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High School Intern Program

Each summer, the High School Intern program places SFUSD high school students in laboratories to conduct biomedical research with the guidance of a UCSF mentor.

The transformation I underwent was pretty incredible, from learning how to “do” science to learning how to start conversations with people I barely know. For many reasons, I would trade almost all of the experiences I had in school for this one internship. However, my biggest reason was the amount of work I had to do. I feel like I’ve done more work in this internship than I have in all my years of high school. And the feelings of reward that come after were unlike almost any I’ve had before.

                                                                               – SFUSD student

I feel as if the work I am doing is enlightening. It’s amazing to be a part of the future of imaging technology. I’ve already begun to accomplish quite a bit of work.

- SFUSD student

Our visit to UC Davis impacted me because before I was thinking that I can’t go to college because there were no opportunities for me. But hearing all these students talking about how great opportunities are for all who want to go ahead and don’t give up, my mind changed and now I just want to go to college and do my best.

- SFUSD student

High School Intern Program*

*Our program is limited to San Francisco public high school juniors who are nominated by a science teacher at their school. 

One of SEP’s longest-running programs is the High School Intern Program in which SFUSD high school students gain authentic research experience and sustained support with the college application process. While the application process for this program is rigorous, grades and test scores are not used as gatekeepers. Instead, primary importance is placed on whether this program will make a significant difference in the lives of
the students. In order to be eligible for the program, students must: attend an SFUSD high school, be nominated by a high school teacher, and complete their junior year prior to the start of the summer program.

Each year, 10 of our high school interns are supported with funding from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). In addition to conducting research specifically related to stem cells and regenerative medicine, these interns are part of a larger community of California high school students participating in CIRM’s Summer Program to Accelerate Regenerative medicine Knowledge (SPARK) program. This statewide cohort communicates with the general public about their research experiences through blog and social media postings, and they participate in an annual SPARK conference to share their summer research projects.

Read about the experiences of our 2017 CIRM SPARK interns on our blog: 2017 Blog

Read about last summer's 2016 SPARK conference here: -spark-conference/

Application Procedures

All applicants, including those for the CIRM SPARK program, must be nominated by an SFUSD science teacher and must be SFUSD juniors at the time of nomination. Nominated students need not be currently in a class taught by the nominating teacher. UCSF SEP sends nomination forms and information about HIP to all SFUSD high school science teachers in November. Nominations are due in December and intern applications are due in early February. If you are an SFUSD science teacher and do not receive your nomination packet by November 8, 2017, please contact:


The majority of high school interns do not have family members with college degrees; additionally, many of the interns are immigrants or the children of immigrants.

Longitudinal outcomes for HIP alumni are inspiring:
• 92% of program alumni go to college
• 76% complete Bachelor’s degrees in the sciences
• 87% pursue graduate education (less than 37% of all undergraduates, irrespective of backgrounds, do so)

In comparison, nationally, only 53% of of low-income students enroll in college the fall following their high school graduation (compared to 80% of their higher income peers) and only 11% of 1st generation students persist to a Bachelor’s Degree (55% of students from families with college going experience achieve this milestone).

These outcomes can only be achieved with the dedicated efforts of the UCSF faculty who generously host interns in their labs, and the UCSF researchers who devote their time and skills to mentoring and inspiring them.

In recognition of HIP's success, the program received a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring in 2011.

High School Intern Program in the News:

SEP's High School Intern Program Receives the 2011 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring

President Obama named nine individuals and eight organizations recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. The University of California, San Francisco- Science & Health Education Partnership - High School Intern Program was one of the recipients.  SEP received their award at a White House ceremony in December 2011. 

For the full press release go to: President Obama Honors Outstanding Science, Math, and Engineering Mentors

UCSF Summer Interns Gain Glimpse of a Scientific Future
For as long as she can remember, 17-year-old Chanelle Dorton has wanted to be a crime scene investigator. She put aside that notion, however, after she failed a few science classes and kept missing school to take care of younger siblings.

For the full story, go to the UCSF News Center

SEP High School Internship Program Feeds Pipeline of Promising Students

There’s nothing like hearing about cutting-edge research from a high school student to remind oneself that the next generation of researchers is bright and bursting with promise. A recent gathering of 20 San Francisco United School District high school juniors, who spent the summer working as interns under the tutelage of UCSF staff in labs throughout the campus, was just such an inspiring event.....

To read more, go to

Program Helps Prepare Local Youth for Careers in Science

It’s a resume builder any scientist would welcome: Two months of intensive lab work at one of the world’s leading centers for biomedical research. This fall, 20 San Francisco teenagers will start their senior year of high school having done just that...

For the full story, go to

This program is currently funded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and the Baskin Family Foundation.