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15 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 15 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!


15 Best Summer Research Opportunities for High School Students in California


1. COSMOS | California State Summer School for Mathematics & Science

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.


2. Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program (SIMR)

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.


3. Scripps Research’s High School Student Research Education Program

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.


4. Stanford Summer Session

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.

5. Joint BioEnergy Institute’s Summer Science Intensive: iCLEM

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.


6. UCSD’s and SDSC’s Annual Research Experience for High School Students (REHS)

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.


7. UCLA’s Applications of Nano Science Summer Camp

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.


8. UCSF’s Arthritis Foundation Summer Science Internship Program


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.


9. High School Summer Institute of Law

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.


10. Stanford’s High School and Pre-Medical Student Summer Internship

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).


11. UC Berkeley’s The Summer Youth Intensive Program

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.


12. UCSD’s Academic Connections Program

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.


13. UC Irvine’s Math ExpLR Summer Research 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.


14. Asia Art Museum’s Art Speak Internship

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.


15. UCLA Summer Sessions

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.


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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