Your Comprehensive Guide to the UCSB Summer Research Academies

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

International students participating in a class

Your Comprehensive Guide to the UCSB Summer Research Academies

Welcome to your comprehensive guide to the UCSB Summer Research Academies! Through this blog, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about the program, including detailed track descriptions, application tips, and insights into how this experience can shape your academic and career future. Let’s discover what the UCSB Summer Research Academies have to offer!

What is the UCSB Summer Research Academies?

At the UCSB Summer Research Academies, high school students like you are invited to immerse themselves in a vibrant summer learning experience at UC Santa Barbara. This dynamic program spans various fields including STEM, Humanities, and Social Sciences, providing a platform for you to engage in directed, project-based research.

You will enroll in a 4-unit university course where you can select and develop a research topic that sparks your interest. Under the guidance of an instructor who is actively contributing to the field, you will look into your chosen subject. Throughout the program, you’ll have the opportunity to hone your academic and professional skills by presenting your research findings at a capstone seminar and connecting with peers who are equally bright and curious.

Adding to the enriching academic experience, the GRIT talks lecture series brings you face-to-face with some of the foremost researchers and innovators at UC Santa Barbara. They will share their groundbreaking research and pioneering technologies, giving you a glimpse into the world of advanced scholarly work.

Beyond the labs and lecture halls, you will also experience the lively atmosphere of university life, and get to know a diverse group of students and professionals who share your passion for discovery.

a group of student working together

Why Should You Join the UCSB Summer Research Academies?

Joining the UCSB Summer Research Academies offers you a unique opportunity to deepen your knowledge and skills in a university setting. Here are some compelling reasons to consider this program:

Advance Your Research Skills: You will do hands-on, project-based research in your area of interest. Some of the research topics are social chemistry, climate policies, and molecular biology! If one of these is your cup of tea, you would definitely enjoy learning in the program.

  • Earn University Credits: Completing the program earns you four university credits. It’s an excellent way to get a head start on your college education while still in high school.
  • Develop Professional Skills: Throughout the program, you will learn to articulate and present your research findings effectively. These communication skills are important in academia and also in your future career!
  • Network with Peers and Professionals: You’ll meet and collaborate with other motivated students and academics who share your passion for learning. These connections can provide support and open doors to future opportunities.
  • Experience College Life Firsthand: Living and learning on the UC Santa Barbara campus allows you to sample university life. You’ll gain insights into managing your time, balancing academics with social activities, and navigating campus resources.
  • Gain Inspirational Insights: The GRIT talks, part of the program, expose you to the latest research and innovations directly from leading thinkers in various fields. These presentations can inspire your future academic and career choices.

The UCSB Summer Research Academies will equip you with the tools, knowledge, and connections necessary to excel in any academic or professional path you choose.

Who Can Join the UCSB Summer Research Academies?

To be eligible for the UCSB Summer Research Academies, applicants must fulfill the following criteria:

  • Be a high school student in 9th, 10th, or 11th grade.
  • Maintain a minimum 3.60 weighted GPA.
  • Commit to attending the entire program, starting from the virtual component through to the final events.
  • Refrain from enrolling in other courses, activities, or programs simultaneously due to the intensive nature of the Summer Research Academies.

You need to participate in a mandatory SRA Preparation Webinar to prepare for the program. You can choose from the following sessions:

  • June 1, 2024, at 11:00 AM (PT)
  • June 1, 2024, at 1:00 PM (PT)
  • June 3, 2024, at 5:00 PM (PT)
  • June 4, 2024, at 4:00 PM (PT)

Two young female scientist doing experiments in lab.

How to Apply to the UCSB Summer Research Academies

To apply to the UCSB Summer Research Academies, students need to submit their online application by April 1, 2024. 

You’ll get an email confirming that your application has been received and is complete. Once confirmed, your application goes into the review process. You will be notified of the admission decision by email, usually within two to four weeks after your application is confirmed complete.

Admissions are granted on a rolling basis, which means decisions are made as applications are reviewed and continue until the program is full.

Make sure to check your email regularly to stay updated on your application status!

Application Requirements

  • Transcript: You need to upload a transcript showing your entire high school academic record, including the first trimester or semester grades for the 2023–2024 school year. You can obtain an unofficial transcript from your school or counselor.
  • Personal Statement: Write a 500-word essay explaining why you want to participate in the program, and your reasons for choosing specific research tracks, and share something unique about yourself.
  • Short Responses: Answer a series of questions in 150 words or less each, where you will:
    1. Describe what you hope to learn from your chosen tracks
    2. Discuss the skills, interests, or talents you possess that will help you succeed in these tracks.
    3. Create and explain a hashtag that represents you or your life.

International applicants do not need to submit TOEFL or other English language proficiency exam scores.

Smart Young Boy Works on a Laptop For His New Project in His Computer Science Class.

UCSB Summer Research Academies Cost

Students attending the SRA can opt for either commuter or residential arrangements. Commuter students need to have their own local accommodations and a dependable way to travel to campus daily.

Residential students will stay in the UC Santa Barbara dorms along with other pre-college students throughout the program. They will have their meals at the campus dining commons and can participate in numerous supervised social activities alongside their academic commitments.

Commuter Option Residential Option
$75 Application Fee (non-refundable) $75 Application Fee (non-refundable)
$700 Enrollment Deposit (non-refundable; applied to the Tuition and Program Fees) $700 Enrollment Deposit (non-refundable; applied to the Tuition and Program Fees)
$2,500 Tuition and Program Fees $2,500 Tuition and Program Fees
= $2,575 Total $5,649 Housing and Meal Fees (These fees apply to residential students only, and are collected by Summer Discovery. Visit the link for details regarding fees and payment schedule.)
= $8,224 Total

Fee Payment and Deadlines

When you apply to the program, you need to pay an application fee right away. This fee is non-refundable.

If you’re accepted into the program, you’ll need to pay an enrollment deposit to confirm your spot. This deposit is part of your total tuition and program fees, and it is also non-refundable.

The rest of your tuition and fees must be paid by May 10, 2024.

You can pay your tuition by credit card or eCheck. Credit card payments include a 2.75% convenience fee charged by our payment processor. Payments by eCheck do not have a processing fee, but you’ll need to provide your bank routing and account numbers.

Withdrawal & Refunds

If you need to withdraw from the program, you must email the pre-college staff at [email protected] before the program starts. Refunds are only considered after a formal email request is made.

Here’s the refund schedule:

  • Full refund if you withdraw by May 17, 2024.
  • 50% refund if you withdraw by May 24, 2024.
  • No refunds after May 24, 2024.

Remember, application fees and enrollment deposits are non-refundable.

A young man inside the library smiling at the camera


A few scholarships are available for the program. These scholarships are given out based on financial need, qualifications, and their availability, with priority given to California residents. If you’re interested in a scholarship, you can express this in your online application for the program.

If you are accepted into the program, an email will be sent to your guardian to fill out the scholarship application. To complete this application, your guardian will need to provide:

  • 2022 Federal Tax returns (for example, 1040 or 1040EZ forms)
  • 2022 W2 forms, if applicable

Program Format

At the UCSB Summer Research Academies, students have the opportunity to earn 4 university credits through an interdisciplinary research course tailored to their chosen track. The program is designed to provide a comprehensive and engaging research experience.

The program begins with a virtual component that prepares students academically and professionally for the research challenges ahead. It also includes social activities that help students form a community with their peers. Following this, students convene at UC Santa Barbara for a Welcome Event, which launches the four-week in-person segment of the program.

During the initial weeks, students work in groups to develop their research questions and build the foundational framework for their projects. This phase includes hands-on labs that reinforce the principles discussed in lectures, enhancing the students’ understanding of their chosen fields.

As the program moves forward, the focus turns to in-depth investigation and analysis. During this later stage, students explore their research topics more thoroughly, which prepares them to present their findings at a formal capstone seminar.

Each week is structured to include multiple lectures, discussion sessions, and GRIT talks, with the content and activities increasing in intensity as the weeks progress. By the fourth week, students are fully engaged in preparing for their final presentations at the Capstone Seminar.

Commitments and Outcomes

Students typically invest 25 to 40 hours per week in their research, often extending their activities into the evenings to maximize their project outcomes. They are expected to participate actively in all scheduled events and utilize university resources, such as the library, to support their work.

The program culminates in students producing a detailed research paper and presenting their results in a seminar, earning them college credits that are recorded on their permanent academic transcripts.

Due to the demanding nature of the program, students are required to dedicate their full attention to the academy, without enrolling in other courses or activities during this period. This immersive approach ensures that each participant can fully benefit from the unique educational experience offered by the UCSB Summer Research Academies.

Research 2024 SRA Research Tracks

2024 SRA Research Tracks
Bionic Creatures Making Bio-Sense
Social Chemistry Our Burning Planet
Decoding Bias Mind the [Health] Gap
Resistance is Futile Vital Code
Legal Labyrinth Data Beneath
Strategic Choices Neuromorphic Computing

Male entomologist working in the lab on new species

Track Descriptions

  • Track 1: Bionic Creatures – Taking Inspiration From Nature for Innovative Engineering 

This track explores how nature’s designs inspire cutting-edge engineering solutions. Students will look into the mechanics of how creatures like geckos adapt to their environments, leading to advancements in robotics and artificial materials. Through hands-on case studies and bioinspired projects, participants will apply biological principles to develop technological solutions that address societal challenges, fostering a blend of engineering and biological sciences.

  • Track 2: Social Chemistry – Exploring the Human Connection Through Digital Community and Identity

In this course, students explore the dynamics of digital communities and how online identities shape social interactions and movements. By analyzing hashtags like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter, students will understand the impact of social media on modern activism and community building. The curriculum covers the theoretical frameworks of social identity in digital spaces and offers practical insights into the role of digital platforms in shaping social change.

  • Track 3: Decoding Bias – Investigating Media Narratives Through Data Science

Students in this track investigate how biases in media affect perceptions and shape societal narratives. Through data science techniques, including natural language processing and computer vision, the course addresses the stereotypical portrayal of marginalized groups. Students will perform empirical studies to critically evaluate media content, gaining skills that inform media policy and journalism practices.

  • Track 4: Resistance is Futile – Developments in the Fight Against Antibiotic Resistance in Bacteria

This course addresses the escalating challenge of antibiotic resistance through scientific exploration and drug development. Students learn about the mechanisms of bacterial resistance and the development of new antibiotics to combat infectious diseases. The curriculum includes practical lab techniques and computational modeling, preparing students to contribute to solutions in public health.

  • Track 5: Legal Labyrinth – Interrogating American Politics through Secularism and Religion

Exploring the contentious relationship between religion and politics in the U.S., this course examines how secular and religious ideologies influence governance and law. Students will investigate major court cases and policy decisions to understand the complex interplay of religion and state. The program emphasizes critical thinking and historical context to analyze current political debates.

Students working on their robots.

  • Track 6: Making Bio-Sense – Improving Biosensors Through Biological Tools and Empirical Measurements

In this track, students explore the intersection of biology and technology to improve biosensors. They will learn about the principles of biosensing, examine current sensors’ efficacy, and use techniques like electrochemistry to optimize sensor performance. The course provides a comprehensive look at the challenges and methodologies in developing effective biosensing technologies.

  • Track 7: Our Burning Planet – Addressing the Human Dimensions of the Climate Crisis

This course tackles the multifaceted issue of climate change by examining its human dimensions, such as the roles of imperialism and inequality. Students will engage with interdisciplinary methods to research and communicate the complex narratives of climate change, learning to address both scientific and societal aspects effectively.

  • Track 8: Mind the [Health] Gap – Analyzing Health Disparities with the Social-Spatial Determinants of Health

This track discusses the social-spatial determinants of health to understand why health outcomes vary dramatically across different geographic locations. Through data analysis and visualization, students explore how factors like demographics and geography influence health. The curriculum provides tools to analyze and address health disparities effectively.

  • Track 9: Vital Code – Probing the Dynamics Between Nuclear and Mitochondrial Genomes

Students investigate the symbiotic relationship between mitochondrial and nuclear genomes to understand cellular processes affecting aging, disease, and evolution. Using techniques like RNAi and phenotypic analysis, the course offers hands-on experience in genetics, enhancing students’ understanding of the complex interactions within cells.

  • Track 10: Data Beneath – Diving Into Marine Conservation Challenges Through Open Source Data Analysis

This course focuses on utilizing open-source ecological data to address marine conservation issues. Students will analyze data sets to understand the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems and develop conservation strategies. The curriculum emphasizes data science skills applicable to ecological and conservation research.

Young people with psychologist at group therapy session

  • Track 11: Strategic Choices – The Power of Behavioral Economic Theory in Explaining Human (Mis)Behavior

Exploring the intersection of economics and psychology, this course examines the cognitive biases influencing human decisions. Students will learn about economic theories and behavioral deviations, applying these insights to real-world scenarios and policy making. The track provides a foundation in microeconomic theory and its applications in understanding human behavior.

  • Track 12: Neuromorphic Computing – Hardware and Software Co-design for Neuro-Inspired Engineering

This track explores the advancements in artificial intelligence through the lens of neuromorphic computing, inspired by the human brain’s efficiency. Students will engage with emerging technologies like spiking neural networks and learn about the role of hardware and software co-design in improving computational performance. The course prepares students for future contributions in AI and computing technology.

Campus Life at UCSB Summer Research Academies

Students have access to extensive campus facilities. This includes the university’s full library and research resources. For recreation, students can use the University Recreation Center (RecCen), which offers weight rooms, courts for basketball, volleyball, racquetball, and squash, as well as state-of-the-art fitness equipment, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, tennis courts, and a track.

To take a break from your research duties, Friday Mixers are a great way to relax and meet students from all over the world at the end of a busy week. There are also other fun activities like game nights, tutorials, and watch parties to enjoy.

Residential Student Living Arrangements

Students stay in Santa Cruz Residence Hall, located near the Pacific Ocean and close to academic and recreational facilities. The residence hall offers double and triple occupancy rooms with high-speed internet, ample closet space, wall-to-wall carpeting, and furniture including beds, study desks, chairs, and dressers.

Residential students of the UCSB Summer Research Academies can also enjoy several additional benefits. They have access to off-road running trails and the beach for leisure and relaxation. Within the residence hall, there’s a television/DVD lounge and various recreational areas for downtime activities. A laundry room is available for convenience. The Summer Discovery program staff office is open 24/7, ensuring support is always available when needed.

These amenities and activities are designed to give the students a fun, comfortable academic experience and provide a supportive community. 

two female students talking inside a dorm room

Summer 2024 Important Dates

  • Applications Open: December 15, 2023
  • Applications Close: April 1, 2024
  • Virtual Component: June 27 – June 28, 2024
  • Welcome Event & Move-In: June 30, 2024
  • Closing Events: July 25 – July 26, 2024

Make sure to mark your calendars and plan accordingly for these important events!

Final Thoughts

The UCSB Summer Research Academies offers you a unique chance to dive deep into various academic disciplines, from science to humanities, all while being mentored by distinguished researchers. Enrich your knowledge, explore a potential college major, or simply get a taste of university life, UCSB’s academies are a perfect place to start! Seize this opportunity to challenge yourself, learn immensely, and potentially set the course for your future!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the UCSB Summer Research Academies?

The UCSB Summer Research Academies offer high school students the chance to engage in project-based research in fields like STEM, humanities, and social sciences. Participants enroll in a 4-unit university course, develop a research topic with guidance from expert instructors, and present their findings in a caporal seminar.

2. Who is eligible to participate in the UCSB Summer Research Academies?

Eligible participants include high school students currently in 9th, 10th, or 11th grade who maintain a minimum 3.60 weighted GPA. Applicants must commit to the full duration of the program and attend a mandatory preparation webinar.

3. How can I apply to the UCSB Summer Research Academies?

To apply, submit an online application by the specified deadline, usually around April 1st. The application process includes providing a transcript, a personal statement, and short response questions. Admissions are granted on a rolling basis, so early application is advised.

4. What are the costs involved in attending the UCSB Summer Research Academies?

Costs vary depending on whether you choose a commuter or residential option. Tuition covers academic and program fees; additional costs for residential students include housing and meal plans. Financial aid and scholarships are available for eligible students.

5. What benefits do the UCSB Summer Research Academies provide?

Participants gain valuable research experience, earn university credits, and develop professional skills such as effective communication and presentation. The program also offers networking opportunities with peers and professionals and a chance to experience college life on the UCSB campus.


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