2020 Program Dates:

  • June 8th - August 7th, 2020 (9 weeks)
  • Several labs can shift the program dates by 1-2 weeks to accommodate teaching and course schedules.
  • A shortened program may also be available for candidates who are returning to their classrooms in early August, please reach out to discuss specifics at
  • Applications will open October 15, 2019 and will close February 1, 2020. 

To be eligible for the STAR Program, you must be:

  • at least 18 years old by the start of the program;
  • will have completed at least your junior undergraduate year by the start of the program;
  • a student or alumnus of any California State University campus OR a current/former member of the NSF Robert Noyce Scholarship Program;
  • a US Citizen, Permanent Resident Alien, or DACA grant holder and,
  • a pre-service aspiring STEM teacher, teacher intern, or a STAR alumnus with two or fewer years of participation in STAR and two or fewer years of teaching experience. To clarify, first time participants must be pre-service teachers, (i.e., future teachers who have not yet worked as a paid, full-time teacher). STAR Alumni are encouraged to participate in up to three STAR experiences, provided they have not been teaching for more than two years. If you have already been employed as a teacher and can't apply for STAR, make sure you check out research opportunities offered by Ignited Education and other Research Experience for Teacher (RET) programs.

Successful applicants will have:

  • a demonstrated interest in K-12 STEM teaching;
  • a strong record of undergraduate coursework in one or more STEM fields;
  • a minimum GPA of 2.7 (3.0 or higher preferred);
  • a willingness to challenge themselves and the ability to work independently on complex tasks under the guidance of a mentor;
  • will apply to the program as early as possible to allow lab sites to continually review your application as new projects become available.

The STAR Program office and Lab Sites work together closely to match applicant skills and interests with the wide variety of projects available. Labs move at the speed of research and it is usually not possible to list available projects in advance. Lab Site Coordinators or Research Mentors may contact you directly to discuss particular projects.

STAR Mini Video 3 - Paid to Learn from STAR Program on Vimeo.

Program Expectations and Requirements

STAR is a competitive program and there is a high level of responsibility that goes along with being a STAR Fellow. Our lab sites will expect you to work diligently under a mentor and often tackle complex problem-solving tasks while communicating effectively with the rest of your team. If you are offered a placement at one of our lab sites, you will enter into a contract with the STAR Program as well as the lab site which may have additional requirements to those listed below:

  1. Participate in the entire 9-week summer research fellowship (Fellows are expected to work 40-hours per week during this period. Please check the Program Page to be certain that you can participate for the entire period. Your actual on-site arrival and departure dates must be discussed between you and your lab before you accept a placement;
  2. Make arrangements and pay for your own housing. Wherever possible, STAR and Lab Staff will advise you of affordable options utilized in previous summers;
  3. Prepare and present a research poster at the lab site and at the STAR Closing Conference (January 2019) and submit an electronic copy of their research to Cal Poly Digital Commons for public display; 
  4. Work in pairs/groups to develop and submit a K-12 Lesson Plan connected to the research;
  5. Participate in weekly workshops focused on STEM teaching as part of your 40-hour per week commitment;
  6. Participate in STAR events including 1) a pre-summer webinar, 2) regional orientation meeting at your lab site, and 3) the Closing Conference.
  7. Participate in teacher-researcher community building and cohort activities (in person and online);
  8. Participate in STAR Program evaluation activities, before, during, and after the program;
  9. Must carry health insurance coverage during the entire Fellowship period.

Research Lab Sites

STAR applicants are asked to indicate their top lab preferences and are also asked to indicate which sites they would NOT like to be considered. STAR aims to match your experience and interests with an appropriate project, but you may wish to exclude one or more sites because of its location, research areas, or other logistical considerations. Please take the time to learn about the kinds of research opportunities that have been available at each site. It will certainly help if you are invited to a phone interview. Many sites work on a wide variety of projects. For example, NASA Ames Research Center does fundamental biological, chemical, geological, mathematical, aeronautical, psychological, and physics projects even if they all ultimately relate to air and space science.

Applicant preferences guide the selection process, but they do not guarantee placement at any particular site. STAR Fellows participate in cutting-edge projects which address active research questions at each site. Because research moves at such a fast pace, it is usually not possible to know what those projects are in advance. You must be open to research opportunities in broad fields related to each facilities' work and be willing to gain new skills as you pursue projects guided by research mentors, postdocs, and lab staff. It's guaranteed to be a challenge.


Prior to Submitting Your Application

We recommend that you visit each lab site’s brief description on this site and continue your research at the web pages of those sites that interest you. Pay particular attention to any special challenges (e.g. housing, transportation, etc.) each lab site may present. Review last year's STAR Fellow research posters at your top sites on the Cal Poly Digital Commons to get a sense for the type of research that occurs at each site.

Our partner lab sites change regularly. While many research mentors host STAR Fellows every year, we cannot guarantee their involvement in advance. We may even add new sites after the applications open as projects become available. Keep an eye on this website before the application deadline closes and contact us if your preferences change. Because STAR matches your interests with available projects it is in your best interests to apply early to remain in the applicant pool the longest. You may be contacted for an interview or offer from any lab site that you did not exclude.

Application Process

The online application will take approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour to complete, and includes a few short essay response fields focusing on (1) Teaching, (2) Research, (3) 21st Century Skills, and (4) Challenges/Barriers you've faced.

Resumes and Transcripts: To complete the online application, please be prepared to upload the following documents:

  1. Transcripts – copies of your transcripts (unofficial are fine, just be sure they are legible) from any college or university in which you have enrolled in courses.
  2. Resume – If you do not have a resume, you can use the sample resume template (Word) to create one. 

Professional Reference: You will be asked to provide an email address for a professional reference who can speak to your interests in research and teaching. This reference should come from someone in your professional world (e.g. a professor,  advisor, employer, research mentor, etc), and not from your personal world (friend, parent, relative, significant other, etc). Please be sure to get permission from your reference provider prior to using them as a reference. It can be helpful to provide them with some information about the program. Some lab site partners require up to 3 references, which will be indicated in the application.

STAR puts you in the driver seat

Fellows spend nine weeks working full time with a research team on cutting-edge projects.
You’ll Work Hard
You’ll Challenge Yourself
You’ll Learn Skills In a Field That Interests You

Matching and Selection Process

Following the application deadline, all STAR applications will be reviewed by a panel of readers. Once an applicant has met the minimum program qualifications, STAR will match your skills, experience, interests, and preferences with the requirements of our lab sites. STAR will then coordinate communications between you and lab sites interested in working with you. The placement process is selective based on available opportunities. Many well-qualified applicants will not be offered a placement simply because an appropriate project or funding is not available. You may be invited to one or more phone interviews or engage in email conversations with a lab site coordinator or researcher, but placement is not guaranteed until a formal offer has been made by the STAR Program Office and you accept it. You will normally have two weeks to consider the offer. Some lab sites may further require you to apply via their own particular application procedure to meet federal requirements.

Once your placement has been confirmed, you will receive two congratulatory emails, one from the STAR Program and a second from your lab site. The STAR email will contain information about program expectations, housing needs, stipend payment schedules, and your project description. The lab site email will provide details about your points of contact at the lab site, key dates, and procedures.


Mini Video 2 - Get Some Professional Experience from Zach Green Films on Vimeo.


STAR Mini Video 13 - First Research Experience is Publishable from STAR Program on Vimeo.