The University of California, Santa Cruz offers competitive summer internship programs for high school students. As part of the Summer Internship Program, or SIP, students are encouraged to work on independent open-ended projects in science, under the mentorship of UCSC faculty, PhD scholars, and researchers.
The UCSC SIP is a popular program for high school students who wish to carry out research in science and explore scientific questions under the guidance and supervision of researchers and academicians who have conducted their research in the same field.
The Science Internship Program was founded in 2009, by UCSC Astronomy Professor Raja Guha Thakurta, and has seen over 816 high school students from 155 different high schools participate in the various internships UCSC offers.
As a SIP intern, you can conduct research on topics in astrophysics, biology, psychology, computer science, and physics, to name a few.
In this blog, we'll cover 8 reasons why you should consider applying to UCSC SIP. Additionally, we’ve also mentioned what UCSC SIP is all about, program details, costs, application dates, and deadlines, as well as overall program components that you can expect to engage with as an intern for the summer.
About UCSC SIP
UCSC SIP is an internship program for high school students that allows you to conduct advanced research under the mentorship of UCSC faculty and fellows. The program has seen students from across the world participate in research across a diverse range of STEM subjects.
A few subjects that will be covered in the 2023 cohort are -
Computer Science/Computer Engineering
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Astronomy and Astrophysics
Chemistry and Biochemistry
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
The program has been very well received in the past for its quality of mentorship, resources provided to the interns for a successful research project, as well as guidance for national and international poster presentations and research competitions.
At the end of the 10-week internship program, interns will participate in research/poster presentation sessions and receive feedback on their research.
Many SIP interns have been awarded with publications of their research in popular and prestigious journals across various subjects.
Students must be at least 14 years of age on the program start date, or at least 16 years of age for certain research project placements.
Students who are to graduate high school by the start of the program date are not eligible.
Eligible interns should demonstrate interest and passion for STEM, and excellent academic performance at high school.
International students can also apply.
The 2023 SIP program will be a hybrid program, where you can choose to participate in the program online or attend it on-campus. For the latter, SIP provides housing for interns. You can also choose to partially attend the program online.
The application deadline for the 2023 cohort has passed, but you can expect the 2024 program deadline to be on March 31, 2023. Applications open up on the 1st of March and are open for about a month.
The program lasts for about 10 weeks, and the program dates for the 2023 program are June 24 - August 19, with the final presentation day falling on August 20.
The program fee for SIP is $4,000 (this includes the $400 deposit). You should also count housing and living costs if you are not a resident of the Bay Area and need accommodation for the summer. Financial aid is offered on the basis of need.
8 Reasons to Apply to UCSC SIP
1. Gain hands-on experience
UCSC offers its interns hands-on experience in a subject area of their choice, as well as an immersive research experience under faculty mentorship. As a UCSC intern, you will be expected to engage and learn to read professional journal articles, write code for scientific computing, and understand and apply science communication while presenting your research ideas at the end of the internship program.
Admissions officers are looking for students that have been able to delve deeper into the subject that they demonstrate an interest in, and not just rely on school tests and material for the subject. SIP offers you the chance to translate your passion for a subject into a research project. This displays your skill, motivation, and commitment to a particular subject (such as Psychology, Biology, and Physics) that you are expected to carry forward into your undergraduate degree.
It is important to note that SIP strongly emphasizes immersive and enriching research experiences as the goal of their program, and not just publication and presentation(s) in research competitions.
2. Receive mentorship and guidance from UCSC faculty
As part of the program, you will be assigned a mentor that is an experienced researcher in the field you wish to explore. You are expected to learn from them, develop your own research skills under their guidance, and refine and rework your research project and submission based on the feedback and insights your mentor provides you.
While you apply for the program, you will be asked for your choice of subject, research area, and skills you wish to learn. UCSC pairs you up with a mentor that matches your profile, maximizing your learnings and experience over the course of the internship.
UCSC mentors include faculty at UCSC, Ph.D. scholars, and externally recruited scholars in the multiple subject areas students wish to explore. A few faculty members that have mentored SIP students in the past are Dr. David Feldheim, Dr. Nobuhiko Kobayashi, and Dr. Jessica Taft.
3. Be part of a diverse cohort and gain exposure
UCSC has been championing diversity in its cohorts since its inception and encourages students from all backgrounds and interests to apply. The diversity in each cohort has only been boosted after the introduction of online/remote cohorts, with students from 22 different countries and over 16 different U.S. States.
Learning and interacting with fellow interns is an experience you should not miss out on, and interactions like these help you create a more refined and mature worldview, something that reflects in both your research as well as your college applications.
SIP has also seen interns from over 268 different high schools, both from within the U.S. and outside.
4. Build a great network
International internship programs are known for the networking opportunities and out-of-office experiences that they provide.
As an intern with the UCSC, you can expect to engage with individuals and their opinions, work, and knowledge from across the world. UCSC is known for its diversity, and has a solid faculty body, including professors from disciplines ranging from anthropology to physics.
It is a great idea to make the most of the weeks you'll be spending with your peers and mentors and discuss your career options, research ideas, and build meaningful professional connections.
5. Publish and present your research
SIP interns explore research ideas and present their ideas at prestigious research-based competitions and STEM fairs such as Regeneron ISEF and Science Talent Search, as well as meetings by the American Astronomical Society, Siemens Science Competition, and American Geophysical Union meeting, to name a few.
As a SIP intern, you have an edge over other participants due to the mentorship and guidance that you receive, along with skill training. Participation in such competitions and post-presentation symposiums is seen very favorably by admissions officers and is an achievement that you can mention in your resume both during and after college.
SIP interns have worked on a variety of projects across 15+ subjects in the last cohort (of summer 2022) itself, a few examples of which are -
Designing a Live American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreter Using Deep Learning-based NLP
Deep Learning Algorithms for Application in Wound Healing
Causes and Impacts of Urban Sprawl
Toxin-Antitoxin Systems Prevalence in Microbial Systems
You can check out the complete list of 2022 projects here.
6. Have a chance to make a real-world impact
The research projects that you will undertake at SIP are aimed at filling gaps in existing literature about a topic, or at solving a real-world issue. Your college application profile rests heavily on the efforts you make towards learning and applying concepts in your field of interest, outside the comfort zone of your high school.
SIP interns have worked on research that has gone on to feature in prestigious research competitions and has been the focus of their future efforts as researchers.
A great example of research projects that have made a real-world impact is a study conducted by SIP interns on active galactic nuclei, which are even more powerful than thought.
You can read the report here.
The interns who worked on this project are now at UC Berkeley, Harvey Mudd, and Princeton University. SIP interns have also been able to make a positive impact on their career prospects.
7. Flexibility: attend with ease remotely or get a feel of college life
If you're looking for a summer internship that lets you explore and experience university life before joining as an undergraduate, in-person programs like the SIP (held at UC, Santa Cruz) may be a good option.
SIP offers housing in and around the Bay Area, as well as transportation options for its interns.
The remote program is easier for students from across the world to attend, something that has added to the overall quality and diversity found in the program, but the in-person program offers a more enriching and exciting experience for attendees.
The shift from high school to university can be quite jarring for students who haven't had the chance to experience university life before joining, but summer programs like SIP offer a safe, holistic on-campus research experience.
8. Boost your profile with a prestigious program
Although UCSC SIP does not provide any academic credit, it is regarded as a prestigious research program for high school students. UCSC SIP interns have gone on to win publications and prizes at some of the most competitive research competitions in the world.
Mentioning UCSC SIP along with the research work that you’ve pursued over the summer is an excellent addition to your CV, and can greatly enhance your chances of acceptance at your dream school.
Advanced research as a high school student is viewed favorably, and international-level programs such as the UCSC SIP are considered to be prestigious experiences.
UCSC has released a list of general FAQs, as well as Applicant (and Parent) FAQs, which could help answer any preliminary queries that you may have while applying for the program, or accepting your offer.
The last cohort saw some very impactful and thorough research projects, a list of which you can see here.
A complete Events Calendar for the SIP 2023 program
Testimonials from past interns that can help aid your decision and motivation to be summer interns at UCSC!
If you are interested in doing university-level research in a remote format in a subject of your choice, then 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 4000 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.
Image Source: UCSC SIP logo