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UC LEADS (Leadership Excellence Through Advanced Degrees)

The goal of the University of California's Leadership Excellence through Advanced Degrees (UC LEADS) program is to educate California's future leaders by preparing promising students for advanced education in science, technology, mathematics and engineering (STEM). The program is designed to identify upper-division undergraduate students with the potential to succeed in these disciplines, but who have experienced situations or conditions that have adversely affected their advancement in their fields of study.

UC LEADS at UC Merced

Once chosen as UC LEADS scholars, students embark upon a two-year program of scientific research and graduate school preparation guided by individual faculty mentors.

Scholars get excellent opportunities to explore their disciplines, experience research environments and improve their opportunities for future study in their chosen fields. Each scholar gains valuable educational experience, the university gets a better prepared and more diverse graduate applicant pool, and the state, nation and world get well-educated future leaders.

Please be sure to review all application instructions and eligibility requirements below.

Program Components

UC LEADS achieves these important aims by providing faculty mentoring, experiential learning in summer and academic-year research programs, involvement in professional and scientific societies, exposure to the UC graduate environment and participation in key academic enrichment programs, including leadership development activities.

1. Undergraduate Mentorship Experience
Scholars are matched with UC faculty members who serve as mentors. Mentors assist scholars in developing and completing educational action plans that include structured research, graduate school preparation, and exploration and participation in professional and/or scientific associations. Each action plan should a) clearly describe the expenses associated with the scholar’s research activities that will be supported by UC LEADS, and b) be approved by the scholar, mentor, and campus coordinator. 

2. Academic-Year Research
The scholars participate in organized research programs during each academic year, under the direction of their faculty mentors.

3. Campus Academic Enrichment and Leadership Development Opportunities
Scholars participate in academic enrichment programs providing special training in areas critical to academic and professional success, such as scientific writing, preparing and making academic presentations, and development of specific research or research-related skills. By the end of the second summer, scholars will have participated in Graduate Record Exam (GRE) preparation training activities. During the second year of the program, scholars receive support with preparing graduate academic admission applications and appropriate fellowship applications.

4. Annual University-Wide Symposium
All UC LEADS scholars attend the annual Koret UC LEADS Research and Leadership Symposium. The event features:

  • Opportunities to network with fellow scholars, graduate students, graduate program administrators, and faculty members;
  • All scholars present their research to get feedback from their peers, graduate students and faculty members;
  • Scientific and academic presentations by leaders in the STEM fields of study, covering such topics as diversity in science, leadership in academia and industry, laboratory ethics, financing graduate education, and balancing family with graduate school;
  • Opportunities to learn about mentoring future generations of students who may face obstacles to participation in higher education similar to those experienced by current scholars.

5. Summer Research Program Experience

All UC LEADS scholars participate in two summer research experiences. The first takes place on the scholar’s home campus. Scholars must commit to working full time on a research project during the summer (40 hours/week). They receive a summer stipend of $3,500 and housing or housing compensation. The second summer research experience occurs at another UC campus. 

6. Involvement in Professional and Scientific Societies
Scholars are encouraged to participate in national or regional professional or scientific society meetings. UC LEADS provides financial support for registration, travel, and lodging accommodations.

7. Scientific Research and Presentations
In addition to the Koret UC LEADS Research and Leadership Symposium and their summer presentations, scholars will present their research at least one time per year. UC LEADS encourages scholars to present their work at national or regional scientific conferences.

8. Travel to Other UC Campuses for Training and Exposure to Campus Graduate Study Opportunities
Scholars are expected to travel to at least one UC campus each year (in addition to second summer research travel). Scholars have opportunities to meet with graduate students and faculty and participate in campus tours designed to acquaint scholars with various aspects of campus life and graduate programs. These visits help scholars make informed decisions about their second summer placements as well as learn about graduate programs of study within the University of California.

Program Eligibility and Requirements

To be eligible for selection, each applicant must:

  • Be enrolled in or about to be enrolled in a UC Merced undergraduate degree program in the sciences, technology, engineering or mathematics;
  • Be on track to receive a bachelor’s degree at the conclusion of the second year of the UC LEADS program (i.e. should apply before junior year or before the fourth year if on a five-year plan);
  • Have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher; and
  • Be able to demonstrate the potential for success in a graduate program

How to Apply

The UC LEADS program identifies students who have:

  • Experienced educational barriers to their academic progress, or who express a commitment to address the barriers that prevent the participation of students from underrepresented groups in graduate academic programs;
  • Experienced situations or conditions that impacted their advancement or ability to advance in a STEM field (e.g. the absence of a role model in the STEM field, the absence of a family member who received a four-year college degree or graduation from a high school with poor financial or curricular support);
  • Leadership potential to address the issues of underrepresentation of domestic minorities in the STEM fields;
  • The potential to gain the personal and multicultural competency skills necessary to address the needs of a diverse state and global community through science and technology.

The following materials are needed to complete the UC LEADS application:

  1. UC LEADS online application form
  2. Statement of purpose and personal essay, as described in the online application
  3. One letter of recommendation from a UC Merced faculty member
  4. One unofficial transcript from the portal
  5. Resume or CV

This opportunity is for UC Merced students who meet minimum eligibility requirements.


Application period for Summer 2019 is Feb. 1 - March 15, 2019


Undocumented students are eligible for this program.

*Citizenship, permanent resident, OR AB540 students*


Contact Information

Jorge Arroyo
Director, Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center
University of California, Merced
Student Services Building, 230
5200 N. Lake Road
Merced, CA 95343
Phone: (209) 228-4245