UCSD/SDSU Partnership Scholars Program

Co-Directed by: 

Roland Wolkowicz, Ph.D. 
SDSU Biology Department


Pablo Tamayo, Ph.D. 
UCSD Department of Medicine

Sponsored by National Cancer Institute Grants 5U54CA132379 &  U54CA132384

Our Mission is to grow the next generation of underrepresented research scientists and health professionals devoted to solving cancer health disparities by nurturing the academic success of undergraduates underrepresented in a range of disciplines, through hands-on training, workshops, and mentorships from San Diego State University (SDSU) and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).

The Partnership Scholars Program is designed to educate scholars about cancer biology as well as social determinants of cancer prevention and treatment follow up and inspire them to apply their skills toward solving cancer health disparities.

Our Partnership is comprised of three main components with the following objectives.


To develop support cancer research by funding state-of-the-art research projects in order to:

  • Develop cancer research capacity at SDSU
  • Enhance cancer health disparities research at UCSD
  • Create successful, long-term research collaborations between UCSD and SDSU.


To provide research education opportunities in cancer and cancer disparities for promising undergraduate students.


To develop active and sustainable collaborations amongst community partners, researchers, and students to:

  1. Increase participants in recommended cancer screening among low-income underserved populations
  2. Disseminate best practices for cancer screening and cancer prevention.


The Partnership organizational structure is designed to integrate efforts and encourage participation of scientists, students, and community partners. Leadership is done in a collaborative, integrative manner across the two institutions and takes into account the advice of the Internal Advisory Committee (IAC) and Program Steering Committee (PSC). In addition, the Outreach Core includes the invaluable advice of a Community Advisory Board (CAB), whose relevant input is integrated into the overall Partnership.

Program Benefits

The Partnership Scholars Program offers a paid 9-week summer internship with the possibility of a year-long mentoring program (year long option for SDSU students only).
Scholars will:

  • Be awarded stipends to conduct laboratory, behavioral, or public health research with SDSU and/or UCSD faculty members.
  • Attend workshops at UCSD Moores Cancer Center covering cancer biology, health disparities, ethics and professional development.
  • Present their research project at an end-of-summer Scholar Poster Session at UC San Diego and at a university-sponsored research symposium (e.g., SRS at SDSU or Public Health Research Day at UCSD).
  • Have the opportunity to participate in year-round activities at SDSU in conjunction with the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) and Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) programs to improve their communication skills, build scientific networks, and enhance their ability to attain graduate-level education.


We are recruiting academically talented, undergraduate students from SDSU who are from groups underrepresented in the biomedical, clinical, behavioral, and social sciences. This includes, according to the National Cancer Institute, individuals with disabilities, individuals from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, first-generation college students, and those from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups such as African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, American Indians or Alaskan Natives, and Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders.

In addition, successful applicants will:

  • Be U.S. citizens or permanent residents
  • Be a current student at the sophomore or junior level. Seniors are eligible only if they are not graduating this year and will be registering for classes in Fall 2018. (Students with 2 years of college remaining AND have completed pre-requisites/lower-division coursework in their major field of study are preferred.)
  • Be majoring in Biology, Biochemistry, Public Health, Nursing, Sociology, Psychology or a similar area at SDSU.
  • Have a cumulative grade point average commensurate with acceptance to postgraduate degree programs
  • Have an interest in cancer research and solving health disparities
  • Be available to commit to the program for 10 full-time weeks during the summer
  • Have a goal of entering a graduate program in biomedical research science (MS, PhD), professional health (e.g. MD, DO, MSN, RN), public health (MPH), or behavioral health after graduation

How do I apply?

Applications are accepted each year until February 15th, 2019. An early application submission is highly recommended. The Partnership Scholars Program will be from June 10th, 2019 to August 9th, 2019.

Only SDSU and UCSD students are eligible. You must submit a COMPLETE application packet by Thursday, February 15th, 2019 at 11:59 pm, which MUST include ALL of the following:

  • Cancer Research Partnership Scholars Program Application: Download an application with full instructions here. Once the form is filled out, save it in PDF format and email the file along with your other materials as indicated below..
  • Personal Statement describing a) your personal and family background, b) your research interests and/or experiences, c) future educational and professional goals, d) how cancer-related and/or health disparity research fits into your career plans, and e) how these make you a good fit for our program. Also, describe f) your community involvement, extracurricular activities and/or memberships in student or professional organizations and g) any honors/awards or scholarships received. Further, explain h) how your selection as a Partnership Scholar will enhance the participation of underrepresented individuals (ethnic minority, disabled, first in family to college, socio-economically challenged). It is expected that Partnership Scholars will complete the BA/BS degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. If applicable i) also please explain any discrepancy between your grades in academic coursework and your potential. Limit to two (2) pages.
  • Transcript(s): A copy of your unofficial transcript(s) from the SDSU WebPortal or from the UCSD TritonLink AND unofficial transcripts from all other colleges attended if their GPAs are included in your overall GPA calculation on your transcript. Official transcripts are required if GPAs from other college coursework are not included in the calculation of overall GPA.
  • Financial Aid Records: Obtain a copy of your current year Award Statement, if applicable, from www.sa.sdsu.edu/fao/index.html (SDSU) or https://students.ucsd.edu/my-tritonlink/tools/ (UCSD).
  • Letters of Recommendation: TWO confidential letters/reference forms, at least one of which is from a faculty member within your major who can address your intellectual and personal suitability for this program. If you have previously participated in a research program, a letter from your supervisor would be very helpful. Download the Confidential Reference Form.

It is your responsibility to advise our office of any change in mailing address, telephone numbers or e-mail addresses.
Please email Mercedes Quintana-Serrano mquintanaserrano@sdsu.edu attachments of the following:

  1. Completed application in PDF form
  2. Personal statement
  3. Unofficial SDSU transcript or UCSD transcript
  4. Financial aid summary.

Letters of recommendation/reference forms must be emailed or mailed directly from the person making the recommendation.
Official transcripts may be mailed or delivered to:

Mercedes Quintana-Serrano
Partnership Scholars Program Coordinator
San Diego State University
5500 Campanile Drive
College of Sciences, GMCS Room 321C
San Diego, CA 92182-4614


If you would like further information, please contact:

Mercedes Quintana-Serrano
Partnership Scholars Coordinator

Research is supported by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under award numbers:
U54CA132384 (SDSU) & U54CA132379 (UC San Diego).
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