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What is STEP-UP?
STEP-UP stands for Short-Term Research Experience for Underrepresented Persons.

What is the goal of STEP-UP?
The overall goal of NIDDK’s Short-Term Research Experience for Underrepresented Persons (STEP-UP) Program is to build and sustain a biomedical, behavioral, clinical and social science research pipeline focused on NIDDK mission areas. The STEP-UP program is particularly interested in increasing participation of students from backgrounds underrepresented in biomedical research on a national basis. This includes individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, and individuals with disabilities.

How does STEP-UP work?
Selected students are paired with a mentor and carry out a summer research project in their area of interest. Before the summer begins, students are required to complete any necessary training. Throughout the summer internship, students will be expected to submit an abstract, PowerPoint presentation, and a poster (for high school senior participants only) on their research project. At the end of the summer, select students will have the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. to attend the National STEP-UP Summer Research Symposium where they will present on their project to fellow STEP-UP participants as well as a professional panel of judges.

Where will I conduct my research and complete my internship?
Internships are conducted at an affiliated institution near your location.

What are the official start and end dates of the internship?
The start dates are flexible for each student. You will start your internship during the summer at the end of your high school’s calendar year. Students usually begin their research experience during the first week of June. All students are expected to have a minimum of eight (8) consecutive weeks of research experience.

Are vacations permitted?
Vacations are not permitted during your research experience. All vacations must be taken before or after the program.

Am I allowed to take summer school classes or have a summer job during my internship?
Taking summer school courses or participating in any other type of internship is not allowed due to the amount of time required to of the research project. Students are expected to work full-time (40 hours per week) in a supervised laboratory or clinical facility. Participation in outside activities and the establishment of a work schedule must be negotiated with your research mentor and approved by the program director prior.

Will my research experience match my research interest?
While we do our best to match your research interest with a research mentor at a partnering institution, please note that it is not guaranteed.

Does my research have to match NIDDK core mission areas?
No, however, we strongly recommend that students pursue research within the NIDDK mission areas: diabetes, endocrinology and metabolic diseases; digestive diseases and nutrition; kidney, urologic and hematologic diseases. We will attempt to match students with research mentors within NIDDK core mission areas before matching students with research mentors outside of the NIDDK core mission areas.


When should I apply?
We recommend that you apply as soon as possible after the application site becomes available on October 15 as the rush of last minute applicants can prompt a crash of our online system.

Is there a deadline for submission of applications?
Yes, the application deadline is February 15. Please note that incomplete applications will not receive further consideration. The STEP-UP application is available online from November 15 through February 15 each year.

What information do I need to apply?
You will need to input basic contact information about yourself, designate your eligibility criteria, and provide your academic and extracurricular information. For a step-by-step guide to the application process, visit our Apply Now page and either click the ‘How to Apply’ icon for the Google Slides version or click the blue ‘How to apply online’ button for a video version.

I applied to the STEP-UP Program last year. Can I update my application?
No, you will need to reapply and request new letters from your references.

How do I submit my transcript?
Students can upload an unofficial transcript through the online application system on or before February 15. If you are unable to upload your unofficial transcript, you must submit an official transcript by February 1. The transcript must be mailed to:

High School STEP-UP Program
II Democracy Plaza
6707 Democracy Blvd., Room 904
Bethesda, MD 20892

Does my transcript have to include my Fall semester grades?
Yes. Official academic transcripts must reflect all earned credits and grades through December of that academic year.

If I do not have access to the Internet, how can I apply?
Paper applications are available through your local program coordinator. You may also request a paper application by calling us at +1 (808) 692-1675.

How often should I check the status of my application?
If applying online, you should check the status of your application at least once a week until it has been marked “Complete.”

How will I know if my application is complete and has been submitted to the review committee?
If applying online, the STEP-UP program staff will review your application once received. If all of your application components have been received (including your transcript), your application will be marked “COMPLETE” and you will receive a confirmation email. If your application is not marked “COMPLETE,” please contact the STEP-UP program staff as soon as possible.

My application is “incomplete,” what does this mean?
If your application is marked “incomplete” it means that we have not received your transcript and/or letters of recommendation. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed. Please contact us if your application is marked “incomplete.”

How and when will I hear whether I am accepted into the STEP-UP Program?
The NIDDK STEP-UP Director will begin notifying applicants of acceptance into the STEP-UP program by email on March 15. This will continue until all available spots are filled. Accepted applicants will be required to confirm their participation within one week of notification.

Who can I contact if I have any questions regarding the Pacific STEP-UP program?
Feel free to contact your local program coordinator or send us an email at


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