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UC Leadership Excellence Through Advanced Degrees (UC LEADS)

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. For more information regarding the UC systemwide program visit 

Scholar Highlight

Jessica Lopez Lara

UC Merced Class of 2019 and current graduate student in the UCSB Chemistry PhD Program


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 the 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:

  • All scholars present their research to get feedback from 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 network and learn about mentoring future generations of students who may face obstacles in higher education.

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 and the second summer research experience occurs at another UC 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.

6. Involvement in Professional and Scientific Societies
Scholars are encouraged to participate in and present their research at professional or scientific meetings and conferences. UC LEADS provides financial support for registration, travel, and lodging accommodations. 

Program Eligibility and Requirements

  • Must be enrolled a UC Merced undergraduate degree program until Fall 2023 in the sciences, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM);
  • LGBTQ+, US military veterans, transfer students, first-generation college students, and undocumented students are encouraged to apply
  • Be on track to receive a bachelor’s degree at the conclusion of the second year of the UC LEADS program
  • Traditional student: should apply before third year or before the fourth year if on a five-year plan
  • Non-traditional student: transfer students should apply before the end of the first year or second year if on a three-year plan
  • 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, or graduation from a high school with poor financial or curricular support);
  • Have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher (preferred); and
  • Be able to demonstrate the potential for success in a graduate program

How to Apply

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


Summer 2024 Application is Closed


Undocumented students are eligible for this program.

Want to learn more?

Interested in learning more about the program that’s right for you? Check out our programs page or schedule an appointment with one of our UROC Coordinators:

Diana Hernandez: Schedule an Appointment