Pre-Health Undergraduate Program

PUP does not offer, provide, nor has access to any shadowing opportunities.

The UCSF Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Training Program offers a summer clinical research training program for up to 40 underrepresented minority undergraduate students who are planning to attend dental, medical, nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, rehabilitation therapy, pharmacology or other professional schools after graduation, and who have an interest in a career in clinical research.

Instruction. The overall program consists of a five-week program, which includes lectures, approaches to reviewing the literature and sessions to allow the student to get to know each other. Students are then enrolled in an online version of the Designing Clinical Research course at UCSF for the 5 weeks. The purpose of the course is to train students to evaluate the medical literature and to design clinical and translational research studies. This year will be fully in-person with occasional virtual sessions.

Schedule. The program runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays from July 16 through August 15. You are expected to be available the entire time from about 9 AM through about 4 PM.

Mentoring. Students are paired with a form Pre-Health Undergraduate Student (PUP-E) and UCSF Health professional trainee (in medicine, nursing, dentistry or other related health field) who is either currently taking or has taken the Designing Clinical Research (DCR) course to encourage long-term collaborations between UCSF and undergraduate students.

Faculty. The program is led by Kala Mehta, an epidemiologist and an associate professor at UCSF in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics and Maria Garcia, a practicing Internal Medicine physician and an assistant professor at UCSF in the department of medicine.

During the five weeks of the course, students also have special lunchtime sessions with several faculty membeer from diverse disciplines and various panels focused on career choices and inspirational personal journeys in clinical research and health.

Why Should I Consider Applying

This program is a great way to "step" into graduate school. As an undergraduate, you will get a chance to see what health professional graduate training is really like. In addition, you will learn key skills in clinical research that will help you throughout your career. All health professionals need to be able to read and interpret research articles and apply the findings to their clinical practice. By taking this course, undergraduate students will be able to read and critically evaluate research studies, closely examine one topic area with the help of their health professional mentor, get to know faculty in several different health professions, and may discover a career path in clinical research.


Currently enrolled underrepresented minority second (sophomore) through fourth-year (senior) pre-health disciplines and students from other disciplines at accredited two- and four-year universities are welcome to apply. Students from current California State University (for example SFSU, CSU East Bay, SJSU) campuses as well as accredited city/community/junior colleges are especially encouraged to apply. Students should be sophomore through seniors in the fall quarter/semester immediately preceding the application period. A GPA of 3.5 or higher with strong writing and quantitative (math) skills is preferred. All students may apply, but if the GPA is less than 3.5 a description about the applicant's strengths must be included in the Candidate Essay. Students must commit to attend all classes at UCSF in July and August, complete all reading and written assignments and participate in small groups. Vacation time or time off may not be taken throughout the run of the program. Students who already have a bachelor's degree and higher should not apply.


Costs of tuition and textbook will be provided.


We offer a $2000 stipend for each student.


BEFORE Applying: Please complete the Self-Screening Form [PDF].

2024 Application Form (Please review the Blank Sample Application PDF and the Required Documents immediately below before completing the application. Don't open form link until you are ready to complete it.)

Blank Sample Application PDF

Application Deadline: March 4, 2024

2024 Recommendation Form

Recommendation Form Deadline: March 11, 2024

All documentation must be received by the March 11 deadline in order to be considered. Please do not contact the program to check on the status of your application. The program will follow-up on missing forms prior to the deadline.

Required Documents

Please collect the following documents in order before completing the online application and submit as a single PDF document. Only PDF versions will be accepted. (Please do not submit secured or password-protected PDFs. Secured or password protected PDFs may delay or even forfeit your application.)

  • Transcript: Unofficial copies are preferred/encouraged.
  • Transcripts from other institutions: Unofficial copies are preferred/encouraged. You may load up to two additional transcripts.
  • Resume: Most current resume.
  • Applicant Essay: DO NOT EXCEED two pages or 600 words. Please address the following within the limit:
  1. Your motivation to pursue a career in health and any obstacle that you have surmounted along the way.
  2. Your interest in learning about a career in research.
  3. Any academic counseling you have received that has encouraged you in your pursuit of a career in dentistry, medicine, nursing, physical therapy, and pharmacology.
  4. Goals you would set for yourself if selected to be a UCSF CTST undergraduate student in the Designing Clinical Research course.
  5. If your GPA is less than 3.5 yet you believe that you would be a strong candidate, include a description of obstacles or barriers you have encountered that should be taken into consideration.

Please submit all the above documents in order and as a single PDF document.

  • Letter of Recommendation: Send the link to the Recommendation Form above once you submit your application. Please send them the blank form. Do not fill any part of it in for them. (This will cause duplicate submissions). If you feel you need to provide them with additional information, send it in the email you send to them with the link. The recommender has a deadline of Mar 11. IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO SEND THE FORM TO YOUR RECOMMENDER WITH ENOUGH LEAD TIME TO MAKE THE MAR 11 DEADLINE. The letter must be from a faculty or staff member of a learning institution (high school counselor, college counselor or instructor, professor or assistant professor graduate student, etc.) familiar with your educational experience and potential. ONLY ONE LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION IS ALLOWED PER APPLICANT. Subsequent recommendations will not be taken into account. THE PROGRAM WILL CONTACT YOU IF RECOMMENDATION LETTERS ARE MISSING; PLEASE DO NOT CONTACT US.

About the Course

Designing Clinical Research (Epidemiology 150.03) is focused on teaching students to understand how to design a feasible, high-quality clinical research study. The course takes place in July and August and includes eight lectures (75 minutes each) and eight small-group sessions (90 minutes each). The course covers the following:

  • Critical appraisal of the medical literature. The DCR course, while focused on training students to design high-quality research studies, also provides an in-depth understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of published clinical research studies.
  • Experiential training in research design. Each student will be paired with a UCSF trainee in the DCR course. UCSF trainees are required to come to the course with one or more research questions, formatted as "Does a characteristic, exposure or risk factor increase risk for or cause a disease or health condition in a certain group of people?" UCSF trainees are required to complete a protocol for a research study as the product of the course. During the course, undergraduate students will be expected to:
    • Complete all course assignments, which include attendance at lectures, participation in small-group sessions, course reading and homework.
    • Complete a review of the medical literature related to the UCSF student's research question and write a three-page critical summary of this literature that will be incorporated into the Background section of the protocol.
      • Collaborate with the UCSF trainee to search the medical literature and contact faculty and other experts to obtain information needed to complete the protocol. Such information might include standardized questionnaires, measurement techniques, estimates of the incidence of disease, event rates, etc.
      • Collaborate with the UCSF trainee to write and revise the research protocol.
      • At the end of the course, write a three-page critique of the planned research design.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How many students will be selected? We will select around 20 undergraduate students for this summer program. These students will take part in a course offered to UCSF health professional students and residents. Students will also participate separately in two meetings with UCSF faculty to help them process the experience, monitor their progress and problem-solve issues or challenges that may arise. In addition, virtual seminars will be presented throughout the year after the experience on various didactic topics relevant to your future success.
  2. I am a student at an accredited two-year institution (such as junior, city or community college) or I am transferring to a four-year institution this fall. Am I eligible? Yes. Starting in 2024, sophomore students at an accredited two-year institution are eligible. If you are a freshman or do not have enough credits to be considered a sophomore, you are ineligible.
  3. I graduated from an accredited two- or four-year institution in a period prior to spring of the current year or I am currently in a post-baccalaureate program. Am I eligible? Only students currently enrolled in an accredited two- or four-year institution including those graduating in spring of the current year are eligible. If you graduated in winter or fall or already have your bachelor’s or higher, you are ineligible.
  4. I am not a US citizen or legal resident attending college in the United States, or I am a foreign student studying in another country. Am I eligible to apply? No, our program is supported by federal funding and thus all participants must be citizens or legal residents of the U.S. DACA with valid social security numbers are eligible.
  5. My current grade point average (GPA) is less than 3.5. Am I ineligible to apply? If your GPA is less than 3.5 and you feel you would be a strong candidate for this program, we encourage you to apply. In your Candidate Essay be sure to describe any obstacles or barriers you have encountered that should be taken into consideration. You may use an additional 200 words for this portion on the essay.
  6. Will there be any stipend paid? We offer a $2000 stipend for each student. Course tuition and the textbook will also be paid for.
  7. Can I take vacation or time off during the program? No, students are expected to attend ALL lectures and small-group sessions to include Tuesday, 07/16 through Thursday, 08/15.
  8. When will I know if I have been selected for the program? Candidates will be notified around the first week of May if they have been accepted into the program.
  9. Will course credit be offered? No course credit is offered.
  10. How will I meet the UCSF trainee that I will be working with? You will be assigned to a UCSF trainee and will meet them during the pre-course sessions on July 16.
  11. Where is the class held? The lectures and small-group sessions for the course will be held at UCSF at the Mission Bay campus in San Francisco. All other meetings will also be at either of these campuses. This is currently planned to be in-person but may be virtual depending on the situation with COVID-19 at that time. We will notify you in advance of any changes.
  12. Where can I find out more about the content of the Designing Clinical Research course? You can view the course website. Please note that undergraduate students must complete all reading assignments. Written assignments will differ from the ones assigned to UCSF residents and students.
  13. What are the course requirements for undergraduate students? The requirements for undergraduate students are listed above; see About the Course above.
  14. Is housing provided? No, unfortunately, housing is not provided by the program. When the program first started it was exclusively for UC Berkeley students. When we decided to expand it was mainly to include students from San Francisco State University. Almost immediately however, we started getting applications from throughout the country. Most out-of-towners have ended up using all or part of the stipend we provide to help with rent. San Francisco is a very expensive city, and UCSF has very little of its own housing. In addition to this, UCSF runs year-round (July 1-June 30), meaning there are never any breaks in which UCSF housing has room for summer students the way many other schools do. We do set up a housing forum once the year’s class has been selected. On the forum, we provide any resources we come across along with local students sharing their resources if they or their friends have or know of rooms for the summer, usually near UCB or SFSU.
  15. If I have further questions, whom should I contact? If you have questions about the application process or the program, please email Gianna Guerrero at [email protected].