Heithoff-Brody High School Scholars Program at the Salk Institute

Salk Institute for Biological Studies - EDUCATION OUTREACH - Heithoff-Brody High School Scholars Program at the Salk Institute

Heithoff-Brody High School Scholars Program at the Salk Institute


As of March 18th, the 2020 Heithoff-Brody High School Scholar program is still scheduled to take place. With new information becoming available on a daily basis as the San Diego community navigates the current COVID-19 situation, it is difficult to predict if any changes to the program will be required to preserve the health and safety of students and Salk employees. The situation is being continuously monitored and if there are any changes to the program, all applicants will be notified immediately and this information will also be posted on the website.

Additionally, in response to school closures, the program application deadline has been extended to April 17th

Heithoff-Brody High School Scholars Program at the Salk Institute

SUMMER 2020 PROGRAM: June 22 – August 14, 2020

The flagship of our past education outreach efforts, this program gives high school students the opportunity to do hands-on experimental work in a Salk research lab, supervised by a Salk faculty member. Students work side-by-side with Salk scientists on projects involving today’s cutting edge research.

Founded more than 40 years ago, the program helps fulfill Dr. Jonas Salk’s vision of providing opportunities for local high school students to experience life in a scientific laboratory, and explore the possibility of a career in science.

Through the eight-week program, students are involved with a full-time research project as well as enrichment activities. Students learn how to formulate and test hypotheses, prepare experiments and draw conclusions from those experiments. They also learn to maintain laboratory notebooks and take part in regular lab meetings and group discussions. At the end of the program, students present their research projects to their mentors, lab members and families.


  • Applicants should be San Diego County residents and have completed their most recent semester of high school at a public or private high school within San Diego County. (Out of area student applications will be considered on a case by case basis)
  • Applicants must be at least 16 years of age.
  • Applicants must have successfully completed at least one year each of high school level chemistry and biology by the start of the program.
  • Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA.
  • Applicants must be able to commit to 40 hrs/wk for the duration of the program.
  • Applicants must be able to be responsible for their own transportation.

This program is in collaboration with the Biocom Institute Partners for Internships (BIPI) program.

The application portal for the 2020 Biotech Institute Partners for Internships can now be accessed via the link below. Please be aware that students must register on the Survey Monkey Apply portal site with their email before they will be able to access the full application. It is important that students register with their own personal email address for their application. If necessary, please create a new email address that is professional and will be used to communicate with BIPI and/or other employers.

  • Examples of professional email addresses include:,,
  • Examples of unprofessional email addresses include: ,,
  • Do not use your parent’s email address. It is strongly suggested that you create your own.

Click here to access the application portal»

The following documents will be part of the application process. The application portal linked above will prompt you to upload your documents as part of your complete application:


Cover Letter:

  • This is a one page introduction to yourself and explains why you are interested in this internship program.
  • Helpful links:

Typed personal statement (Essay):

  • Please briefly address the following topics in a short essay, not to exceed 1000 words:
    • What area of science research are you most interested in? Please relate this to a past personal or classroom experience. What benefits do you hope to gain from a research internship? Describe your extracurricular interests and hobbies, including any honors or awards.

Handwritten explanation of research interests:

  • The BIPI High School Student Research Program includes laboratories focused on the overarching areas of neurosciences, genetics, biochemistry, chemistry, and immunology in addition to molecular, plant, computational, and cell biology. Descriptions of these are below. You will be asked to rank your interest in each area from 1-9 (1 being highest area of interest, 9 being lowest).
  • In your own handwriting, briefly explain your ranking of the research interests, including any strong preferences you have for or against working in any specific area. Explain why you prefer (or do not prefer) to work with laboratory animals. (This information will be used as a guide for assigning students to projects. We will make every effort, but cannot guarantee, to assign accepted students to projects that meet their stated preferences).
    • Neurosciences
      Includes research studies which span the structure, function, evolutionary history, development, genetics, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, computational neuroscience and pathology of the nervous system.
    • Molecular Biology
      Molecular biology chiefly concerns itself with understanding the interactions between the various systems of a cell, including the interactions between genes encoded in the DNA, RNA and protein biosynthesis and learning how these interactions are regulated. Many other disciplines make use of techniques that molecular biology invented: DNA cloning, genetic manipulation etc. Molecular biology is at therefore at the basis of many other disciplines.
    • Genetics
      Involves studies of gene regulation and the involvement of genes in development and cancer, including patterns of inheritance.
    • Plant Biology
      The study of the mechanisms of plant growth control influenced by hormonal or environmental factors using a combination of molecular, cellular, genetic, biochemical, or genomic approaches. The higher plant Arabidopsis (the laboratory rat of the plant world) or the green algae Chlamydomonas or Volvox will be used as a model system.
    • Chemistry
      Involves synthesis of medicinally relevant small molecules and natural products, design of synthetic routes, and development of novel methodologies which are widely applicable within the field. Disciplines include organic, inorganic, and organometallic chemistry.
    • Computational Biology
      An interdisciplinary field that probes the complexity of biology using techniques from computer science, applied mathematics, and statistics. This includes understanding protein and genome sequences (computational genomics), large amounts of experimental data such as gene expression profiles (bioinformatics) and computational modeling, which builds programs to simulate biological processes from cell division to organ growth to brain function.
    • Biochemistry
      The next step up from molecular biology, biochemistry combines synthetic organic chemistry and chemical principles to study molecular design, chemical synthesis, and biological investigations of molecules with specific biological actions such as enzyme inhibitors, DNA cleaving molecules, antitumor agents, and chemical catalysts. The main focus of biochemistry is on the function of proteins, the actual effectors of genes. Biochemists will research if and how proteins become modified when cells receive a certain signal, if proteins travel to different parts of the cells to activate a certain pathway etc.
    • Cell Biology
      Includes studies of cells’ physiological properties, their structure, organelles, environmental interactions, their life cycle, division and death.
    • Immunology
      Research topics include physiological functioning of the immune system in states of both health and diseases; the response to bacteria and viruses, improvement of vaccines, malfunctions in immunological disorders (autoimmune diseases, hypersensitivities, immune deficiency, allograft rejection); and the physical, chemical and physiological characteristics of the components of the immune system in vitro, in situ, and in vivo.

Two letters of recommendation:

  • Recommendations should be from your biology teacher, principal, other teacher, advisor/counselor, or work supervisor who can evaluate your potential for this summer research experience, taking into consideration your accomplishments, intellectual prowess, independent work habits, capacity for critical and analytical thinking, and/or ability to organize and express ideas clearly and intelligently.
    • It is strongly recommended that one letter of recommendation come from a math or science teacher. Your recommenders will be sent a special link to upload their letters as part of your application. Start thinking about who you will ask.

For more information on this program, please contact the Education Outreach Department at

Please note that we value student-led engagement and encourage students to advocate on their own behalf during the application process.