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Pre-PhD Research and Leadership 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 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. 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.


Components & Benefits

  • Two paid summer research experiences, one at UC San Diego, the second at a UC of your choice
  • 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 2024 (It's recommended you confirm this graduation time with your college advisor)
    • Students must be a U.S. citizen or permanent residents (AB540 or DACA 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.

Application Materials

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 (PDF upload)
  • UCSD financial aid award letter (PDF upload from Tritonlink)
  • 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).

Current UC LEADS Scholars

Noah Gaitan - UC LEADS


  Noah Gaitan | Senior | Biology Major

Carolina Lopez - UC LEADS


  Carolina Lopez | Senior | Human Biology Major

Sylas Eckhart - UC LEADS


  Sylas Eckhart | Senior | Biological Anthropology Major

David Hernandez - UC LEADS


  David Hernandez | Senior | Mathematics Major
Jojo Chen - UC LEADS   Jojo Chen | Senior | Cog & Behavioral Neuroscience Major


Hsu Lin - UC LEADS


  Sam Lin | Junior | Economics & Applied Math Major

Athena Leisching - UC LEADS


  Athena Leisching | Junior | Cognitive Science Major

Wai Lam Hong - UC LEADS


  Adele Hong | Junior | Biology Major

Antonio Loaiza - UC LEADS


  Antonio Loaiza | Junior | Bioengineering Major

Daniel Maldonado - UC LEADS

  Daniel Maldonado Naranjo | Junior | Mechanical Engineering 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.


Photo Collage2 - UC LEADS


Please direct questions to:

Edgar Beas

UC LEADS Campus Coordinator