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16 Best Research Opportunities for High School Students in California

Finding a great summer opportunity can be difficult, particularly in a place as competitive as California. Because we're a group of research nerds, we wanted to compile opportunities for students looking for research opportunities in the state!


In this article, we list 16 of the best in-person research-oriented programs in California that provide an immersive learning experience and enrich you as a scholar. The opportunities range from highly selective to fairly welcoming, and while some have a fee associated with them, others provide a stipend. There is something here for everyone.


Not seeing something you like? You can also look at the opportunities we’ve curated in psychology research, medical research, biology research, and virtual research. You can also check out our research program – Lumiere – which had 2100 students apply this past year!


16 Best Summer Research Opportunities for High School Students in California


Subject areas: STEM

Location: At the host institution's campus (living on campus). COSMOS is available across 4 campuses: UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, and UC Santa Cruz.

Cost / stipend: Fee - $4,550. Financial Aid is available.

Application deadline: Tentatively January for 2023 (based on previous year’s application).

Program dates: June - August

Program selectivity: High

Eligibility: California resident (although it allows 20 out-of-state students to participate). Demonstrated academic excellence.


This is an intensive, 4-week summer residential program for students who have demonstrated an aptitude in STEM. A typical COSMOS student has a GPA of 3.5 or above and other credentials which demonstrate academic excellence.


Subject areas: Biology, chemistry, medicine

Location: Stanford University campus (Stanford, CA)

Cost / stipend: The program provides a $500 stipend.

Fee: $40 (For application. Need-based refund available)

Application deadline: Tentatively December 15, 2022 for 2023 (based on the announcement on the website).

Program dates: June - August

Program selectivity: High

Eligibility: Juniors and Seniors. At least 16 years old when the program begins. Living in the U.S. and U.S. citizens or permanent residents with a green card.


During this 8-week program, students collaborate with Stanford faculty and researchers to conduct medical research. Students select one of eight study fields and are then allocated to a lab where they will be mentored one-on-one.


Location: Virtual 

Application Date: May 21, 2024 for the summer cohort, and September 25, 2024 for the fall cohort 

Program Dates: 

  • Summer seminar - June 24, 2024 - September 2, 2024

  • Fall seminar - October 23, 2024 - February 19, 2025

  • Lab dates are flexible, but you must apply 4 weeks in advance.

Eligibility: High school students with good academic standing (>3.67/4.0 GPA) can apply. Most accepted students are 10th/11th graders! Only a couple of tracks require formal prerequisites, more details of which can be found here.


Horizon offers trimester-long research programs for high school students across subject areas such as data science, machine learning, political theory, biology, chemistry, neuroscience, psychology, and more! It is one of the very few research programs for high school students that offers a choice between quantitative and qualitative research! 


Once you select a particular subject track and type of research you’ll be paired with a professor or Ph.D. scholar (from a top university) who will mentor you throughout your research journey. You’ll work to create a 20-page, university-level research paper that you can send to prestigious journals for publication as a high school student. 


This program is a solid opportunity for you to pursue a research program in highly specialized fields, under the guidance of a top scholar. The program also provides a letter of recommendation for each student, as well as detailed project feedback that you can use to work on future projects and on college applications. Apply here!


Subject areas: Biology, chemistry, medicine

Location: Scripps Research California campus (La Jolla, CA)

Cost / stipend: This program provides a $4,060 stipend.

Application deadline: Tentatively April for 2023 (based on previous year’s application).

Program dates: June to August

Program selectivity: High

Eligibility: San Diego County resident. At least 16 years of age when the program begins. Demonstrated competency in high school level chemistry and biology (minimum 3.0 GPA).


This immersive 8-week program provides exposure to contemporary issues in biomedical research, hands-on laboratory experience and mentorship from graduate students.


Subject areas: multidisciplinary

Location: Stanford University campus (Stanford, CA) *

Cost / stipend: Fee - Commuter, taking minimum of 3 units: starts at $4,926. Living on campus, taking a minimum of 8 units: starts at $15,875.

Application deadline: Tentatively November 2022 for 2023 (based on previous year’s application).

Program dates: June - August

Program selectivity: Moderate

Eligibility: Current sophomores, juniors, or seniors. At least 16 years of age when the program begins. Must not be matriculating into Stanford as a first year.


These 8-week programs offer an array of research opportunities ranging from behavioral sciences, animation, anthropology to computer science. All Stanford Summer Session courses carry Stanford University credit.

Subject areas: Biotechnology, microbiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, synthetic biology and biofuels.

Location: UC Berkeley Campus or other partner institutions.

Cost / stipend: The program provides a $1,800 stipend plus a $200 stipend for supplies and transportation.

Application deadline: Tentatively March for 2023 (based on previous year’s application).

Program dates: June - July

Program selectivity: Moderate

Eligibility: Sophomores or juniors at a high school in Alameda, Contra Costa, or San Francisco County. At least 15 years old. US citizens, permanent residents or DACA recipients. Contingent on maximum annual household income (here).


Hosted by the Joint BioEnergy Institute (U.S. Department of Energy) and other prestigious partner organizations, the Introductory College Level Experience in Microbiology (iCLEM) is a 5-week, paid summer science intensive for economically disadvantaged high school sophomores and juniors. Students work on a research project and get guidance on areas such as career exploration and college applications.


Subject areas: Computer science and related fields

Location: UC San Diego campus (San Diego, CA)

Cost / stipend: Fee - Program with research project: $1,500. Program without research project: free.

Application deadline: Tentatively March for 2023 (based on previous year’s application).

Program dates: June to August

Program selectivity: Fairly welcoming

Eligibility: Open to high school students generally. May have course-specific eligibility requirements.


Hosted by UC San Diego and the San Diego Supercomputer Center, this 8-week program allows students to work closely with mentors on a research project through which students learn how to formulate and test hypotheses, conduct computational experiments, and draw conclusions from those experiments.


Subject areas: Chemistry, physics, nanoscience

Location: UCLA campus (Los Angeles, CA). Living on campus is optional.

Cost / stipend: Fee - $2,961 + $1,521 (optional housing fee). Need and merit-based scholarships are available.

Application deadline: Tentatively April for 2023 (based on previous year’s application).

Program dates: July

Program selectivity: Moderate

Eligibility: Anyone enrolled in high school (freshman to senior). Strong science foundation in chemistry, physics, and biology.


During this 2-week program, students propose and conduct their own experimental research project. Students will explore a few important applications of nanoscience while also learning the basics of reviewing existing scientific literature, design-thinking, and entrepreneurship.



Subject areas: Biology, chemistry, medicine

Location: UC San Francisco campus (San Francisco, CA)

Cost / stipend: The program provides a $1500 stipend.

Application deadline: Tentatively January for 2023 (based on previous year’s application).

Program dates: June - August

Program selectivity: Moderately selective

Eligibility: Juniors or Seniors. At least 16 years old when the program begins. At least one completed year in math and biology. Have a background considered under-represented in the sciences.


This 9-week research program is integrated with the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland and organized by the Rheumatology and Immunology Laboratories. Students work 40 hours per week in either basic laboratory research or clinical epidemiological/translational (patient-focused) research.


Subject areas: Liberal arts, law and policy

Location: UC Irvine campus (Irvine, CA)

Cost / stipend: Fee - $1,110

Application deadline: Tentative dates are not yet available for 2023.

Program dates: July - August

Program selectivity: Fairly welcoming

Eligibility: Open to all high school students.


This 1-week program hosted by UC Irvine helps students hone a variety of skills that are foundational for research, as well as any professional career: analytical reasoning, public speaking, persuasion & argumentation, writing, and negotiation.


Subject areas: Medicine, surgery

Location: Stanford University campus (Stanford, CA) *

Cost / stipend: Fee - $4,095 for the current program (virtual). Scholarships are available.

Application deadline: Tentatively January for 2023 (based on previous year’s application).

Program dates: Program 1: June 29 -July 9; Program 2: July 19 - July 30

Program selectivity: Fairly welcoming

Eligibility: Juniors or seniors. At least 16 years old when the program begins. No grade requirement.


This 2-week intensive course is geared towards providing high school students with knowledge of and exposure to basic and advanced cardiothoracic surgery and technical skills (e.g., knot tying, dissection, suturing, coronary artery bypass graft, and cardiac valve replacement).


Subject areas: Chemistry, biochemical chemistry, material science, and related fields

Location: UC Berkeley campus (Berkeley, CA) for 4 weeks on site internship (living on campus). This is following a 9-month remote coaching.

Cost / stipend: Fee - $14,825 (including room and board)

Application deadline: Tentatively May for 2023 (based on previous year’s application).

Program dates: Remote coaching: October - June. On - site internship: July - August.

Program selectivity: High

Eligibility: Rising students entering grades 9-12. Good to have taken general or AP chemistry. Successful applicants will be among the top 10% of their respective class and must demonstrate maturity, motivation, and excellent communication skills.


This one-year program exposes students to hands-on research experience through group meetings, research seminars and data analysis.


Subject areas: Multidisciplinary (For example, music, sociology, engineering, or creative writing)

Location: UC San Diego (San Diego, CA)

Cost / stipend: Fee - $1,500 - online course tuition. $3,000 - commuter course tuition (in person). Need based scholarships are available.

Application deadline: Tentatively May for 2023 (based on previous year’s application).

Program dates: Commuter Program: July 11 - July 29. Online Program: July 5 - July 29. (tentative)

Program selectivity: High

Eligibility: Anyone enrolled in high school (freshman to senior). At least 14 years old before the program starts. Cumulative GPA of 3.3 or higher. Recommendation from a teacher or counselor.


25 students are selected to each work individually with a UCSD Faculty researcher during this 6-week long program.


Subject areas: Biology, mathematics

Location: UC Irvine campus (Irvine, CA)

Cost / stipend: None.

Deadline to apply: Tentatively March for 2023 (based on previous year’s application).

Program dates: June - July

Program selectivity: Moderate

Eligibility: Released with the new application.


Math ExpLR is a 6-week mathematical biology program. Students will be paired with undergraduates and collaborate on a computational biology research project with a principal investigator. There will also be weekly skill development events, such as how to deliver presentations or how to write math on the computer.


Subject area: Art, history, sociology

Location: Asia Art Museum (San Francisco, CA) and also partly virtual.

Cost / stipend: This program provides a stipend (amount unknown).

Application deadline: Tentative dates for 2023 are not yet available. Please join the mailing list to remain updated on applications.

Program dates: August - May

Program selectivity: Fairly welcoming

Eligibility: Released with the new application.


This year-long internship provides unique opportunities and career training for public high school sophomores, juniors and seniors. Interns discover Asian art and cultural traditions, learn from local artists and arts organizations, engage in social justice and youth activism, conduct informational interviews with museum staff to explore careers in the arts, and develop their leadership skills by creating and facilitating hands-on art activities.


Subject area: Multidisciplinary

Location: UCLA Campus (Los Angeles, California). Also available online.

Cost / stipend: Fee - Per unit: $1440, further fixed fee: $461. Financial aid is available. Number of units a student opts for can vary.

Application deadline: Tentatively June - August for 2023, on a rolling basis depending on the courses selected (based on previous year’s application).

Program dates: June-August

Program selectivity: Fairly welcoming

Eligibility: Open to high school students generally. May have course-specific eligibility requirements.


Students can choose from over 800, 6 to 10-week courses that represent UCLA’s academic breadth. Courses range from liberal arts, foreign language to sciences.


* This program has been taking place virtually because of the COVID pandemic, but it is intended as an on-campus program and may resume from 2023.


If you're looking for a real-world internship that can help boost your resume while applying to college, we recommend Ladder Internships!


Ladder Internships is a selective program equipping students with virtual internship experiences at startups and nonprofits around the world! 


The startups range across a variety of industries, and each student can select which field they would most love to deep dive into. This is also a great opportunity for students to explore areas they think they might be interested in, and better understand professional career opportunities in those areas. The startups are based all across the world, with the majority being in the United States, Asia and then Europe and the UK. 

The fields include technology, machine learning and AI, finance, environmental science and sustainability, business and marketing, healthcare and medicine, media and journalism and more.


You can explore all the options here on their application form. As part of their internship, each student will work on a real-world project that is of genuine need to the startup they are working with, and present their work at the end of their internship. In addition to working closely with their manager from the startup, each intern will also work with a Ladder Coach throughout their internship - the Ladder Coach serves as a second mentor and a sounding board, guiding you through the internship and helping you navigate the startup environment. 


Cost: $1490 (Financial Aid Available)

Location:  Remote! You can work from anywhere in the world.

Application deadline: April 16 and May 14

Program dates: 8 weeks, June to August

Eligibility: Students who can work for 10-20 hours/week, for 8-12 weeks. Open to high school students, undergraduates and gap year students!


Additionally, you can also work on independent research in AI, through Veritas AI's Fellowship Program!


Veritas AI focuses on providing high school students who are passionate about the field of AI a suitable environment to explore their interests. The programs include collaborative learning, project development, and 1-on-1 mentorship. These programs are designed and run by Harvard graduate students and alumni and you can expect a great, fulfilling educational experience. Students are expected to have a basic understanding of Python or are recommended to complete the AI scholars program before pursuing the fellowship.

 

The AI Fellowship program will have students pursue their own independent AI research project. Students work on their own individual research projects over a period of 12-15 weeks and can opt to combine AI with any other field of interest. In the past, students have worked on research papers in the field of AI & medicine, AI & finance, AI & environmental science, AI & education, and more! You can find examples of previous projects here


Location: Virtual

Cost

  • $1,790 for the 10-week AI Scholars program

  • $4,900 for the 12-15 week AI Fellowship 

  • $4,700 for both

  • Need-based financial aid is available. You can apply here

Application deadline: On a rolling basis. Applications for fall cohort have closed September 3, 2023. 

Program dates: Various according to the cohort

Program selectivity: Moderately selective

Eligibility: Ambitious high school students located anywhere in the world. AI Fellowship applicants should either have completed the AI Scholars program or exhibit past experience with AI concepts or Python.

Application Requirements: Online application form, answers to a few questions pertaining to the students background & coding experience, math courses, and areas of interest.


One other option – Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you are passionate about research, you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students that I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 2100 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.


Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.


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