UC Santa Cruz Science Internship Program (SIP)

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Students cheering on an event.

Perform Advanced Research through the UC Santa Cruz Science Internship Program

The University of California Santa Cruz Science Internship program is a ten-week advanced science program for students who demonstrate motivation and interest in science research. The Science Internship Program is for high school students who focus their studies in the STEM fields, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The  UC Santa Cruz Science Internship Program is entering its 12th year of success in matching students with actual research projects revolving biology, physics, chemistry, astronomy, and more. 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. Research projects through the University of California Santa Cruz Science Internship program vary, so if you aren’t necessarily interested in biology, but you have a passion for anthropology, there are projects for those topics. Continue reading to explore various topics as well as what other resources the program offers, more about the University of California Santa Cruz, and whether or not you are eligible.

Summer internship programs, whether remote or in-person, allow you to explore your interests and focus completely while also providing college admissions counselors a view into your passions and prove how hard you work even in the summer. This program gives high school students the option of living on campus for a college-like experience to assist in deciding about going to college, or choosing the work on campus but living off-campus or a remote program if you don’t want to experience college living just yet.

If the University of California Santa Cruz Science Internship program isn’t the exact fit for you, check out the other Top Summer Programs for High School Students.

About the UC Santa Internship Program

The UC Santa 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 towards 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. This past year, 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.

The UC Santa Internship Program is a 10 week-long program for students who are interested in studying STEM subjects to be assigned a real-life research project to work on with mentors who may be faculty members of UCSC, graduate students, or postdoctoral researchers. 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
  • Linguistics
  • Molecular Cell and Development Biology
  • Microbiology & Environmental Toxicology
  • Ocean Sciences
  • Physics
  • Psychology

It’s up to the student to help in choosing what subject they’re most interested in choosing. If you’re stuck there are a few things you can do, consult with us at AdmissionSight, we can review your work to see where you are the strongest in being accepted. Check out the Math and Science resource to understand how to prepare for programs and competitions in Math and Science, and there is another resource among the same lines for research.

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. For the University of California Santa Cruz Science 2020 program flyer, click here.

This is what an example of a research project looks like:

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.

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. 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, fundamental calculations to the research area, and then investigate the theoretical properties of the devices being fabricated to better understanding 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 the other Research projects for 2020, visit this page. Projects are continuously being added by mentors, co keep looking at the page if there isn’t a project that’s the right fit.


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 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.


Visit this page to view the key dates for the program, and to ensure your application is in on time. 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 (If you aren’t in high school yet, check out AdmissionSight’s pre-high school consultation to ensure you’re prepared to apply when old enough)
  • You do NOT have to be a rising junior, many interns tend to be, but it is not required


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. Students who are accepted demonstrate leadership capabilities due to their initiative and being a self-starter, qualities you need when working on a team with individual work.

a high school student looking at the camera smiling

The research projects tend to be computational, view the 2019 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.

It doesn’t hurt to get assistance with your application. There are many ways to prepare for a dream summer program, such as extracurricular planning to ensure you have the activities to be considered for the program, or assistance with the application itself. At AdmissionSight we offer assistance with up to five summer program applications, to boost the student’s chance of admission through essay editing and strategy for a letter of recommendation.


The costs for the program include the academic program fee and the deposit, coming to $4,000 for the 10-week program. 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 Internship Program is a program that runs Monday through Friday, which is why mainly Bay Area students attend due to the fact that there is mainly housing for weekdays. For students who want to have an immersive experience, there is an 8-week on-campus program with housing and meals, as well as residential assistants, and out of Bay Area interns can potentially receive special admission for full week dormitory stay.

Also, explore the campus of the University of California Santa Cruz with this Interactive Map. 

The program is 10 weeks in its entirety, 2 of those weeks are online and 8 are in person in the Bay Area. Most of the students who are accepted into the UC Santa Internship Program are from Bay Area high schools. Students who are out of the Bay Area will end up in one or more of the three sections:

  • Students who use weekday-housing but have a plan for weekend housing locally
  • A student who uses full-week housing when available
  • Students who are placed into remotely-mentored projects, there are a limited amount

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.

To go more in-depth into past research projects by year and subject, click here.



Alumni of the UC Santa Cruz Science Internship Program have gone on to attend conferences, submit articles to scientific journals and competitions and utilize the mentorships they created at SIP. There are resources for alumni of the program as well as reunions.

The University of California Santa Cruz Science Internship program allows students to explore their passion for STEM subjects while having the freedom to choose their project and make long-lasting relationships with their various mentors and intern groups. SIP students are motivated and not just a modern-day 4.0 student, SIP students are problem solvers and independent workers who aim to challenge themselves if this sounds like you the Santa Cruz Science Internship program could be for you. If you’re looking for help in applying, contact us, and continue to check in on the program page for updates.



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