How To Get Into the UC Santa Cruz Science Internship Program

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

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How To Get Into the UC Santa Cruz Science Internship Program

The University of California Santa Cruz Science Internship (UCSC SIP) program is an advanced science program for students who demonstrate motivation and interest in science research.

The program lasts nine weeks, with two weeks of online research preparation followed by seven weeks of hands-on, in-person research. You can adjust your schedule with your mentor to fit any other commitments you have, offering great flexibility.

In the first two weeks, students engage in online preparation to gain essential knowledge and skills for their research. Then, they will dive into seven weeks of practical research, applying what they have learned in a real-world setting.

This structure gives them both theoretical knowledge and practical experience, effectively preparing students for future academic and professional endeavors. The flexibility to create a personalized schedule with their mentor helps them balance the program with other activities, making it an adaptable and enriching experience.

The Science Internship Program is for high school students who focus their studies in the STEM fields, of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Students are also paired with various mentors, faculty advisors, and other interns, which allows for relationship-building, networking, and friendship.

Group of students walking to go to school.

If you are a student with an interest in any STEM subject and you want to work with professors, postdocs, and Ph.D. students in doing research for a real-life project, this could be the program for you!

About the UC Santa Cruz Science Internship Program

The UC Santa Cruz Science Internship Program started in 2009 with three students from a private high school in Silicon Valley, The Harker School. UCSC Astronomy Professor, Raja GuhaThakurta began working with the three students on astronomy projects.

He believed that allowing bright and determined high school students to experience the immersion of a university research project would allow for student development and would lead the young high school students toward becoming researchers.

a female college professor mentoring two students who are sitting in front of a computer

Since 2009, there have been 816 program participants from 155 high schools. Ten years since the program began, the UC Santa Internship Program had 180 interns who worked in 14 various departments in science, engineering, and social science subjects.

Watch Professor Raja GuhaThakurta’s TedTalk titled, Youth in research: an astronomer’s perspective’ here.

UC Santa Cruz Science Internship Program Research Projects

Here are the subjects that research projects fall under:

  • Applied Artificial Intelligence
  • Anthropology
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Biomolecular Engineering
  • Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • Computational Media
  • Computer Science and Computer Engineering
  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Environmental Studies
  • Literature
  • Linguistics
  • Molecular Cell and Development Biology
  • Microbiology & Environmental Toxicology
  • Ocean Sciences
  • Physics
  • Psychology

It’s up to you, the student, to select the subject that most interests you!

The research projects include readings for the intern to accomplish, as well as once the project is complete, the interns are expected to give a final presentation. The projects are formatted with a title, primary mentor, faculty advisor, location, number of interns, description of the project, tasks for the projects, required skills for interns prior to acceptance, skills interns will acquire, and a table considering the program week number with their mentor’s ability.

You may also check the University of California Santa Cruz Science Internship Program 2024 flyer here. 

Requirements for Biology Majors at MIT

The types of projects that achieve the best results in national science competitions are varied, and there is no way to predict which projects will be winners. While many SIP interns have experienced success in these competitions over the years, the outcome depends more on the intern’s writing skills than the specifics of the project.

Notably, several past SIP interns have placed in these competitions without having concrete results. Interns and parents are advised not to prioritize these competitions over fully immersing in the research experience, as success in national science competitions is neither necessary nor sufficient for college admission, a successful scientific career, or life success.

For the Regeneron Science Talent Search, a special consideration is that eligibility is limited to individuals, not student teams. Many SIP projects are collaborative, mirroring the nature of professional research. SIP aims to provide an authentic research experience, which often involves teamwork among SIP interns. Consequently, such collaborative projects are likely not eligible for the Regeneron Science Talent Search.

What does a research project in the UCSC Science Internship Program look like?

Here is a sample of what a research project looks like in the UCSC Science Internship Program.

Tasks: The primary objective of this research project is to create and understand the physics behind two-dimensional devices. The mentor will be in the lab fabricating devices while simultaneously live-streaming the process and discussing it with the SIP interns.

UCSC Science Internship Program Sample Research Project
Title Fabrication of Two-Dimensional Electronic Devices
Primary mentor Ryan Tumbleson
Faculty advisor Prof. Jairo Velasco, Jr.
Location Remote/online
Number of interns 2
Project description Researchers are hitting a fundamental limit on how small and powerful electronics can be with our current technology. In this research project, the mentor and SIP interns will create and explore some of the smallest electronic devices in existence and study the exotic behavior of these devices that result from quantum mechanical phenomena.

By stacking multiple layers of two-dimensional materials (thickness of one to a few atoms) on top of each other, the group will engineer devices that have novel properties that they can exploit and potentially implement in future nanotechnology.

The mentor will provide an in-depth description of the current methods used to cut chips, pre-process them, pick up the two-dimensional materials using scotch tape, stack them on top of each other, post-process them, and then characterize them.

In addition to this, the interns will collaborate on processing the data obtained from characterizing equipment such as an atomic force microscope and a scanning tunneling microscope. These two microscopes provide a way to visually see the surface of a material at the atomic scale.

Finally, there will be a Python coding portion of the project where the mentor will cover basic coding methods, and fundamental calculations to the research area, and then investigate the theoretical properties of the devices being fabricated to better understand the underlying physics.

Required skills for interns prior to acceptance: None

Skills interns will acquire/hone: Lab work

This is an example of a physics project from the 2020 Research Projects, to discover newer Research projects for 2024, visit this page. Projects are continuously being added by mentors, so keep looking at the page if there is a project that you are interested in!

A female researcher holding a test tube on the lab with a male researcher on the background


The staff of the SIP program works closely with the attendees. The staff includes founder and faculty director, Raja GuhaThakurta who has a Ph.D. in Astrophysical Sciences from Princeton University. Raja GuhaThakurta helped launch the Global Sphere Network with help from Google, New York Academy of Sciences and he and his students created Pyar, an online programming tutorial that is free.

Alexandria Leckliter is the K-12 STEM Outreach Director for UC Santa Cruz’s Educational Partnership Center. She works with various STEM programs and worked in STEM education.

To learn more about the Operations Coordinator, Assistant Director, Associate Director of Development, and the other staff, visit this program webpage.

Diversity in the UC Santa Cruz Science Internship Program

At the UC Santa Cruz Science Internship Program, the ratio of girls to boys is 3:2, and about 60% of the students in high school who have participated in the program are female.

Women are underrepresented in STEM, so it’s impressive that SIP’s ratio is 3:2.

a group of students helping each other for their project

When the UC Santa Cruz Science Internship Program began, there were a few kids in private school, no public schools, and in 2014, it grew to 40% of students who attended public schools. Out of the 155 schools that students have attended while in SIP, two-thirds are public schools and SIP is looking to increase that number.


In order to participate in The University of California Santa Cruz Science Internship program, you must meet these requirements:

  • At least 14 years of age when the program begins (some research project placements require you to be 16)
  • Currently enrolled in high school
  • You do NOT have to be a rising junior, many interns tend to be, but it is not required

If you applied to SIP last year and wasn’t accepted, here’s what you should do differently this time: SIP receives many excellent applications each year, far more than there are openings. While not every qualified applicant can be accepted, reapplying is encouraged.

To improve your chances, you should address your essay prompts clearly and directly. You also need to focus on demonstrating your unique qualities and experiences in a compelling way.


Students are accepted into the program based on their interest in the research subject that they’ve matched, their motivation to learn new concepts, ideas, and more as well as their ability in analytical thinking. Accepted students demonstrate leadership skills through their initiative and self-starting nature—qualities essential for team collaboration and individual work.

a high school student looking at the camera smiling

The research projects tend to be computational, you kindly check some of the sample projects here. It’s important that incoming student participants have some knowledge of computer programming. Preference may occur to returning participants of the SIP program who can commit to working the entirety of the 10 weeks.

Should prospective students contact SIP mentors at UC Santa Cruz before applying?

It’s strongly advised against contacting prospective SIP mentors (UCSC faculty, staff, postdocs, and PhD students) before applying or being admitted to the program. Attempting to bypass the official selection process—by lobbying mentors or submitting extra materials—could result in disqualification.

The SIP Selection Committee uses the application materials to objectively match interns with mentors. With thousands of applicants each year, contacting mentors directly would disrupt the process and create unnecessary complications.


The academic program fee for SIP 2024 is $4,750, which includes a $500 deposit. There is also a $60 application fee.

The program offers full and partial need-based scholarships to qualified students and encourages everyone to apply, even if cost is a concern.

If you want to live in dorm housing for the 8 weeks that are in person, housing is $600 for the Monday through Friday living and $875 for a full week. There is also a shuttle fee per week around $200. Read more about the costs here.

You can request an application fee waiver, the application fee is $60, but there are a limited amount of waivers. Need-based scholarship requests are considered, in 2019, 53 full scholarships and 2 partial were offered out of 180 attendees. Scholarships can be considered to cover academic fees, forming, etc.


The UC Santa Cruz Internship Program (SIP) runs Monday through Friday, primarily attracting Bay Area students due to weekday-only housing availability. However, if you live outside the Bay Area, you can still join SIP, but you’ll need to consider one or more of the following options:

  • Stay with a Local Guardian: If you prefer to participate in person, you can stay with a local guardian.
  • General Campus Weekday Housing: This is available to all students (Bay Area and out-of-area) from Sunday through Thursday nights for the seven weeks of the program.
  • Special Seven-Day Campus Housing: Out-of-area students have the option for seven-day (weekday and weekend) campus housing.
  • Remote Research Projects: You can choose to be part of select research projects that allow you to conduct research remotely, connecting with your mentor online. These projects focus on data analysis using computer programming. Check out the current year’s research project descriptions, where remotely mentored projects are noted. Note that online projects are not available for SIP 2024.

For a more immersive experience, there is an 8-week on-campus program with housing, meals, and residential assistants. Out-of-area interns may receive special admission for a full-week dormitory stay.

Two women talking in front of a laptop about dartmouth requirements

Steps to Apply for the UC Santa Cruz Science Internship Program

1. Access the SIP 2024 Intern Application by clicking on the “Apply Here” button at the top of the page.

  • If you applied in previous years, the system may recognize your email address. Use the “Forgot Password” function if you need to reset your password.
  • Read all instructions carefully for each section.

2. Pay the Application Fee

  • Access the Iris Payment Portal by clicking on the “Payment Portal” button at the top of the page.
  • Note that this is a separate system from the application portal, requiring you to create a new account.
  • Register with the same email address to match your accounts easily.
  • The non-refundable application fee is $60. If you need financial support, email the SIP office at [email protected] with a brief explanation, and an application fee waiver will be granted.

3. Follow Up With Your Teacher Reference

  • One reference from a teacher or mentor who knows you well is required.
  • Instructions for sending the Teacher Reference Form are in Section Two of the SIP 2024 Application for Admission.
  • Identify and contact your references as soon as possible to give them ample time to complete the form.
  • Once the Teacher Reference Form is sent, you’ll receive a confirmation email with instructions on how to change your reference if needed.
  • After your teacher or mentor submits their reference, you will receive a confirmation email.

Following these steps carefully make sure your application to the UC Santa Cruz Science Internship Program is complete and ready for review. Good luck!

healthcare services for students

Past Research Projects

Some titles of past research projects include:

  • What Happens Around Supermassive Black Holes
  • Immune Cell Profiling for Pediatric Cancers
  • Organic Solar Cells: Microstructure and Charge Transport
  • Designing Virtual Reality Games Using 360-Video to Teach Social-Emotional Skills to Adults with Developmental Disabilities
  • Gold Particles with N, S Doped Carbon Shell as Electrocatalysts
  • Understanding How and Why New Species Evolve: A Case Study in California Wildflowers
  • The Role of Family Support in First-Generation Latinx Students’ Adjustment to College
  • World of Robots: Child-Robot Interactions

Not only are these topics extremely interesting, but there are very limited opportunities to study these topics in-depth elsewhere. UC Santa Cruz Science Internship Program is a unique program due to its ability to allow high school students to participate in interesting, new and important studies like these, while also allowing them to continue to study the topics, present them, and use them for competition in the future, this opportunity allows students to learn about their passions while improving their college admissions chances.


Alumni of the UC Santa Cruz Science Internship Program (SIP) have made impressive strides in their careers. They attend conferences, submit articles to scientific journals, and leverage the mentorships they formed at SIP. Many pursue advanced degrees in science and technology.

For instance, Mary Johnson is a Ph.D. candidate in Bioengineering at Stanford University, and Alex Lee is completing a Master’s in Computer Science at MIT. SIP alumni often find success in academia, industry, and research. Dr. Emily Chen works as a research scientist at Google AI, while Dr. David Nguyen is a professor at UC Berkeley.

The program provides valuable resources for alumni, including networking opportunities, career support, and access to exclusive events. Reunions are also organized to maintain connections and strengthen the alumni community.

a teacher of biology with his students

Final Thoughts

The University of California Santa Cruz Science Internship Program (SIP) gives you the chance to explore your passion for STEM. You get to choose your projects, allowing you to dive into areas that truly interest you while building lasting connections with mentors and peers. SIP students are known for being academically accomplished, independent problem solvers who enjoy tackling challenges. If this sounds like you, the Santa Cruz Science Internship Program could be a perfect fit!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who is eligible to apply for the UC Santa Cruz Science Internship Program?

Students must be at least 14 years old by the start of the program and currently enrolled in high school. There is no requirement to be a rising junior, though many interns are.

2. What is the structure of the UCSC Science Internship Program?

The program spans nine weeks, starting with two weeks of online research preparation followed by seven weeks of hands-on, in-person research. The flexible schedule allows students to adjust their research hours with their mentors.

3. How can I improve my chances of being accepted into the program?

To strengthen your application, clearly and directly address the essay prompts, demonstrating your unique qualities and experiences. Showing a strong motivation to learn and an interest in the research subject can also boost your chances.

4. What types of research projects are available in the program?

Research projects cover various subjects, including applied artificial intelligence, anthropology, astronomy, biomolecular engineering, computer science, ecology, and more. Students choose projects based on their interests and collaborate with mentors and faculty advisors.

5. Are there any costs associated with the UCSC Science Internship Program?

The program fee is $4,750, including a $500 deposit, and a $60 application fee. Housing and shuttle fees are additional for students opting to live on campus. Need-based scholarships are available to help cover these costs.



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