CIHED, IMSD at UCSD with Dr. Antonio De Maio

Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD)

There are 3 program deadlines throughout the year, in Fall, Winter, and Spring. Click here to apply now.

The IMSD program was established in 2008 at UCSD and is funded by the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). The goal of the IMSD program is to motivate, mentor, and facilitate the transition of students from disadvantaged economic and social backgrounds and students with disabilities from college education to Ph.D. programs in the sciences. The UCSD-IMSD program is composed of three consecutive phases starting with training during the first years of a student’s college education, followed by hands-on research experience, and ending with the awarding of a Ph.D. degree in biomedical sciences.

The program consists of 3 phases:

Phase 1. Basic Methodology Training Laboratory (BMTL): Students with no or limited prior research experience are introduced to scientific work via fundamental experimental instruction within the BMTL. In this setting, students learn the essential research principles and skills (laboratory safety, basic techniques, data collection, and analysis) that will prepare them to participate in organized independent research projects. During the 14 week training period, students learn several state-of-the art techniques and participate in a small research project under the supervision of an advanced graduate student.

Phase 2. Independent Research Project: Students participate in hands-on, bench research projects under the mentorship of established, well-funded investigators. Students are trained in several aspects of science, including experimental design, execution, data analysis and presentations, which increase their competitiveness as graduate school candidates. Students participate in an independent research project as well as typical laboratory activities, such as group meetings and journal clubs. Students are encouraged to present their projects at national meetings or in peer-reviewed publications. Scholars are assisted in the preparation of strong graduate school applications.

Phase 3. Graduate School Education: Students that enroll into a UCSD graduate program in the areas of biomedical research, biological sciences, neuroscience, bioengineering, and bioinformatics are supported during their first year of graduate education and assisted in their applications to individual fellowships and in the search for professional activities upon graduation, such as postdoctoral training.


The objective of this part of the program is to demonstrate to students that science is a highly rewarding career, both personally and economically. Students gain scientific training, including instruction on experimental planning, collection of data, and interpretation of results. With this experience, students gain self confidence regarding potential success as scientists. Scholars participate in hands-on, bench research projects and are exposed to common laboratory techniques depending on their specific projects. Students are trained to perform experiments under the supervision of their mentors and laboratory personnel. They are taught how to plan and execute an experiment, including the use of appropriate controls. Upon completion of an experiment, students are educated in data analysis, including statistics and presentation (oral and written). Students are expected to actively participate in laboratory activities, including, but not limited to, group meetings and journal clubs. Upon the appropriate training, students are responsible for their own projects under the supervision of their mentors. It is desirable, but not necessary, that a presentation at a national meeting and/or publication will emerge from the students’ projects. If a student is able to present their work at a conference, travel expenses for the student are covered by IMSD. Students receive compensation for their work in the lab, calculated at up to 15 hours/week during the academic year and 40 hours/week during summer (12 weeks). Sophomore and junior students can join the program at any time during the year. Rising seniors will only be admitted to the program one year prior to graduation. Students will be supported for the length of the program. The length of the program for each student depends on the time of admission and graduation. 


Eligibility: A student must meet the following criteria: 1) be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident; 2) come from a socio-economically disadvantaged background (a disadvantaged background includes coming from an environment that has inhibited the individual from obtaining the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to enroll in higher education and/or living in a household with an annual income at or below established low-income thresholds according to family size published by the U.S. Census Bureau) or be from a group that is underrepresented in the biomedical sciences (African-American, Hispanic, American Indian, Native American, U.S. Pacific Islander), or have a demonstrated disability and 3.0 and above GPA.

Process: Complete an online application. We offer 3 application deadlines for students interested in starting in the FALL, SPRING or SUMMER. Applications received after the marked deadlines will be automatically forwarded to the following application period. The deadlines are as follows:

  • Fall- September 30th Deadline
  • Spring- March 16th Deadline
  • Summer- June 1st Deadline

Admission: Applications are first screened for eligibility by the IMSD Program Manger and evaluated by the Admissions Committee (see current roster). Eligible candidates are then invited for three personal interviews with members of the Admissions Committee and/or potential mentors (the latter selected by the student). Students who are invited to join the program select a potential mentor from a list of participating faculty and assigned a laboratory.

Stipends: Students can work in their mentor laboratory up to 20 hours per week during the academic period and 40 hours per week during non-academic periods (breaks, summer). Students are paid at a rate of $10 per hour.

To apply, visit the IMSD website. 

Here is a story about the program in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Program Organizer:

Antonio De Maio, PhD

Professor of Neuroscience and Surgery
UCSD School of Medicine

return to top


The CRCERA Newsletter comes once a month and includes a list of the latest training opportunities. Don't miss out - sign up now!

[mc4wp_form id="55"]