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Research Experience for High School Students (REHS) at UCSD - Our Honest Review

For high school students like yourself eyeing a future in STEM, research experiences can be the building blocks of a robust scientific foundation. Engaging in research early on can sharpen your analytical skills, deepen your subject knowledge, and give you a taste of what a career in research might look like.

Today’s blog post focuses on a valuable opportunity to pursue scientific research with a dedicated mentor while still in high school - the Research Experience for High School Students, or REHS, hosted at UCSD.

What is the REHS at UCSD?

The Research Experience for High School Students (REHS) at UCSD, hosted by the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) is an 8-week volunteer program that integrates selected high schoolers into an established research project with a dedicated mentor. You’ll learn how to formulate and test hypotheses, conduct computational experiments, and spend plenty of time in regular lab meetings and group discussions with your research peers. It is a highly practical and real-world focused opportunity, as you’ll be working on actual projects in progress at the SDSC.

The SDSC provides resources, services and expertise to the local, regional, and national research community through its leadership in data-intensive computing and cyberinfrastructure. Its stated mission is to empower science and engineering communities and develop the next generation of scientists. With its experienced faculty and cutting edge technology, it is a solid place for a young research enthusiast to be spending their summer.

Is it prestigious?

The REHS is a highly prestigious program. The primary driver of its prestige is that you will be paired 1:1 with a dedicated mentor and work in an actual, existing research project of the SDSC. Because of these two factors, the exposure you get here is unparalleled — you’ll be contributing to meaningful research. Being selected for the program is an achievement in itself, as students from over 70 high schools apply and REHS selects no more than 40 or so every year. The value and learning that the program provides can be estimated from the fact that 65% of REHS alumni go on to attend a college or university on the list of top 20 global educational institutions.

Who is eligible to apply?

To be eligible for REHS, you must:

  • Be a Southern California resident. The program focuses on students from San Diego county, but will consider your application if you have summer accommodation in the area.

  • Have completed your most recent semester of high school and be in 10th, 11th or 12th grade within Southern California.

  • Have a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 and be college bound.

    • One year each of high school level chemistry or biology is recommended but not required.

How does the REHS application process work?

The application process for REHS is as follows:

  1. Submit your online application between February 15 and March 15. This application involves:

    1. A cover letter.

    2. A well-crafted resume.

    3. An essay explaining your reason(s) to participate.

    4. A recommendation letter from a teacher.

    5. Indicating two mentors that you would like to work with.

  2. REHS mentors will review your application and you’ll receive a notification from one of your two preferred mentors if you’re selected by early May.

  3. Accept the opportunity and complete your registration by the end of May. The program takes place from mid June to mid August.

  4. Remember, there's a program fee of $1500, but financial assistance is available, and those qualifying for free or reduced lunch are exempt.

How is it structured?

Each of the projects in the REHS involves a weekly commitment of 15-20 hours, comprising both laboratory work and meetings with your mentor and peers. You’ll also be taught the relevant software(s) and data analysis techniques, and assigned scholarly or practical readings.

The projects run the gamut from cancer diagnostics, to the computational modeling of neurons, to machine learning in computational chemistry, and many more. We suggest you check the full detailed list. You’ll typically be paired with another student or in a small group and work directly with your mentor and the facility staff. A quick glance at the details of any project will show you that you will receive full credit for your work and contributions in the course of the internship, allowing you to include it in your research portfolio!

Considering Pros and Cons


  1. You’ll receive a rich, immersive research experience: You'll gain hands-on experience in real-world computational research, with direct mentorship and usage of cutting edge technology. Over a hundred hours of research work with qualified scientists and laboratory staff is an experience that you can add to your list of achievements while applying to college, or other research positions.

  2. You’ll get due credit for your work: If the previous point wasn’t enough, you’ll actually receive due credit for your inputs and contribution, likely having your name show up on the SDSC website or other research portals! This will massively help in building your own credibility and expertise as a researcher.

  3. You’ll receive early career exposure: Thanks to the direct mentorship, face-to-face interactions with peers in the lab, and the publication of your research, the exposure you’ll obtain from REHS is significant. It can be helpful both for your college applications as well as your career.

  4. REHS offers financial aid: UCSD is committed to making REHS available for all students, especially those of limited financial means or from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds. During application, you can also apply for financial aid to have the registration fee waived.


  1. You need to be a SoCal resident: Unfortunately, if you’re from elsewhere in the country or an international student, you’re simply not eligible for the REHS.

  2. The cost may be a hurdle: Although financial aid is available, if you’re unable to secure it then the $1500 might be problematic. That said, the program is still incredibly affordable for the value and experience it provides.

  3. You need to be prepared for the intensity: Doing 100-150 hours of research with experienced scientists is no mean feat for someone still in high school, and you’ll need to mentally prepare yourself for the rigor of the program. There will also be plenty of studying involved as your mentors drive you to read research papers and broaden your skills for the project.

  4. The selection process is quite competitive: The prestige and relatively low cost of the REHS makes it a hot favorite for any high schooler interested in research, so plenty of students will apply and not everyone will get in. We recommend having a backup plan in place for your summer, just in case.

Our Honest Review - Should You Apply?

In conclusion, if you’re a SoCal resident serious about STEM and research, then the Research Experience for High School Students at UCSD is something you should be laser-focused on cracking. The direct mentorship, real project participation, and access to cutting edge technology you will get at the SDSC will provide you the kind of learning and exposure that you will find quite valuable. While it’s an intense and selective program, it’s affordable for the real and extensive research experience it provides, and will help set you up for success by providing you due credit for the work you put in. All of these factors make our answer clear and unequivocal: yes!

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


  • $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 more option - Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you missed the REHS deadline, or are looking for another opportunity to do in-depth research in STEM, you could also consider applying to one of the Lumiere Research Scholar Programs, selective online high school programs 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: UCSD seal


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