Exploring Research Careers through Summer Research Programs

The Short-Term Research Experience for Underrepresented Persons (STEP-UP) Program provides hands-on summer research experience for high school and undergraduate students interested in exploring research careers. In this eight to 10-week program, students are paired with experienced research mentors and given the opportunity to conduct a formal oral and poster presentation. The deadline to apply is Feb. 1!
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For many students entering college, the vision of going to medical school and becoming a practicing physician is their number one goal as soon as they step on campus. In their pursuit toward medical school admittance, one key component of a student’s journey is participating in resume-strengthening research projects or activities. Two questions to consider while preparing for potential summer research plans are “Why research?” and “Why not apply to the short-term summer research program for underrepresented persons (STEP-UP)?” 
 
While working in a lab over the summer or through the academic year, it is important to not only become proficient in techniques but also begin learning how to ask questions. We encourage participants to think critically during their work and ask questions like: 

  • Why is the experimental system being changed in this way as opposed to another?  
  • Why are we using this experimental framework?  
  • Why are we doing this research?  
  • What do we hope to learn?  

Learning how to ask questions like these allows students to get to the heart of the “why” of research and help them understand outcomes and future experiments. This skillset is critical not only in medicine but other careers as well, which can come in handy if plans change after medical school. The analytical skills gained from practicing the scientific method can be helpful in any field — lab research is far more than just a bullet on a resume.

STEP-UP was developed to build and sustain a diverse biomedical, behavioral, clinical, and social science research pipeline focused on the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) mission areas. One of the best aspects of the program is that the individuals who are selected can essentially do research anywhere in the United States. The program provides a stipend and help finding research mentors regardless of where participants are located. At the end of the 10 weeks, participants travel to the NIH’s campus to present their summer research and receive additional career development in a two-day symposium. In brief, the program offers participants:

  • 10 weeks of full-time research experience.
  • A summer research stipend of $5,500.
  • Assistance from the STEP-UP Coordinating Center to help coordinate and monitor their summer research experience.
  • The opportunity to be paired with experienced research mentors at institutions throughout the nation.
  • All-expenses-paid travel to the Annual STEP-UP Research Symposium held on the NIH’s main campus in Bethesda, Maryland, and the opportunity to conduct a formal oral and poster presentation. 

Past participants of the program have gone on to complete their doctorates and become physicians and/or funded NIH investigators. 

To learn more about the program, including eligibility requirements and application deadlines, visit the STEP-UP website. If you have additional questions, please feel free to email niddkstepup@mail.nih.gov.

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