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Leadership Excellence through Advanced Degrees

The University of California makes a unique contribution to the State of California by preparing future generations of leaders in industry, government, and academia. California’s many economic challenges include the imperative to develop leaders with multicultural competence who can guide the State and nation in a global economy. The University of California seeks to educate dynamic leaders who can keep pace with the world’s science and technological innovations and also work effectively in the culture diversity of the global economy.

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 two-year program of scientific research and graduate school preparation guided by individual Faculty Mentors. 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. The scholar gains valuable educational experience, the University a better prepared and more diverse graduate applicant pool, and the state, well-educated future leaders. 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.

 UC LEADS Collage

Components & Benefits

  • Two paid summer research experiences, one at UC San Diego, the second at a UC of your choice
  • Year-long undergraduate research support
  • 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


The UC LEADS program is open to any students who meet the following criteria:

  • Must be in a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) major
  • Must be a second year undergraduate student or a third year, with two more years until graduation. This is a two-year program and the scholar will need to be available during those two full academic years
  • Must be graduating in 2023 (It's recommended you confirm this graduation time with your college advisor)
  • Students must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • AB540 students are eligible to apply
  • Minimum 3.0 GPA for consideration
  • Interested in scientific research and pursuing a PhD degree after graduation
  • Successful applicants must also demonstrate experiences, situations or conditions that have adversely impacted their advancement in a STEM field of study.
  • Individuals who are underrepresented in the graduate student and faculty populations in STEM fields of study are strongly encouraged to apply.



The application period is now CLOSED for the 2021-2022 cohort. 

Application Materials:

  • Statement of Interest (max. 2 pages, single spaced)
    • 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.
  • UCSD unofficial transcript (Tritonlink printout)
  • UCSD financial aid award letter (Tritonlink printout)
  • 1 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). 
    • Recommender can email the letter in PDF format to with the Student's Full Name in the subject line.


Please direct questions to:

Edgar Beas

UC LEADS Campus Coordinator