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About Us


Our Mission

STAR aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. STAR also supports the continued development of our Teacher-Researcher Fellows with ongoing professional development and networking opportunities.

STAR is a nine-week paid summer research experience program for future K-12 STEM teachers. Undergraduates on a teaching path, STEM undergraduates seriously considering a career in teaching, credential candidates and Master’s students can all apply to work with cutting-edge researchers. Eligible applicants must be from any California State University (CSU) Campus or be a Noyce Scholar from any university across the US.

Our Mark

Why STAR? There are a myriad of reasons why STAR might be the right choice for your future, but we’ll let our alumni tell you a little about their own experience. Tambien tu.

How it works

Here’s how it works. You spend nine weeks in the summer working full-time with a research team on cutting edge projects. You work hard, challenge yourself and learn new skills while advancing real science in a field that interests you. You meet fabulous people and immerse yourself in the culture of science. Each week you participate in an education workshop focused on transferring your lab or field experience to the classroom. Finally, you share your knowledge by presenting a research poster at the Partners in Science National Conference. Here’s the best part, no prior experience is necessary. Go ahead, give it a shot and apply. You’ll never know what you’re capable of until you try.

Our funding partners pay you a weekly stipend for your work, the labs get you to help answer pressing questions, and -most importantly- your students get a teacher that knows how science works in the real world. Everybody wins!

Summer 2020 and 2021 were a little different than previous summers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our lab site partners, we were able to shift to virtual placements. Summer 2024 will feature a return to in-person placements, with a few virtual options.

I’m excited to meet new people, make new friends, and do some real work in an actual laboratory.”

Research Experience

Our research mentors are Principal Investigators (PIs) running various research programs at partner lab facilities. Fellows conduct their own cutting-edge research project under the guidance of these world-class mentors, postdocs and lab staff, which is designed to address a question the research group is facing. Because of the pace of modern research, it is rarely possible to know what project Fellows may work on in advance. Potential applicants should review projects done by other STAR Fellows at the Cal Poly Digital Commons.

STAR Fellows have to be excited about research in general, open to new experiences, eager to gain new skills, and able to overcome challenges working independently and with teams. Fellows work approximately 35 hours on their projects and 4-5 hours in education workshops every week and are paid a weekly stipend. Projects span a huge range of disciplines. Visit our Lab Site Partner page to learn more about our labs.


Attract undergraduate science, mathematics, engineering, and liberal studies majors to STEM teaching careers by providing them with professional identities as researchers as well as educators


Allow future STEM teachers to gain first-hand experience in applied research settings


Cultivate increased interest and prestige in the teaching profession to address the severe shortage of STEM teachers


Anchor pre-service teachers in a community of scientific practice so that they better understand what it means to be a scientist and a STEM teacher


Foster inquiry-based teaching and learning strategies


Increase interest and learning in STEM fields among K-12 students


Reduce STEM teacher attrition


Expand outreach opportunities between research facilities and K-12 schools which may include experiments, field trips, and guest scientist visits

Lab mentors are paired with teachers and researchers.

During the STAR experience, Fellowes attend 6 half-day workshops facilitated by veteran teachers and education specialists with extensive classroom experience. These workshops have three major objectives:


Help develop a deep understanding of the nature of research, its practices, and culture


Help develop inquiry-based teaching strategies that align well with Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)


Workshops culminate in Fellows creating a lesson plan for an inquiry-based learning activity inspired by their specific research project

Our Partners

Each STAR Fellow is supported by a team of research mentors, lab site staff, workshop facilitators, and the STAR staff at Cal Poly, but we in turn are supported by the work and generosity of our funding and industry partners. Each of these partners joins in our efforts because they can see what great catalysts for positive change STAR Fellows are in their schools.

While STAR’s ultimate goal is to provide a better learning experience for K-12 STEM students, our funding partners also do a lot of other good things along the way! They help research facilities solve fundamental research problems in every discipline at multiple sites each and every year while training teacher-researchers and improving industry-academia relations. They help early-career teachers distinguish themselves to employers and improve classroom connectivity through professional conferencing. They help school districts adapt to Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core curriculum shifts by providing Fellows specifically trained to bring innovative investigation approaches to their classrooms. Our partners are investing not only in the future of our Fellows, but in a better future – period. Thank you.

Chevron’s Support for Teacher Training and Mentor Programs

Flyers for summer 2024