Education Menu

Undergraduate Research Program

The Undergraduate Research Program (URP) at CSHL provides an opportunity for undergraduate scientists from around the world to conduct first-rate research. Students learn the scientific process, technical methods and theoretical principles, and communicate their discoveries to other scientists. Approximately 20 students come to CSHL each summer for the program, living and working in the exciting Laboratory environment.

URP participants work on an ongoing research project in one of CSHL’s expert labs. Research at CSHL focuses on:

  • Molecular Biology & Cancer
  • Genetics & Genomics
  • Neuroscience
  • Plant Biology
  • Quantitative Biology

In addition to doing research in the lab, URP participants attend a series of specially designed workshops, seminars and collegial events.  Workshops focus on learning particular skills, such as Python programming, while seminars cover research topics, responsible conduct of research, and career development. At the URP Symposium at the end of each summer, students present their research to the entire CSHL community.

URP participants live and work among CSHL scientists. They are invited to all Laboratory social activities, including an exclusive dinner with CSHL President Bruce Stillman. On weekends, students are free to explore nearby New York City or the sandy beaches of Long Island.

By the end of the summer, URP participants have first-hand experience of a career in scientific research.

The 2024 URP Program will be held Monday, June 10 – Saturday, August 10, 2024.

2024 Applications are now closed.

photo of the 2023 Undergraduate Research Program students post volleyball game

photo of the 2023 Undergraduate Research Program students post volleyball game showing the back of their t-shirts

Scientific Research

All URP students undertake an original research project, mentored by one of CSHL’s outstanding research faculty. Students have access to the Lab’s state-of-the-art research facilities, including extensive resources for genomics and microscopy. At the end of the Program, students write a scientific manuscript about their summer work. Some of these become part of peer-reviewed scientific publications.

Bioinformatics and Computational Neuroscience Workshop

CSHL’s URP presents students with a two-part workshop in Bioinformatics and Computational Neuroscience.

Hands-on programming workshops

These workshops (1 per week) train students to analyze and visualize biological data in .

Lecture series

The lecture series consists of sessions focused on important topics in bioinformatics and computational neuroscience. Sessions include:

  • Applications of computational analyses in biology
  • Crop improvement through bioinformatics
  • Modeling framework for interpreting deep neural networks in functional genomics

Training in Scientific Communication

The Program offers lectures on how to give a scientific talk. In the course of the summer Program, students prepare a research abstract and a scientific report, and present two research talks for the entire CSHL scientific community.

Career Development

URP participants attend a series of lectures and panel discussions aimed at informing them about the process of pursuing a research career or a variety of non-research scientific careers. Sessions include:

  • Faculty perspectives on research careers
  • Graduate school and fellowship applications
  • Non-research career panel

Responsible Conduct of Research

Before starting work in their laboratories, URP participants attend a Responsible Conduct of Research workshop, which covers ethical issues in biological research. Students are also instructed in laboratory safety.

Current sophomores and juniors are eligible. Applications must be submitted online by January 15.

Online Application

  • All applicants must complete an URP application form with a personal statement online.
  • Faxed, mailed, or emailed applications are not accepted.
  • You may submit your application before the recommendation letters have been uploaded by your referees.
  • Once an application has been submitted, changes cannot be made. Please review your application carefully before submitting.
  • To use the online application system, you must first register as a user. On the main login page, there is a link that says “New User? Register Here” to the right of the “Go” button. If you do not see this option, make sure your internet browser is up-to-date and/or try a different browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari). If you continue to experience problems, please contact Embark, the application manager at help@embark.com

Personal Statement

  • Your personal statement is limited to a single page – approximately 600 words or 3,250 characters (including spaces), single-spaced. You should use a minimum of 1-inch margins.
  • You should ensure that your statement is legible. We would appreciate a minimum of 11-point font, preferably sans serif (such as Helvetica). Other traditional fonts, such as Times New Roman, are also acceptable.
  • Please give a brief description of why you wish to participate in the ư Undergraduate Research Program. This should include: (i) your career interests, (ii) how the URP can help you achieve your goals, (iii) details of any pertinent research experience, employment, extracurricular activities, and (iv) any other information you believe to be relevant to your application. You may also list 2-3 research mentors you would like to work with in your personal statement.

Dates and Deadlines

  • The deadline for receipt of completed applications, including letters of recommendation, is January 15 at 11:59 pm (23:59) Pacific Standard Time (equivalent to January 16, 07:59 UTC/GMT). Applications will not be reviewed if they are received after the deadline.
  • Recommendation letters will not be accepted after the application deadline. Please make sure your referees are aware of the January 15 deadline when you ask them to write a recommendation. Most referees need at least a month to complete a letter. If your referee has any problems uploading the letter to the online application system, they should contact help@embark.com directly.
  • Notification of application status will be sent by the end of March.

Eligibility

  • Students of any nationality are eligible for the program.
  • Students should have a strong academic background in a science. Although the Program emphasizes the biological sciences, students with engineering, chemistry, computer science, math, or physics backgrounds are also encouraged to apply.
  • Students must be returning to an undergraduate degree program following their URP summer research experience; current sophomores and juniors, or the equivalent, are eligible. Only in exceptional cases will first-year undergraduate students, with prior independent research experience, be considered.
  • Previous laboratory research experience will help your application but is not required.
  • If your academic semester conflicts with the dates of the URP program, you are still eligible to apply. If you are accepted into the Program, we will discuss how your academic schedule can be accommodated. For instance, in past years, some students have arranged with their professors at their home university to take one or more final exam at CSHL. But please note that all URP researchers are expected to participate in the program as a single group and must therefore plan to be at CSHL during the dates of the program.

Grades & Transcripts

  • Official transcripts are not required.
  • There is no minimum GPA required. Successful applicants generally have GPAs around 3.5 or higher in their science and math courses.
  • If your GPA is not on a 4.0 scale, then please convert your grade to a 4.0 scale. If your institution does not have a standard scaling, then calculate by dividing your average mark by the maximum possible mark and multiplying by 4.0.

International Applicants

  • Students of any nationality are eligible for the program.
  • TOEFL or IELTS scores are not required for admission to the URP program.
  • If your grades are not based on a 4.0 scale, please note your institution’s grading scale and the actual class mark you received on the application. Also indicate the best possible mark. For example, if your university scale is 1 to 5, then note your grade as X/5, 1=best.

Recommendation Letters

  • Applicants must arrange for two recommendation letters from professors – preferably in math or science – to be submitted online. We do not accept more than two recommendation letters.
  • If you have previous research experience, recommendation letters from professors with whom you have worked in a lab are especially encouraged. Letters from graduate students or postdocs in the lab are less effective.
  • Faxed, mailed, or emailed recommendation letters are not accepted.
  • Your referees will upload their recommendation letters directly to the online application system manager. When you fill in the application, you will submit the email addresses of your referees. Your referees will receive an email with instructions on how to upload their recommendation letter online. Please tell your referee that they will receive an email from the Embark application system so this notification email does not end up in spam.
  • You may submit your application before recommendation letters have been uploaded by your referees.
  • Recommendation letters will not be accepted after the application deadline. Please make sure your referees are aware of the January 15 deadline when you ask them to write a recommendation. Most referees need at least a month to complete a letter. If your referee has any problems uploading the letter to the online application system, they should contact help@embark.com directly.

Stipend

Students receive a stipend of $6,000. Room and board expenses will be partially covered.

Housing Environment

URP participants reside in the cabins on the ư campus. Each cabin provides housing for 8 individuals, with two single-gender students per room. Also, each room has a full bathroom. All linens, blankets, pillows, and towels are provided, along with full housekeeping services. Two arm chairs and a small table are available in each cabin, and one telephone is available in the common area. The cabins are also equipped with Wi-Fi internet access. All cabins are fully air-conditioned.

Meals are served three times a day, seven days a week in the Blackford Dining Hall. Vegetarian and Vegan options are available at all times and our kitchen will make every effort to accommodate any special needs.

Gym equipment and weights are available in the exercise room located in the lower level of the Dolan Hall. Also, washer and dryer facilities are available in Dolan.

The Laboratory owns canoes and kayaks, available for URP student use. All participants are free to use our tennis and volleyball courts, running and hiking trails, swimming pool and private beach.

CSHL holds volleyball tournaments during the summer where different laboratory buildings square off against each other. URP students are invited to join these teams, compete against the graduate students throughout the summer and the faculty at annual URP vs. PI (Principal Investigator/Lab Head) tournament, held at the end of the summer.

What past URP participant(s) said about their summer at CSHL.

John Apollo, Krainer Laboratory

photo of URP student John Apollo
John Apollo
The Undergraduate Research Program (URP) at ư has been nothing short of transformative, both academically and personally. During the program, I was given the opportunity to work under the brilliant Dr. Adrian Krainer along with my two amazing mentors. The researchers and mentors are not only experts in their fields, but they also radiate a genuine passion for sharing knowledge and guiding aspiring scientists. I always felt welcomed and valued as a member of the Krainer lab, and the support I received was unparalleled. The mentorship I received was invaluable, and my mentors always took the time to understand my research goals and tailored their guidance to help me achieve them. The lab also promotes open discussions and collaborations while fostering an atmosphere of innovation and encouragement. One of the defining aspects of this program is the hands-on engagement with cutting edge research. My research project involved alternative splicing in pancreatic cancer, a very intriguing and stimulating topic.The Undergraduate Research Program not only advanced my technical and research proficiency, but also honed my critical thinking, problem solving and teamwork skills. There were plenty of workshops available such as the bioinformatics lecture series, python courses, and weekly talks from scientists from the Cold Spring Harbor Lab community. I am truly grateful to my inspiring lab and this transformative experience which has left an indelible mark on my academic journey, and I look forward to staying connected with this remarkable community as I continue to pursue my passion for research and academic career.

Leah Fitzgerald, Pedmale Laboratory

photo of URP student Leah Fitzgerald
Leah Fitzgerald
I did not know Cold Spring Harbor was what I needed until I knew. My experience here was quite unique from the group mentoring I received to how it has broadened the scope of my aspired career path. CSH offered me an opportunity to explore a field that I am quite passionate about (Medicinal Botany). At the college I currently attend there are no courses dedicated to this topic, so it was truly a privilege to be offered a position at CSH where I could immerse myself in the “plant culture.”The dynamics of my lab gave me a lot of independence, hence, I genuinely felt like I was able to get a taste of the Ph.D. experience. During the internship, I watched a Ph.D. student become a doctor, a post Doc move into her dream field, and a lab tech begin the next steps of her career. Sharing their experiences in and out of the lab, I received invaluable insight on three different career pathways post obtaining a Ph.D. Personally, my mentorship felt like a group project; everyone in the Pedmale lab contributed to dilating my skill-set in farm maintenance to wet-lab protocols and effectively presenting research. To be completely candid, harvesting seeds, infiltrating and imaging leaves easily became my comfort zone, oral presentation on the other hand … let’s just say whatever dessert was on the table went in my mouth before I got to the podium :/ By the time I had given my final presentation at the URP Symposium I was thoroughly pleased with how composed I was at the podium and the number of people who found my talk intelligible.

Everything was not perfect at CSH, but everything that happened here, I am beyond grateful for, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

To Future URPs:

You’re going to make mistakes, and you’re definitely not going to know everything, but please, please apply if you’re interested. This internship is an amazing experience filled with lovely people. I’ve never interacted with more approachable directors than at this program; they care about your personal and scientific development and your entire experience in and out the lab. Believe me, CSH has made quite the impression, and I intend to be back. (Feel free to ask Kim or Monn for my email if you’d like to network 🙂)

P.S. Go sailing!

Shane Holmes, Kinney Laboratory

photo of URP student Shane Holmes
Shane Holmes
Being from a small town, I prefer smaller environments, so summer research in the Undergraduate Research Program (URP) at ư (CSHL) was perfect as the campus was small and world-renowned. I had a blast working in the Kinney Lab applying deep learning methods to quantitative biology research. Under the mentorship of Dr. Deborah Tenenbaum, I learned to overcome obstacles, improve my dry lab expertise and effectively communicate my scientific findings. It is an excellent program that prepares you for graduate school by training you to exercise critical thinking skills when faced with challenging research questions. Furthermore, I recommend future URPs take advantage of the small environment at CSHL by reaching out to faculty members whose research interests you. I am someone who has a myriad of scientific interests; therefore, it helped that the faculty at CSHL were willing to meet and answer my questions. Another excellent aspect of the program were the URP directors as they all cared to see us succeed and endlessly supported us throughout the entire program. With that said, I encourage prospective students to apply to the URP program as it is a high-quality program. To the next group of URPs, I hope you all enjoy the volleyball match against the faculty at the end of the summer, as it was my favorite memory since we almost secured the win without much practice!

Jean Rodriguez-Rivera, Beyaz Lab

photo of URP student Jean Rodriguez-Rivera
Jean Rodriguez-Rivera

This summer at ư has been very fruitful and productive! During the application period, I was taking Genetics at my home institution of University of Puerto Rico at Cayey. A lot of the history regarding the field was amazing, and once I got to the Grace Auditorium, it was then when I realized that I was in the same institution scientists revolutionized the field. My dream has been to study mechanisms of nutrition and metabolism since highschool, when I had lost 82 pounds. The URP Program fulfilled this dream by pairing me with Dr. Semir Beyaz, who works in nutritional factors, lipid metabolism and endometriosis. Alongside my mentors (Paul Bunk and Timothy Maher), and colleagues (Germaine Smart-Marshall and Sarah Shao) I was able learn and collaborate in a safe environment that valued my experiences as a researcher from Puerto Rico, working through the economic struggles, the pandemic and Hurricanes María and Fiona. I am so happy that I worked with them on the effects of fatty acid metabolism on anti-tumor immunity, and learned so many lessons from CSHL. Not only that, but I thoroughly enjoyed frisbee (organized by Leah Braviner) and Thursday Night Trivia! These experiences have set me to continue working in the field I desire most, where I can contribute significantly and help others learn about the importance of these factors in cancer.

Cathy Song, Zhang Laboratory

photo of URP student Cathy Song
Cathy Song

I spent a truly memorable summer participating in the Undergraduate Research Program at CSHL, under the wonderful mentorship of Dr. Lingbo Zhang. I had the chance to use the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 technology and conduct targeted gene knockouts, which helped identify potential new drug targets for Leukemia. The intersection of genetics, bioinformatics, and therapeutics was captivating, and it enhanced my appreciation of biology research’s profound impact on clinical medicine. Through interpreting extensive data from public RNA-seq databases and working with the team to validate knockout efficiency, I learned about the precision and patience required in scientific investigations. This experience bolstered my confidence as a researcher and communicator, and affirmed my ambition to continue a career in scientific research.

Beyond the laboratory walls, life at CSHL was a memorable adventure. The camaraderie among the URPs was incredible. We shared many moments outside the lab—be it the late-night shows at James or exploring the vibrant life of the City—that forged lifelong bonds. The balance between rigorous scientific exploration and relaxing with peers enriched my summer, making it both intellectually and socially fulfilling. I strongly recommend this program to anyone passionate about scientific exploration, seeking a dynamic, enriching summer experience!

2022 and earlier Student Perspectives

Since 1959, the URP Program has been offering undergraduate students a unique opportunity to study with CSHL’s renowned scientists. Some of our notable alumni include Nobel laureate Dr. David Baltimore (California Institute of Technology), Dr. Gerry Rubin (HHMI, Janelia Farm Research Campus), Dr. Alfred Goldberg (Harvard Medical School), Dr. Geraldine Seydoux (Johns Hopkins), and Dr. Charles Gilbert (Rockefeller University), among many others.

photo of the CSHL 2023 URP participants
The CSHL Undergraduate Research Program (URP) participants, Summer 2023

Previous alumni by year

2023  |  2022  |  2021  |  2019  |  2018  |  2017  |  2016  |  2015  |  2014  |  2013  |  2012  |  2011  |  2010  |  2009  |  2008  |  2007  |  2006  |  2005  |  2004  |  2003  |  2002  |  2001  |  2000
All URP Alumni PDF icon

Make a donation to ư’s Undergraduate Research Program.

Donate Now

NSF Sponsored REU in Bioinformatics and Computational Neuroscience

CSHL’s REU program in Bioinformatics and Computational Neuroscience was supported by the NSF 2005 – 2014 and 2016 – present.

The technological advances in this century open a new realm of biological questions that can be addressed experimentally. Large genomic sequence or image datasets are routinely and quickly acquired, but the resources and expertise to analyze this data present a challenge to researchers. CSHL’s unique NSF REU program in Bioinformatics and Computational Neuroscience addresses this need by providing early training to undergraduate students who might not otherwise pursue quantitative approaches. CSHL’s URP/REU students learn theory and techniques from an applied perspective, investigating an important biological problem rather than from the abstract perspective of computer science. Students are mentored by expert CSHL researchers, who combine biology, information theory and sophisticated computational techniques to address questions at the frontiers of modern genomics, bioinformatics, and neuroscience. In the past ten years, CSHL’s URP/REU program has recruited and trained a diverse group of students, many of whom are still working in bioinformatics or computational fields. Almost all URP/REU participants have continued in scientific careers and/or advanced degree programs at competitive institutions. The program provides students with a modern quantitative biology training program that aims to inspire young scientists to become active participants in modern biological research with its demands for quantitative and computational skills.

Prospective REU Project Mentors

  • Dinu F. Albeanu – Neuronal circuits; sensory coding and synaptic plasticity; neuronal correlates of behavior; olfactory processing
  • Arkarup Banerjee – Vocal communication, singing mice, systems neuroscience, neural circuits, neuroethology
  • Jeremy Borniger – Sleep, neuromodulators, cancer neuroscience, homeostasis, host-tumor physiology
  • Lucas Cheadle – Synapse, refinement, pruning, sensory experience, microglia, development, autism, 2-photon imaging, single-cell RNA-sequencing, cytokine
  • Benjamin Cowley – computational neuroscience; closed-loop experiments; interpretable models; deep neural network models; machine learning
  • Alexander Dobin – Computational genomics; transcriptomics; epigenomics; gene regulation; big data; precision medicine
  • Hiro Furukawa – Membrane proteins; x-ray crystallography; electrophysiology
  • Thomas Gingeras – Genome-wide organization of transcription and the functional roles of non-protein coding RNAs
  • Helen Hou – neural circuits; natural behaviors; brain-body interaction; electrophysiology; movement control; neural computation
  • Ivan Iossifov – Computational biology; molecular networks; human genetics; human disease; applied statistical and machine learning; biomedical text-mining; molecular evolution
  • David Jackson – Plant development; stem cell signaling; genomics and imaging
  • Leemor Joshua-Tor– Structural biology; nucleic acid regulation; RNAi
  • Justin Kinney – Sequence-function relationships; biophysics; deep sequencing; machine learning; transcriptional regulation; DNA replication
  • Peter Koo – Sequence-function relationships, deep learning, representation learning
  • Alexei Koulakov – Theoretical neurobiology; quantitative principles of cortical design; computer science; applied mathematics
  • Alexander Krasnitz – Genomics of cancer; machine learning for biology; inference from noisy biological data; large-scale numerical computing.
  • Zachary Lippman – Plant development, genetics; molecular mechanisms of phase transitions for flowering time and inflorescence branching; heterosis
  • Rob Martienssen – Epigenetics; DNA methylation; chromatin and chromosome biology; transposable elements; RNA interference; stem cells; germline specification; plant genomics; plant evolution; aquatic plants
  • David McCandlish – Computational biology; sequence-function relationships; population genetics; protein evolution; machine learning
  • W. Richard McCombie – Genomics of psychiatric disorders; genomics of cancer; computational genomics; plant genomics
  • Hannah Meyer – spatial transcriptomics; immunology; central tolerance; bioinformatics
  • Partha P. Mitra – Neuroinformatics; theoretical engineering; animal communications; neural prostheses; brain mapping; developmental linguistics
  • Saket Navlakha – Algorithms in nature, biological computation, neural circuits, plant architectures
  • Ullas Pedmale – Plant growth; signaling; genomics; development; plant-environment interactions
  • Gabrielle Pouchelon – neural circuits; development; gene regulation; synaptic refinement; plasticity; neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Stephen Shea – Olfaction, audition, communication behaviors, in vivo electrophysiology, individual recognition
  • Adam Siepel – Biological statistics; population genomics; evolution; transcriptional regulation
  • David L. Spector – Cell biology; gene expression; nuclear structure; microscopy
  • Jessica Tollkuhn – Transcriptional regulation, chromatin, critical periods in neurodevelopment, steroid hormones and behavior
  • Doreen Ware – Computational biology; comparative genomics; genome evolution; diversity; gene regulation; plant biology
  • Michael Wigler – Human genetic disorders; population genetics; cancer genomics
  • Anthony Zador – Cortical mechanisms of auditory attention; neural computation; connectomics

Eligibility

All URP participants may take part in the Bioinformatics and Computational Neuroscience program. NSF-supported REU participants are selected from among the URP participants. Students supported by NSF must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States or its possessions. If you are interested in bioinformatics and computational neuroscience, including research in any of the labs listed above, but are not a US citizen or permanent resident, you are eligible for the program through sponsorship from non-restricted URP fellowships.

As for all URP participants, NSF-supported students must be currently enrolled as undergraduates. An undergraduate student is a student who is enrolled in a degree program (part-time or full-time) leading to a baccalaureate or associate degree. Students who will have graduated before the program starts in June are not eligible.

Participants must be “returning to an undergraduate program” after the summer REU program. (See ).

REU Program Alumni