High School Intern Program

For rising seniors

SEP’s high school programs are only open to students from SFUSD, SF charter schools, or College Track San Francisco

Through SEP’s High School Intern Program, high school students learn how to conduct biomedical research during an 8-week paid summer internship at UC San Francisco. Students are matched with a scientist mentor who guides their learning of science content and skills to complete a unique research project. Learn more below.

Each summer, high school students conduct original research under the direction of a UCSF scientist mentor. This is a rigorous and intense program with just eight weeks for students to complete and present their research projects. Unlike most other high school research programs in the country, acceptance into the High School Intern Program (HIP) is not contingent upon students’ grades, commitments to a career in science, or paths to college.

Rather, HIP seeks to support students’ growth and recognition of their own potential by engaging them with authentic science research projects, peer sharing and learning, and individual college counseling. HIP aims to help students develop a sense of belonging in order to broaden their ideas about their own place in college and careers in the biomedical sciences. The majority of program participants come from backgrounds underrepresented in the sciences (minority, low-income, women, from families without a history of college-going, and/or students with disabilities). In order to participate, a student must be a rising senior and attend an SFUSD high school, SF charter school, or participate in College Track San Francisco.

Each year, 10 of our high school interns are supported with funding from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) as part of CIRM’s Summer Program to Accelerate Regenerative Medicine Knowledge (SPARK). An additional 10 students are funded by the NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

“My greatest accomplishment was becoming comfortable and confident enough to present my work to my peers multiple times toward the end of the program. At first I had no idea how I could possibly present such complicated science; however, I came to realize that with focus I could learn almost anything.

HIP has first of all given me hope that I could do something with my life someday.”

In recognition of HIP’s success, the program received a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring in 2011. You can learn more about HIP and its longitudinal outcomes in this 2020 Journal of STEM Outreach article.

HIP is one of SEP’s longest running programs and is currently funded by the UCSF Chancellor, School of Medicine and Executive Vice Chancellor, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the Baskin Family Foundation.


Interested in mentoring a high school student? Click “Mentor Information” to learn more!

How to Apply

Thank you for your interest in our High School Internship Program (HIP)! The application for Summer 2024 has closed. 

Eligibility Requirements

  1. Current high school junior
  2. Enrolled in an SFUSD high school, SF charter school or College Track San Francisco
  3. From backgrounds historically marginalized in the sciences

Our selection process focuses on students’ interest, motivation, and desire for career exploration. We don’t ask for your grades or GPA as part of your application. Our objective is that your experience in this program opens doors, provides opportunities, and supports your sense of belonging in science. See our FAQ tab for more details on eligibility.


  • January 22: Applications open 
  • February 25: Applications due
  • March: HIP committee meets and decides which students to interview
  • April: HIP staff interviews students
  • Week of April 15th: Selected students get notified of acceptance into program
  • June 7: Program begins 

Expectations for HIP Interns

  1. Participate in an 8-week paid internship. Interns will be placed in either a part-time or full-time position.
    • Part time is 25 hours/week and interns are paid $3200 upon program completion.
    • Full time is 35 hours/week and interns are paid $4500 upon program completion.
  2. Conduct biomedical science research alongside a scientist who is your day-to-day mentor and teacher. Examples of past research topics include: infectious disease, neuroscience, molecular biology, immunology, cancer, stem cell research, and developmental biology.
  3. Develop science communication skills.
  4. Build your professional network through interactions with scientists and others at UCSF.
  5. Build community with a cohort of 25 High School Interns.
  6. Participate in College Counseling:
    • Writing workshops to develop a resume or personal statement for use in college applications
    • Individual meetings with our college counselor to review transcripts and learn about colleges
    • Financial aid information for you and your family
    • College tours


Contact: Lakisha.witzel@ucsf.edu | 415.364.8077

Frequently Asked Questions

Students who are current juniors, attending an SFUSD school, SF charter, or participate in College Track San Francisco and from a background considered historically marginalized in the sciences (individuals from racial/ethnic groups typically historically marginalized in the sciences, individuals with disabilities, first-generation college students, individuals who reside with families who are low income or otherwise considered disadvantaged, individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+). Further explanation and definitions of underrepresented are offered at the end of this FAQ section.

Sunday, February 25th by 11:59 pm

A completed electronic application form. 

Submit all elements of your application using the link above. 

We read every application very carefully and use each component of the application to inform our decision. Through the application, tell us about why we should select you. We don’t use grades or academic achievement as an indicator of potential success in this program. Instead, we want to know that you have some interest in science and that this program could help make a difference in your life. The ideal candidate will show us:   

  • Evidence of maturity and responsibility 
  • Evidence of persistence through challenges 
  • Science interest  
  • Motivation to participate in this program 

We typically interview 50 students for 25 available positions.

We will notify students via email in April.

Generally no. Each summer, different scientists participate as mentors in the High School Intern Program. This means that we don’t usually know which research projects will be available until late spring. Ultimately, the program coordinators make final lab placement decisions based on student interest, schedules, lab locations, and other considerations.

This is not advisable. Participation in this program includes working in the laboratory with your mentor, meetings with other interns and program staff, meetings with college counselors, and attending career talks. Though this is not a homework-heavy program, there will be assignments and other independent work required. If an applicant needs to participate in summer school, has extensive family obligations, or needs to work another job, these circumstances will be considered on a case-by-case basis to determine acceptance into the program.

The Science and Health Education Partnership (SEP) is committed to increasing equity in STEM. Specifically, we prioritize the acceptance of students from historically marginalized backgrounds in this field who are interested in Biology and Engineering and want to learn more about both.

At SEP, we prefer to use the term “historically marginalized” instead of “underrepresented,” but we use the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) definition of underrepresented to inform how we prioritize participants. As stated by the NIH, “In spite of tremendous advancements in scientific research, information, education, and research opportunities are not equally available to all”, and they identify individuals from the groups below as nationally underrepresented in the biomedical, clinical, behavioral, and social sciences.

  • Black or African American, Hispanic or Latinx, American Indian or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and other Pacific Islander.
  • Individuals with disabilities, who are defined as those with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities
  • Individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, defined as those who meet two or more of the following criteria:
    • Were or currently are homeless 
    • Were or currently are in the foster care system 
    • Were/are eligible for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program for two or more years 
    • Have/had no parents or legal guardians who completed a bachelor’s degree 
    • Were or currently are eligible for Federal Pell grants  
    • Received support from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) as a parent or child
    • Grew up in a U.S. rural area or a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services designated Low-Income and Health Professional Shortage Areas

In addition to the NIH definitions, we also include individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+ as historically marginalized. Access data and further explanations here.

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