Frequently Asked Questions for SIP Applicants (and Parents)

What does it mean when we say SIP is about real research?
Fundamentally, when we say “real research”, we mean that no one already knows the answer. Projects are designed by the mentors based on their own research interests, and they are quite different from any lab a high school student will do in a science class. Things may go wrong, the project may go down a new route, and the SIP intern’s result may end up disproving the initial hypothesis. But no matter what happens, the intern can be assured that she/he will wind up knowing something that no one knew before!
Why should a student apply to SIP?
Ultimately, students should apply to SIP if they are excited about science research. They should apply to SIP if they’ve enjoyed their science classes and want a chance to go deeper. They should apply to SIP if they’re thinking about one day being a scientist, and want to get a taste of it. They should apply to SIP if they have no idea what research is all about and want to give it a shot!
Why shouldn't a student apply to SIP?
Students shouldn’t apply to SIP if they can’t commit to an entire summer of full time work. For example, if they are already taking a full load of summer courses, they probably won’t have enough time or energy to also participate in the internship.

A student also shouldn’t apply to SIP if her/his primary goal is to win a science fair competition. We are looking for students who want the experience of research immersion, not just the recognition of prizes.

What will an intern get out of SIP?
Interns will spend the summer fully immersed in real research. They will learn to read professional journal articles, write code for scientific computing, gain practical experience and skills in a lab, and present scientific concepts orally and in writing. They will develop a relationship with a real scientist (their mentor), and they will learn to collaborate with other scientists towards a common goal. The program culminates in a symposium at UCSC where interns present their research to their peers, their mentor and other mentors, and their family. After the summer, some projects may be eligible for the Siemens and Regeneron Science Talent Search science competitions.
Are SIP internships open to high school students who live outside the Bay Area?
Yes, students who live outside the Bay Area are eligible for SIP but it is necessary for them to have/avail of one or more of the following options:

  • Have a local guardian who they can stay with if they wish to participate in the program in-person at UCSC. General campus housing is offered as an option to all (Bay Area and out-of-area) students and is available for all eight weeks of the program from Sunday through Thursday nights.
  • Opt for the special seven-day (weekday & weekend) campus housing option that is offered as an option to only out-of-area students.
  • Opt to be placed in one of a select number of research projects that allow for students to conduct their research remotely and connect with their mentor using an online platform. These remotely-mentored projects focus on data analysis using computer programming. Click here to see a list of all current year research project descriptions; remotely-mentored projects are noted in blue text underneath the description.
  • Are there any courses students need to take in order to be prepared for SIP?
    There are no general coursework requirements for SIP. Some programming experience will be helpful, and the SIP admissions committee does look for strong grades in the math and science courses the student has taken. Some research projects may require specific courses if specified in the project description.
    Who will SIP interns be working with?
    SIP mentors are scientists affiliated with UCSC. Most are graduate students or post-doctoral scholars. Some are faculty members. The mentors are, without exception, world-class scientists who are being paid by their institutions to work full time and carry out first-rate research. They participate in SIP because they are excited to introduce high school students to the research experience! They have kindly chosen to volunteer time and effort to train high school students and include them in their own research.
    How involved will parents be?
    This internship is all about SIP interns growing as scientists. They will not get a report card. They will be treated as adults. There will not be any parent-teacher conferences. The intern (not her/his parents) is expected to develop a professional relationship with the research mentors. In fact, parents are actively discouraged from contacting mentors.
    How is it decided what research projects will be offered each year?
    The research projects offered in the SIP program vary from year to year based on which mentors decide to participate in the program and what research they are working on at that time. The past few years’ research projects can be found here: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2014.
    Can interns select their own research projects?
    On the application form, students will be able to select areas of interest and skills they would like to hone. The SIP program takes these requests into account, along with many other criteria, and makes the final selection of research project for each intern.
    Can all SIP interns submit papers to the science competitions?
    In past years, SIP interns have submitted papers to the Siemens Competition (which no longer exists), Sigma Xi Student Research Conference, Regeneron (formerly Intel) Science Talent Search, and/or other science competitions after completing their research during the summer. SIP interns should check the Regeneron Science Talent Search guidelines to determine whether the subject area of their research, format of their SIP project, their high school grade level, etc. make them eligible for each of these competitions.

    In addition, SIP interns will need to obtain approval from their research mentors before making plans to submit papers to any science competitions.

    Should I contact prospective SIP mentors (UCSC faculty, staff, post-docs, and PhD students) before I have applied or been admitted to the program?
    Attempts to circumvent the selection procedure (e.g. by lobbying prospective mentors, submitting material beyond what is requested by the application, etc.) may disqualify the applicant. The materials that are submitted as part of the application allow the SIP Selection Committee to make an objective match between interns and mentors. With several hundred applicants to our program, things would quickly spin out of control if applicants were to email prospective mentors directly.
    What is the time commitment for the program?
    The program is 10 weeks long: 2 weeks of online remote work, followed by 8 weeks of in-person work. SIP interns work with their mentors on most weekdays during that time. However, due to the independent nature of the program, interns and mentors do have the flexibility to work together to create their own schedule and work around any other time commitments.
    What is the daily schedule for SIP interns? Are there classes that all interns take?
    SIP is different from many other summer programs offered for high school students because the interns work directly with mentors in labs and departments around campus. Interns and mentors plan meeting times/locations and specific tasks together. Although there may be an intern workshop occasionally, the majority of time is spent with the specific lab/research group. Interns therefore have to be mature enough to organize their schedules, meet deadlines and use their time wisely. They must also be comfortable communicating with adults and checking email regularly. Consider whether the independent and flexible nature of the program would be a good fit for you.
    Do SIP interns receive high school or college credit for this program?
    Unfortunately, SIP does not offer any academic credit. Most interns feel that the program is valuable for their college applications because it provides a tremendous research experience and often results in them getting a great letter of recommendation from their mentor.
    What is the cost of the program? Are there scholarships?
    The academic program fee for SIP is $4,000 (this includes the $400 deposit). There is also an application fee of $60 and optional housing at $600/week during the weekdays. For more information on the fees and payment schedule, please visit the program details section of the SIP web page. We will offer full and partial need-based scholarships to qualified students in 2020, and encourage students to apply even if they are worried that they might not be able to afford it. For more information, please contact SIP staff at
    What should an applicant do differently if she/he applied to SIP last year and wasn't accepted?
    We get many excellent applications each year — many, many more than the number of openings. Unfortunately we are unable to accept every qualified applicant, but we encourage you to apply again the following year. When completing the application, the applicant should be sure to address the essay prompts as clearly and directly as possible.
    What sorts of projects get the best results in national science competitions?
    There is no way for us to predict who will submit a “winning” project to any science fair. While many SIP interns have enjoyed success in these competitions over the years, success depends far more on the intern’s writing skills than any detail of the project. In fact, several past SIP interns have placed in these competitions without having any concrete results at all. We would like to caution interns and parents against prioritizing these competitions at the expense of the intern being fully immersed in the research experience, as success in national science competitions is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for admission into college, success as a scientist, or success in life.

    One special consideration for the Regeneron (formerly Intel) Science Talent Search is that they limit eligibility to individuals, not “student teams.” Many SIP projects are collaborative, just like the research projects of professional scientists. SIP aims to provide a genuine research experience, which means that interns may well work as part of a team that includes other SIP interns. If so, that project will likely not be eligible for the Regeneron Science Talent Search.

    Why are the application and acceptance timelines for SIP so late in the spring?
    Although we understand that our deadlines may be later than those of other programs, it is not feasible for us to change any of the dates. The SIP program offers real research projects and it takes until early March before we know which mentors will be available over the summer and what research projects are available.
    How did SIP get started?
    SIP was created by UCSC Astronomy Professor Raja GuhaThakurta, hoping to create an immersive and inspirational experience for high school students passionate about science. The program started with just three summer students from a leading private Silicon Valley high school, The Harker School, in 2009 working on astronomy projects with one faculty mentor. It has grown such that there were 165 interns in the 2018 edition of the program, working in 14 different departments in the physical and biological sciences, engineering, and social sciences.
    How many different high schools have been represented in SIP?
    SIP may have started with three students from a private school in San Jose (Harker), but in the short span of ten (10) years since its inception, the program has included students from 139 different high schools, most in California, but some out-of-state schools and even some international schools. For more information, please refer to the Diversity Efforts page.