The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) Short-Term Research Experience Program for Underrepresented Persons (STEP-UP) is a component of the NIDDK Strategic Plan on Minority Health Disparities. The goals of the strategic plan are to reduce and eliminate health disparities, expand research training opportunities for underrepresented minority scientists, and provide information to racial and ethnic minority groups about treatment, prevention, and self-management of disease. The most striking disparities in the burden of disease in the United States are experienced by African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders and Asians.

In addition to these ethnic and racial minorities, health disparities exist among population groups segregated by gender, income, education, disability, geographic location and sexual orientation.

As a result, it is essential to diversify the biomedical and health care workforce with research scientists who are culturally competent and responsive to the multiple cultural and social needs of underserved minority and socio-economically deprived populations.

Students are encouraged to reach out to STEP-UP Program Coordinator Noehealani Bareng-Antolin if they have any questions about the program.


Noehealani Bareng-Antolin
STEP-UP Program Coordinator
TEC 101

The STEP-UP program is designed to provide a short-term summer research experience for high school junior and senior students from racial/ethnic groups and disadvantaged backgrounds underrepresented in biomedical and behavioral research. The purpose is to expose student participants to research in the NIDDK mission areas, including diabetes, endocrinology, metabolism, nutrition, and obesity, as well as digestive, liver, urologic, kidney, and hematologic diseases.

The goal of this program is to increase the number of underrepresented minority and disadvantaged students in the research pipeline who are committed to a career in biomedical, behavioral, clinical or social science research.

NIDDK provides the funding and program oversight; however, the day-to-day coordination of the program is handled by one of four coordinating institutions, UNLV being one of them. While students in the Las Vegas area will conduct their research at the UNLV campus, this is a national program and we make arrangements for students around the country to get connected to research facilities near their homes. Each student is paired with an established researcher and may be assigned to a research team. Students will work with staff on specific research projects.

  • Eight to twelve weeks of full time research experience with flexible starting dates.
  • Summer research stipend.
  • Students are assigned to one of four High School STEP-UP Coordinating Centers to help coordinate and monitor their summer research experience.
  • Students are paired with experienced research mentors at institutes throughout the nation.
  • Students are encouraged to choose research institutes and/or mentors near their hometowns or within commuting distance of their residences. Students are not required to relocate in order to conduct their research.
  • Students receive training in the responsible conduct of research.
  • All-expenses paid travel to the annual High School STEP-UP Research Symposium held on the National Institute of Health’s main campus in Bethesda, Maryland. This provides students the opportunity to conduct formal oral and/or poster presentations of their research to their peers and other NIH scientists.

Please read the following eligibility requirements carefully, applicants must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or legal permanent resident.
  • Be in their junior or senior year of high school (at the time of the application).
  • Have a minimum overall GPA of 2.75 (on a 4.0 scale).
  • Have personal medical/health insurance coverage throughout the duration of the program.

Applicants must also meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Come from racial and ethnic groups that have been shown by the National Science Foundation to be underrepresented in biomedical sciences on a national basis.
  • Come from disadvantaged backgrounds as defined by annual family income and/or be the first generation in their families to graduate from a four-year college or university.
  • Diagnosed with a disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

Applications will be accepted online beginning October 15. All online application and supporting materials must be submitted by February 15.

Students applying to the high school STEP-UP must:

  • Complete and successfully submit the online application.
  • Complete and successfully submit a personal statement with no more than 600 words.
  • Contact two academic references with instructions on submitting online letters of recommendation.
    • Past STEP-UP participants must have at least one letter from their most recent STEP-UP research mentor.
    • Two complete letters of recommendation must be received by Feb. 15 for program consideration.
  • Unofficial academic transcripts that reflect all earned credits and grades through December must be uploaded in the student portal.
    • Official transcripts will be needed once accepted into the program.

Application materials (application, personal statement and letters of recommendation) must be submitted online using the STEP-UP online web portal.

Visit the official STEP-UP website to begin the application process.

  • October 15 – Online application portal opens
  • February 15 – Notification of acceptance
  • March 15 – Notification of acceptance
  • Mid June – Start of internship
  • Early August – End of Internship
  • Early-Mid August – STEP-UP Research Symposium in Bethesda, MD at National Institutes of Health
STEP-UP Program
STEP-UP Part 2