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Summer Training Academy for Research Success

STARS 2023 Cohort

STARS 2024 Program: June 23 to August 16th

STARS 2024 Application Information

What is STARS?

The University of California, San Diego Summer Training Academy for Research Success (STARS) program is an eight-week summer research academy for community college students, undergraduate students, recent college graduates, and masters students. Open to all disciplines, STARS offers student participants a rigorous research opportunity with esteemed UC San Diego faculty, informative transfer and graduate school preparation workshops, and educational, cultural, and social activities in sunny San Diego.

Students will:

  • Gain hands-on research experience with a faculty mentor's research project
  • Attend transfer and graduate school preparation workshops
  • Receive instruction on the transfer and graduate school application processes. Students will also receive instruction on graduate school fellowship applications, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research and Ford Fellowships
  • Present research at the UCSD Summer Research Conference
  • Enjoy social activities with the cohort such as visiting the San Diego Zoo, beach trip, and the UCSD Challenge Course
STARS Social Media


Applicant must

  • Be 18 years of age
  • Be U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents. AB 540 or DACA students are
  • Be interested in conducting full-time research in the summer for eight weeks with no commitments such as summer school, a full/part-time job
  • Demonstrate academic aptitude and achievement

Application Instructions

  •  Personal Statement (max. 500 words) addressing the following points:
    • How did you become interested in your field of study?
    • What are your educational and career goals?
    • What experiences have contributed toward your preparation for your educational and career goals?
    • What are your research interests?
    • Why are you applying to STARS?
    • How are you a “match” for STARS?
    • Consider opportunities to talk about your leadership, community involvement, and/or obstacles you may have overcome.
    • Do not include the faculty you want to work within this section unless you are already working with them. We will try to match you to the faculty you list in your application. But if we cannot, we may send your personal statement to other faculty within your discipline.
  • CV/Resume
    • A copy of current Academic Transcripts (unofficial are OK)
  • Three (3) preferred UCSD faculty mentors should be listed within your application (not the personal statement nor the letters of recommendationS). The list of faculty mentors is available here.
  • Two (2) Letters of Recommendation from a counselor, faculty member, research mentor, principal investigator, etc.
    • You will be asked who your Recommenders are in the "Recommendations" Tab of your STARS Application. Once you add Recommenders to the STARS Application portal they will be sent an email requesting a Letter of Recommendation and submission instructions. This email will be sent to your Recommender within a few minutes of being added and does not require you to submit your application.
    • Please ask your recommenders to submit their recommendations by January of the current admissions cycle you are applying.
    • The letter should address the following questions:
      • What is your relationship to the applicant? Please include information on how long you have known the applicant and the extent of your interactions.
      • What is the applicant’s current research topic? If not actively involved in research, what are the applicant’s interests?
      • Please comment on the applicant’s academic merit including his/her aptitude for pursuing a Ph.D.
      • In your opinion, why and how would the applicant benefit from participating in STARS?
      • What is it about the applicant that leads you to recommend him/her for STARS?
      • Please ask your recommenders not to include the faculty you want to work with.


Applications will be evaluated based on:

  • Competitive students will be supported by funded undegraduate research programs
  • Cumulative or term GPA above 3.0
  • Relevance of completed courses to research interest
  • Writing skill
  • Compatibility of applicant's research interest with available faculty mentor research projects
  • Interest in pursuing a doctoral program
  • Letters of Recommendations


Competitive participants may be funded through a variety of undergraduate research programs at their home institutions, such as:

We also welcome the opportunity to collaborate with other programs not currently listed. If you are in another program that can fund your summer research please ask your program director to email us at

Application FAQs

Can I edit my application?
Yes, you may edit your application and save the progress. However, you will not be able to make any changes once you have submitted the completed application.

How shall Letters of Recommendations be submitted?
You will be asked who your Recommenders are in the "Recommendations" Tab of your STARS Application. Once you add Recommenders to the STARS Application portal they will be sent an email requesting a Letter of Recommendation and submission instructions. This email will be sent to your Recommender within a few minutes of being added and does not require you to submit your application.  Please ask your recommenders to submit their recommendations by January.
Who can write my recommendation letter?
They can be written from a counselor, faculty member, research mentor, principal investigator, etc. but your recommendations should speak to your ability and academic potential in the field of study you are interested in.
Can my STARS Application be submitted at a different time from when my Letters of Recommendations are submitted?
You may include your Letter of Recommenders before you submit your STARS Application. You cannot add Letter of Recommenders after you submit your STARS Application.
How do I know whether my Recommenders have submitted Letters of Recommendations?
You will receive a confirmation email once a Letter of Recommendation has been received. You can also log into your STARS Application and see whether Recommenders have submitted letters under the "Recommendations" tab.

How do I choose which faculty to work with?
Prior to beginning your application please check our Research Projects  page and on for examples of faculty that you might be interested in. We ask that you DO NOT contact the faculty. You can list your preferences for faculty mentors, and the STARS program can do the outreach to faculty choices if you are a competitive candidate. You may also check out UC San Diego Degree Programs to explore UC San Diego faculty and their research interests. 

Can I choose the faculty member I want to work with even if is not on the list?
If you are part of a graduate school preparation program (such as HHMI, McNair, UC LEADS) that is funding your research experience and that recommends you reach out to faculty directly to secure a research spot you may do so. You may also consider faculty not listed but we kindly ask that you DO NOT reach out to faculty. 

Can I apply as an international student?
Unfortunately, we are not accepting international students at this moment.  If you are an international student from a undergraduate research program that will fund you to do a research experience, your program director may contact for eligibility information.

Can I apply even if I’m a US Citizen living out of the country?
Yes, but STARS will only book domestic flights within the United States.

Am I guaranteed to be matched with at least one of the faculty I requested within my application?
No. Students are not guaranteed to be matched with the faculty they list in the application. We will try to match students to faculty related to the students listed major.

If I include a faculty member I really want to work within my personal statement or recommendation letter, does that increase the chance of getting paired with the faculty member?
We do not recommend listing faculty in your Personal Statement or Letters of Recommendation. We recommend that you list the faculty you are interested in "STARS Additional Information" tab of the STARS Application.  Faculty matching is not guaranteed. 

Can I request to be matched to a faculty whose prerequesites I do not meet, but want to learn?
No. If a faculty lists a prequisite, then you should have that skillset before you get to the research site. It will be assumed that you have that skillset in order to do your summer research.

What if I need to arrive to the program late or leave early? Am I still eligible?
Students must commit to the full length of the program. Extenuating circumstances (i.e. classes beginning close to program end date) will be evaluated on a case by case basis.

All qualified applicants will be considered without regard to age, ancestry, citizenship, color, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, marital status, medical condition, national origin, pregnancy, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, veteran status as long as they have meet the eligibility criteria outlined above.  Selected applications may be forwarded to academic departments for faculty review and compatibility with faculty mentor research projects. All applicants will receive timely notification of status.