Summer of Translational Aging Research for Undergraduates (STAR U)

A Summer Research Program in Neuroscience and Aging for Students from Diverse Backgrounds


The Summer of Translational Aging Research for Undergraduates (STAR U) is a fully-funded program by an R25 grant from the National Institute on Aging, based at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) campus, and housed within the Taub Institute for Alzheimer’s disease and the Aging Brain. The goal of STAR U is to increase diversity in the field of neuroscience and aging by providing mentorship and training for young scientists who have unique experiences and perspectives. Therefore, the program is limited to students from diverse backgrounds who are underrepresented in the biomedical sciences (see Eligibility below).

STAR U aims to overcome historic barriers that have prevented undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds from pursuing careers in aging research. Through a structured summer research program, STAR U will provide 10-12 students per year with:

  1. individual, tailored research mentorships
  2. a range of translational learning opportunities
  3. professional networking and social experiences

Research experiences will be augmented by training, lectures, career development activities, and social events to provide an enriching and thought-provoking growth experience, culminating with a final research symposium in which students can present their summer research projects. In addition to the summer activities, we hope to keep in touch with STAR U scholars throughout their academic and professional development through lasting mentorship and other collaborative, supportive relationships that extend beyond the summer period.

Program Highlights:
  • Engage in a primary research project under the guidance of expert faculty
  • Participate in seminars on scientific and professional development topics
  • Network with other young scholars and researchers in the field
  • Present at a research symposium with oral and poster presentations
  • Gain exposure and refine your interest in neuroscience/aging research
  • Gain lasting mentorship and supportive relationships that extend beyond STAR U

June 3 - August 2, 2019
All STAR U participants are expected to participate full-time during the entirety of the 8-week program. Accommodations are available to students in the quarter system.

Program Specifics:

If needed, housing for the 8-weeks can be provided through The International House of New York, a residence aligned with several universities in New York, which focuses on interaction of residents in a culture built upon the values of empathy, respect and moral courage. It is located near Columbia University’s main campus and includes dormstyle accommodations along with meal options.

STAR U students will also receive transportation passes, a travel stipend to New York City (if necessary), a stipend of $4000 for the 8-week period to offset other living expenses in New York City, and additional funds to support students to attend one or two national conferences during the academic year.

  • Applicants to the program must be currently enrolled in an undergraduate institution. Rising Freshman, Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors, in addition to graduating Seniors in the Spring of 2019 are all eligible.
  • All STAR U candidates must be legally eligible to work in the U.S.
  • Ideal candidates are interested in conducting research in the biomedical sciences, specifically in neuroscience and aging, and are considering future graduate studies in the field (PhD, MD, MD/PhD, or equivalent).
  • Applicants must come from diverse backgrounds and be considered by the NIH to be underrepresented in the biomedical sciences (see information below).

According to the Updated Notice on NIH’s Interest in Diversity:

The NIH encourages institutions to diversify their student and faculty populations to enhance the participation of individuals from groups that are underrepresented in the biomedical, clinical, behavioral and social sciences, such as:

  • Individuals from racial and ethnic groups that have been shown by the National Science Foundation to be underrepresented in healthrelated sciences on a national basis (see data and the report Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering). The following racial and ethnic groups have been shown to be underrepresented in biomedical research: Blacks or African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. In addition, it is recognized that underrepresentation can vary from setting to setting; individuals from racial or ethnic groups that can be demonstrated convincingly to be underrepresented by the grantee institution should be encouraged to participate in this program. For more information on racial and ethnic categories and definitions, see NOT-OD-15-089.
  • Individuals with disabilities, who are defined as those with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, as described in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended. See NSF data here,
  • Individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, defined as:
    • Individuals who come from a family with an annual income below established low-income thresholds. These thresholds are based on family size, published by the U.S. Bureau of the Census; adjusted annually for changes in the Consumer Price Index; and adjusted by the Secretary for use in all health professions programs. The Secretary periodically publishes these income levels here.
  • Individuals who come from an educational environment such as that found in certain rural or inner-city environments that has demonstrably and directly inhibited the individual from obtaining the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to develop and participate in a research career (NIH, 2018).

Retrieved from: National Institutes of Health (NIH). NOT-OD-18-210: Updated Notice of NIH's Interest in Diversity. (2018, July 16). Accessed December 6, 2018.

Application Requirements:
  • Completed application form submitted electronically by February 15, 2019.
    • Application form consists of demographic questions, uploading your personal statement/resume/academic transcript, ranking your top 5 faculty mentor choices, and one short answer question.
  • Personal Statement (800 word maximum, save in PDF form):
    • Your academic and career goals; reasons for your interest in neuroscience and aging research
    • What has inspired or motivated you to pursue these goals? (Expand on community involvement, volunteer experiences, previous research, personal life experiences, etc.)
    • How will participating in this program help you reach your goals?
    • Any other information about yourself that you would like to share
  • Resume/CV (in PDF form)
  • Academic transcript (in PDF form)
  • 2 letters of reference from undergraduate professors or other relevant parties on official letterhead and sent directly to the STAR U Program Coordinator, Kiana Chan ( Letters of recommendation are due by February 15, 2019.  
  • Please note: your application is not considered complete unless we have received your completed application form, which should include your demographic information, personal statement, short essay, resume, and academic transcript.

*For students who started their application before December 19: the application link will automatically close if it is inactive for more than 7 days since your last activity. If your partial response on the Qualtrics survey closed out and you would still like to complete and submit your application by February 15, please email to have a retake link issued to you. 

Important Dates:
Application Available: mid-December 2018
Application Deadline: February 15, 2019 @ 11:55PM
Decisions Made (tentative): April 2019
Program Starts: June 3
Program Ends:  August 2

Faculty and Research Expertise:

A major component of STAR U will be conducting a research project under the mentorship of a faculty member. We will pair students and mentors based on aligned interests. Please follow this link to see a few examples of some of the research projects of faculty mentors.


Kiana Chan
Program Coordinator, STAR U
Summer of Translational Aging Research for Undergraduates
Department of Neurology, Sergievsky Center and The Taub Institute
Columbia University Irving Medical Center