that the choice should be intrinsically motivated and not done in an effort to impress others. “Base your research topic on what you find interesting… not what you think others want you to do, or what you think is best for college decisions. Passion drives research,” he says.
Pioneer’s academic system is built to empower young scholars to answer the questions that spark their curiosity and to follow their intellectual passions wherever they lead. Pioneer scholars should take full advantage of this system by choosing a research topic based on their genuine interests. In doing so, they set themselves up for the most rewarding and enjoyable research experience possible.