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Pre-PhD STEM Undergraduate Research Program 

The UC LEADS program prepares promising undergraduate students for advanced education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This program is designed to identify educationally or economically disadvantaged undergraduates enrolled in UC San Diego who are likely to succeed in graduate school, and to provide these students with undergraduate educational experiences that will prepare them to assume positions of leadership in industry, government, public service, and academia following completion of a doctoral STEM degree.

Once chosen as UC LEADS scholars, the students embark upon a program of scientific research and graduate school preparation. Scholars are provided with an excellent opportunity to explore their discipline, experience a research environment, and improve their opportunities for future study in their chosen field. Each scholar is mentored by a member of the UC faculty, who assists the student in designing a plan of research and enrichment activities fitted to the individual interests and academic goals of the scholar.

 UCLEADS Collage 2023

Program Components & Benefits

  • Paid summer research experiences, at UC San Diego and at other UC campuses
  • Graduate school preparation and advising
  • Travel funding to attend professional meetings or scientific conferences
  • Membership to a professional society
  • Poster presentations at the annual UC LEADS Research and Leadership Symposium
  • Application fee waivers to UC graduate programs
  • Leadership development
  • Opportunity to meet other students interested in STEM on campus but also across the UC system
  • GRE preparation
  • Potential source of letters of recommendation



Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for selection, applicants must be:

  • Enrolled in a UC undergraduate degree program in a Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) major
  • Educationally and/or economically disadvantaged
  • Interested in research (note: you do not have to have previous research experience to apply to this program)
  • Seasoned UC sophomores or rising junior standing with two more full academic years until graduation (Students who have recently transferred from a community college with less than two years until graduation are encouraged to apply)
  • Intent to pursuit a PhD in a STEM field
  • In good academic standing in undergraduate degree program with a minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Able to demonstrate potential for success in a graduate program
  • Citizens or permanent residents of the United States or AB540 students


The UC LEADS program identifies students who have:

  • Experienced educational barriers to their academic progress, or who express a commitment to addressing the barriers that prevent participation of students from underrepresented groups in graduate programs.

  • Experienced situations or conditions that impacted their advancement or ability to advance in a STEM field (e.g. the absence of a role model in the STEM field, absence of a family member who received a four-year college degree or graduation from high school with por financial or curricular support).
  • Leadership potential to address the issues of underrepresentation of domestic minorities in the STEM fields.
  • The potential to gain the personal and multicultural competency skills necessary to address the needs of a diverse State and global community through science and technology.

How to apply

Steps to apply:

  1. Fill and submit an online application 
    • Sections on the application include personal information, academics, co-curricular activities, and others. 
    • The applicant will need to copy and paste their statement of interest in the online application before submitting. Respond to the statement of interest questions below. 
    • All the questions in the application need to be completed before submitting, otherwise the application will be considered incomplete. 
  2. Request one letter of recommendation 
    • This letter of recommendation is required from a faculty advisor, course instructor, TA or employer (one who is familiar with your scientific skills).
    • Your recommender would need to email the letter of recommendation to with the student name in the subject line. 

Statement of Interest Questions (max. 1000 words)

  • Describe your desired research area of interest and why it interests you.
  • Discuss why you are interested in participating in an undergraduate research program and what you feel you can gain from this experience.
  • Discuss why you are interested in pursuing a graduate degree, what kind of graduate degree, and what you plan to do with that graduate degree (career objective).
  • Describe your educational background and achievements, providing information on barriers (educational, social, and/or cultural) you may have personally faced and how you overcame them.

2022 Scholars



  Vicky Chen | Biochemistry Major



  Claire Wellenkamp | Marine Biology Major



  Ali Kattee | Mechanical Engineering Major



  Jessica de la Torre | Mechanical Engineering Major



  Andrew Oabel | Computer Science Major

2023 Scholars



  Anetzy Bermudez Torales | Biochemistry Major



  Runpeng Jian Computer Science Major



  Tin Nguyen | Molecular and Cell Biology / Mechanical Engineering Major



  Savannah Rhoades | Chemical Engineering Major



  Leanna Rondon | Biology Major



  Michelle Diaz Gomez | Cogn & Behavioral Neuroscience Major



  Anna Nguyen Mechanical Engineering Major



  Julian Ramirez | Mechanical Engineering Major



  Edwin Ruiz | Cognitive Science/Machine Learning and Neural Computation Major



  Marissa Todesco Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience Major


  1. If I have additional questions, who should I contact?
    • Please contact the program coordinator Edgar at
  2. Can I do summer school or take summer courses and do this program?
    • Unfortunately no, you'll be required to do 35 hours a week of a faculty mentored research experience during the summer. 
  3. I already have a UCSD faculty research mentor that I've been working with, can I still apply to this program?
    • Yes
  4. I am a freshmen or senior, can I still apply?
    • Per our statewide efforts, every year we recruit sophomores or new transfer juniors to our program.
  5. Will we have an opportunity to present our research?
    • Yes, every summer scholars do a 15 minute oral presentation and then a research poster presentation in March.


Please direct questions to:

Edgar Beas

UC LEADS Campus Coordinator