Summer Training Academy for Research Success (STARS)

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. Opened 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 a GRE preparation course (students who are juniors or above)
  • 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


Applicant must

  • Be 18 years of age
  • Be U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents. AB 540 or DACA students are
  • If you are an international student who has program funding and want to apply to the STARS program your program director may contact for eligibility information.
  • 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?
    • Optional: Describe background characteristics that may have placed you at an educational disadvantage (English language learner, family economic history, lack of educational opportunity, disability, etc.) and how you overcame them.
    • 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.
    • Please ask your recommenders to email recommendations to by January 30, 2020.
    • 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:

  • 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


Participants may be funded by the Frontiers of Innovation Scholars Program from the UC San Diego Chancellor’s Office and through a variety of by 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, we now have an edit function available and you are able to 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?
Please ask each recommender to email their recommendation letter directly to by January 30, 2020. All letters must be submitted in PDF format and no other formats will be accepted. The file should be named, “Students Last Name, Students First Name – Letter of Rec”.
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?
Yes. Your STARS Application can be submitted earlier or later than when your Letters of Recommendations are submitted. If your STARS Application is submitted before we receive your Letters of Recommendations, we will upload a note in your application portal to let you know we have received both letters. If we receive Letters of Recommendations before we receive your Application, we will save your letters in your file and upload the note that we have both letters after your application has been submitted.

How do I choose which faculty to work with?
Prior to beginning your application please check the Research Projects 2020  page for the most up-to-date information on research opportunities this summer. You can choose from the list provided to you.

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 has funding and that recommends you reach out to faculty directly to secure a research spot you may do so. Otherwise, please choose from the list provided in the Research Projects Page

Can I apply as an international student?
Unfortunately, we are not accepting international students.  If you are an international student and have funding, 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 work with at least one of the faculty I request to be matched 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 recommend that you list the faculty you are interested in working within the application section that requests the names of faculty you want to work with. Faculty matching is not guaranteed. 

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.

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