The Ultimate Guide to Stanford Institute of Medical Research (SIMR)

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Aerial view of Stanford campus with trees and buildings in sight

The Ultimate Guide to Stanford Institute of Medical Research (SIMR)

Starting your higher education opens up numerous opportunities to expand your knowledge and skills. One opportunity worth considering is the Stanford Institute of Medical Undergraduate Research, especially if you’re interested in medical research.

This blog will guide you through what the program offers, its benefits, and the application process to help you make an informed decision.

What is the Stanford Institute of Medical Research (SIMR)?

The Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program (SIMR) offers an eight-week experience where high school students from diverse backgrounds can engage in basic research. Participants work alongside Stanford faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and researchers on projects that are closely related to medicine and biology.

The program aims to boost interest in the biological sciences and medicine among high school students. It also provides a comprehensive understanding of how scientific research is conducted, giving students a practical and insightful look into the research process.

Areas of Study in Stanford

Students accepted into the Stanford Institute for Medical Research (SIMR) are assigned to one of eight specific research areas within the Institutes of Medicine at Stanford University. These institutes include:

Once accepted, students will receive a list of faculty members who are available to host students in their laboratories, along with descriptions of their research areas. Students must then rank these faculty members based on their interest in the specific research topics.

The program aims to accommodate student preferences as closely as possible when assigning labs, but it cannot guarantee that all students will be placed in their top choice labs. Students are advised not to contact faculty members directly regarding lab placements.

Instead, each student will be paired with a mentor, who is typically a Stanford graduate student or a post-doctoral fellow. These mentors will guide the students through their research projects in the assigned faculty member’s lab.

SIMR Brief History

The Stanford Institute of Medical Research (SIMR) was originally established in 1998 as the CCIS Summer Research Program, supported by a generous donation from a local family and aligned with the Center for Clinical Immunology at Stanford. Its primary aim was to spark interest in the biological sciences and immunology among high school students in the San Francisco Bay Area and across the United States.

The program began with just 10 participants in its first year and grew to consistently include 20 to 25 students each summer by 2001, supported by various organizations including Genentech and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

In 2007, the program expanded through a partnership with the Stanford Institute for Immunology, Transplantation, and Infection (ITI). The following year, it collaborated with five other Stanford Institutes focusing on different scientific fields such as cancer biology and neuroscience, leading to a name change to the Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program (SIMR).

From 2009 to 2013, the departments of genetics, bioengineering, and bioinformatics joined, significantly broadening the research opportunities available. In 2014, SIMR introduced a bioengineering boot camp, allowing students to work on practical biodesign projects and participate in specialized lectures.

A Typical Day for Stanford Institute of Medical Research (SIMR) Participants

Participants in the SIMR program start their first day with a comprehensive orientation day on Monday, June 10, 2024. This initial day includes a general session where students meet the program staff and receive an overview of the program’s structure, a detailed schedule for the summer, and a basic syllabus. Following the orientation, students will join a luncheon where they can meet their lab mentors and prepare for their upcoming lab assignments.

Safety is a priority at SIMR; therefore, all participants must attend a series of safety lectures during the first week. These lectures are mandatory due to university regulations, and participants must complete additional online safety training before the program begins.

The academic schedule includes structured morning lectures several times a week for the first two weeks, transitioning to weekly joint lectures for the remaining weeks. These lectures are designed to complement the hands-on lab experience.

During the program, interns work a standard 40-hour week from Monday through Friday, focusing on research in a faculty member’s lab under the day-to-day mentorship of Stanford graduate students or post-doctoral fellows. There are no scheduled evening or weekend lab hours.

Three students talking to a teacher while on a hallway.

What is the Poster Session?

The poster session is the highlight event for the SIMR program, taking place on the final evening of the summer on the Stanford campus. This event will be held on Thursday evening, August 1, 2024. During this event, students showcase their research projects by presenting posters they have created.

Family members, teachers, and members of the Stanford community, including faculty, students, and staff, are invited to attend. They can view the posters and discuss the research with the students. To help students prepare, the Faculty Director of the program provides a special lecture on creating effective research posters in the first few weeks of the program.

Who Should Apply for SIMR?

To be accepted into the Stanford Institute for Medical Research (SIMR), an applicant must be a high school junior or senior as of spring 2024. This specifically includes students who will graduate in either 2024 or 2025.

All applicants must also be 16 years or older by the time the program begins. Lastly, candidates must be living in the United States and attending a U.S. school. They must also be either U.S. citizens or permanent residents holding a green card. These criteria make sure that all participants are properly prepared and legally allowed to join the program.

For 2024, SIMR anticipates welcoming approximately 50 students to the program. However, the final count may vary depending on the number of labs participating and the availability of funding.

SIMR also particularly encourages students from underrepresented groups in biomedical research to apply. These groups include first-generation college students, ethnic minorities, women, those with disabilities, and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Due to logistical challenges, the selection process is inclined to favor local students in the Bay Area.

However, the p program still welcomes applications from non-local students. For more detailed information about this, potential applicants are encouraged to visit the “mission” section available on the left-hand panel of the program’s website.

Students applying from outside the Bay Area must include in their application the name and address of a family member with whom they will be staying. It is important to note that the program does not permit staying at hotels or AirBnBs.

Program Cost

Applying to the program requires a $40 application fee. However, this fee can be waived for applicants whose gross family income is below $80,000 or for those facing special circumstances that make the fee unaffordable. Applicants in need of a waiver can request one directly through the online application form.

Once accepted into the program, there are no additional costs for any student.

Moreover, every participant receives a minimum stipend of $500 to help cover expenses. For those who require further financial support, stipends of $2500 or more are available through a needs-based system, supported by special grants. This ensures that all students, regardless of their financial situation, can benefit from and contribute to the program without financial strain.

a male doctor checking the child patient's heart beat using a stethoscope

How Do You Get Into SIMR?

Gaining admission to the Stanford Institute of Medical Research (SIMR) is a competitive process, but understanding what the program values can help you strengthen your application.

A strong academic record is a must, especially in subjects like science and mathematics, where you need to show your ability and commitment. Alongside academic prowess, any previous research experience you have, even from high school projects, is beneficial and can set you apart from other candidates.

A key component of your application will be your personal statement. This is your opportunity to convey your enthusiasm for medical research and articulate how participating in SIMR aligns with your future objectives. It’s important to clearly communicate why you are passionate about this field and what makes you a good fit for the program.

Letters of recommendation are important. These should come from teachers or mentors who know you well and can vouch for your academic abilities and potential for success in a rigorous research environment. Strong endorsements from credible sources can significantly enhance your application by providing insights into your capabilities and character.

How Do I Apply to the Stanford Institute of Medical Research?

Applying to the Stanford Institute of Medical Research (SIMR) is an entirely online process. Here are the detailed steps to guide you through the application:

Step 1: Create an Account

Start by creating a new account on the SIMR application page. Visit the site, click on “Application” in the left-hand column, and then select “Create a new account.” You will need to provide your name, email address, and create a password that is easy to remember. After setting up your account, complete a general profile which includes filling out your address and phone number.

Step 2: Review the Application

After creating your account, navigate to the main application page where you’ll find various sections like Forms, References, and Submit. Begin with the Forms section, which is where you’ll input most of your information and upload necessary documents such as transcripts and standardized test scores. These can be uploaded as PDF, JPG, or TIFF files, and you can return to edit your inputs as often as needed until the application deadline.

Step 3: Fill Out the References Section

In the References section, enter the school email address of a high school teacher who will provide you a letter of recommendation. Make sure to confirm with the teacher before adding their email, as they will receive instructions on how to submit the recommendation directly to SIMR.

Step 4: Pay the Application Fee

The application fee is $40, payable online via credit card, which is the preferred method. If you require a fee waiver due to financial constraints or special circumstances, complete the fee waiver form available under the “SIMR INFORMATION” tab in the application. This must be done before the application deadline specified. If you are unable to pay by credit card and need to pay by check, indicate this on the fee waiver form and prepare to mail a check made out to Stanford University.

Step 5: Submit Your Application

Once every section is complete and you have reviewed your application thoroughly, proceed to submit it by clicking on the submit button on the application page. Remember, no changes can be made once your application is submitted, so double check if everything is accurate. Applications are reviewed collectively after the deadline, so there is no benefit to submitting early.

Follow these steps to make sure that your application to SIMR is complete and submitted correctly!

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Where is the Stanford Institute of Medical Research Held?

SIMR is located on the Stanford University campus in Stanford, California, where it benefits from top-notch research facilities and a dynamic academic environment.

It’s important for aspiring participants to note that SIMR does not provide on-campus housing due to limited staffing and funding. Students and their families are responsible for arranging their own accommodation and transportation. This is important for those applying from outside the Bay Area or from another state. Furthermore, the program cannot legally assist with housing placements.

Applicants not living at home must specify their housing plans on the application, including details about where they will stay, along with the contact information of the host. Program staff may contact the host to confirm housing arrangements as part of the application review process.

Due to the complexities involved, especially for minors, it is recommended that students arrange to stay with close relatives in the Bay Area. The program requires that students reside with a responsible adult who will oversee their housing, transportation, and supervision during their participation. If it is found that these conditions are not met, the student may be disqualified from continuing in the program.

Young woman talking to two inteviewers.

When Does the Stanford Institute of Medical Research Take Place?

The Stanford Institute of Medical Research (SIMR) is scheduled to be held in person for the summer of 2024. The program will run from June 10 to August 1, 2024, lasting a total of eight weeks.

Interested participants can find the application and detailed program information available online starting at 5 PM PST on Wednesday, December 20, 2023. The deadline to submit applications is Saturday, February 24, 2024.

The SIMR Experience

Participants of the Stanford Institute of Medical Research (SIMR) consistently describe their experiences as transformative and enlightening. One student reflected on their first exposure to a professional research environment, noting how their mentor encouraged them to critically analyze data and explore relationships independently. The engaging research, supportive environment, and inspiring individuals further fueled their passion for the field.

Another participant from the 2014 cohort shared that the program nurtured their independence while reinforcing the importance of asking questions. They highlighted the necessity of meticulous experiment design and careful planning for achieving efficient and thorough results. They appreciated the need for creativity in developing new procedures and platforms, underscoring the innovative nature of scientific research at SIMR.

A male student studying intently

Final Thoughts

Participating in summer programs such as the Stanford Institute for Medical Research (SIMR) can significantly enhance a student’s profile and personal statement. For students passionate about medicine and biology, spending a summer at SIMR is an excellent opportunity. The program is both prestigious and free, making it an exceptionally valuable experience.

View of students standing while holding their book.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the Stanford Institute of Medical Research (SIMR)?

The Stanford Institute of Medical Research (SIMR) is an eight-week summer program where high school students conduct research alongside Stanford faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and researchers. The program aims to inspire interest in biology and medicine, offering students a hands-on experience in scientific research.

2. Who should apply to SIMR?

High school juniors and seniors as of spring 2024, specifically those graduating in 2024 or 2025, are eligible to apply. Applicants must be at least 16 years old by the start of the program, living in the United States, attending a U.S. school, and must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

3. How can you apply to SIMR?

Applying to SIMR involves creating an account on the SIMR website, filling out the online application form, and submitting it along with necessary documents such as transcripts and a personal statement. The application also requires a letter of recommendation from a high school teacher.

4. Where is SIMR held?

The program is located on the Stanford University campus in Stanford, California. Participants must arrange their own housing and transportation as the program does not provide on-campus accommodations.

5. When does SIMR take place?

The program is scheduled for the summer of 2024, running from June 10 to August 1. Applications open on December 20, 2023, and must be submitted by February 24, 2024.


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