The Center for Life Beyond Reed

Short-Term Research Experience for Underrepresented Persons (STEP-UP)

Apply through Independent Application Process

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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. Students receive summer stipends to support research at a location chosen by them with the help of a STEP-UP coordinator. If selected, students are encouraged, but not required, to pursue research in diabetes, endocrinology and metabolic diseases; digestive diseases and nutrition; or kidney, urologic and hematologic diseases.

Program Highlights

  • 8 to 10 weeks of full-time research experience
  • Students receive a summer research stipend
  • Students are assigned to a STEP-UP Coordinating Center to help coordinate and monitor their summer research experience
  • Students are paired with experienced research mentors at institutions throughout the nation
  • Students are encouraged to choose a research institution and/or mentor near their hometown or within commuting distance of their residence. Students are not required to relocate in order to conduct their summer research.
  • Students receive training in the responsible conduct of research
  • All-paid travel expenses to the Annual STEP-UP Research Symposium held on NIH’s main campus in Bethesda, Maryland. Students are given the opportunity to conduct a formal oral and poster presentation.

The STEP-UP Program is a federally funded program managed and supported by the Office of Minority Health Research Coordination (OMHRC) in the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney (NIDDK) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The overall goal of STEP-UP is to build and sustain a biomedical, behavioral, clinical and social science research pipeline focused on NIDDK’s core mission areas of diabetes, endocrinology and metabolic diseases; digestive diseases and nutrition; kidney, urologic and hematologic diseases.


Applicants must:

  • Be a U.S. Citizen, non-citizen national, or legal permanent resident
  • Be 16 years of age or older and either be enrolled in high school or an accredited U.S. college or university, or plan to be enrolled in the fall
  • If a high school student, be in their junior or senior year of high school, during the application period
  • If an undergraduate student, be currently enrolled as a full-time student at a U.S. accredited 2-year or 4-year college or university
  • Undergraduates who will have graduated prior to the start of research in the summer of 2020 are not eligible
  • Have a minimum overall GPA of 3.0 or better (on a 4.0 scale), although exceptions may be granted
  • Have personal medical/health insurance coverage throughout the duration of the program (exceptions will be granted for students living in the Pacific Islands)

Applicants must also meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Come from racial and ethnic groups that have been shown by the National Science Foundation External link to be underrepresented in biomedical sciences on a national basis
  • Have been diagnosed with a disability External link that substantially limits one or more major life activities
  • Be the first generation in their family to graduate from a four-year college or university and/or come from a disadvantaged background as defined by annual family income

Application Procedure

Apply directly on the NIH site for STEP-UP. Deadline is typically at the end of January or beginning of February.

All applicants must submit:

  • A completed online application
  • A personal statement of no more than 600 words
  • 2 letters of recommendation
    • Contact two academic references. (Instructions on how to submit online letters of recommendation are provided in the Student Portal website.)
    • Past STEP-UP participants must have at least one letter from their most recent STEP-UP Research Mentor
    • The letters of recommendation must be uploaded to the Student Portal by the application deadline. Hard (paper) copies will not be accepted
  • An academic transcript which reflects all earned credits and grades. Transcripts must be uploaded to your application. Exceptions will be made for high school students only.
  • Applicants to the undergraduate program must submit a resume

If accepted, you will need to provide your coordinating center with:

  • Proof of medical insurance (exceptions will be granted for students living in the Pacific Islands)
  • A copy of your U.S. passport, U.S. birth certificate, or government issued photo identification document