UC Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara, California

Get InfoApply NowSpecial courses in Marine Science, Surfing, and Research Mentorship Program4 or 6 Week ProgramsTuition ranging from $7,699 - $10,399For students completing grades 9, 10, 11, 12 (ages 14-18)Photo Gallery
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Academic Options

UCSB offers several course types and programs that provide students a wide variety of academic options. 

College Credit Courses

  • Summer Discovery partners with UCSB Office of Summer Sessions to offer college credit courses taught by UCSB instructors, visiting instructors, and graduate teaching instructors. that meet 2-5 times weekly for 1.5-3 hours each, with UCSB freshman level students. 3.15-3.3 GPA required.

Research Mentorship Program - RMP (credit)

  • Join a UCSB research group and work with your mentor as they carry out cutting edge investigations in field, laboratory, and library settings. Work on your project approximately 30-40 hours per week and learn about research techniques, data collection and analysis. Students write a technical research paper and present their findings in the Research Symposium. 3.8 GPA required.

Science & Engineering Research Academy - SERA (credit)

  • Get introduced to the research enterprise through project-based, directed research in STEM-and Humanities/Social Sciences related fields. Choose and develop a research topic under the direction of an instructor who is conducting active research in that field. 3.6 GPA required.

Comprehensive Academies (non-credit)

  • Summer Discovery partners with UCSB Extension and UCSB Office of Summer Sessions to offer intensive academies, exclusively for our students, meeting 5 times a week, both morning and afternoon, for 2-3 hours each.  2.75 GPA required for Engineering & Robotics Academy, Finance & Marketing Academy, Global Law Academy, and Contemporary Medicine Academy. 

Enrichment Courses 

  • Summer Discovery partners with UCSB Extension to offer non-credit enrichment classes, exclusively for our students, taught by UCSB instructors, visiting professors, and graduate teaching instructors that meet 5 times weekly for 1.5 hours each. Students who choose this curriculum will take 1 morning and 1 afternoon enrichment course. 2.75 GPA required.

All students receive a Summer Discovery "Certificate of Completion" at the end of the program.

Choose one of the curriculum options below. Your choice indicates how you will spend your day academically during the program. You can choose to take 2 individual courses or a comprehensive full-day academy in a specific subject area.

1 College Credit & 1 Enrichment Course (6 Weeks)

Students who choose this curriculum will take 1 UCSB College Credit Course and 1 Enrichment Course.

  • College Credit Courses: Summer Discovery partners with the UCSB Office of Summer Sessions to offer college credit classes. Classes are taught by UCSB instructors, visiting instructors, and graduate teaching instructors. You will be in class with UCSB undergraduates during UCSB Summer Sessions. Classes meet for 1½ - 3 hours, 2 to 5 times a week. Most classes have papers, midterms and final exams and are graded on the traditional A, B, C, D and F system. Official transcripts are available from UCSB upon request. You will earn 3 to 5 UCSB unit credits for each college credit class at UCSB. Credits are transferable to most colleges and universities in the United States.
  • Enrichment Courses: Summer Discovery partners with UCSB Extension to offer non-credit enrichment courses. Taught by UCSB instructors, visiting professors, and graduate teaching instructors, UCSB Pre-College Programs classes meet 5 times weekly for 1½ hours. Most courses have homework, papers, and/or tests. Courses are graded on the traditional A, B, C, D, and F system. Students receive a grade report and Summer Discovery “Certificate of Completion” at the end of the program.

See our list of course options for this curriculum.


2 Enrichment Courses (4 Weeks)

Students who choose this curriculum will take 2 Enrichment Course.

Enrichment Courses: Summer Discovery partners with UCSB Extension to offer non-credit enrichment courses. Taught by UCSB instructors, visiting professors, and graduate teaching instructors, UCSB Pre-College Programs classes meet 5 times weekly for 1½ hours. Most courses have homework, papers, and/or tests. Courses are graded on the traditional A, B, C, D, and F system. Students receive a grade report and Summer Discovery “Certificate of Completion” at the end of the program.

See our list of course options for this curriculum.


Engineering & Robotics Academy (4 Weeks)

Do you have what it takes to compete? In this innovative institute, your teamwork and skills will be challenged and tested as you design and build robots and catapults. This hands-on institute is based upon existing electromechanical competitions and can adjust to a variety of skill levels. Through the following two courses, learn to solve electromechanical problems, develop skills in brainstorming, concept selection, spatial reasoning, teamwork, communication, manufacturing processes, and reverse engineering. 

Robotics: Autonomous Robots Competition

Work in teams to build and program moving robots to compete in an autonomous sumo wrestling match. 

Develop skills in:

  • Brainstorming Identify what your robot needs to be the best 
  • Teamwork and Communication Working in groups of various skill levels, students share knowledge and experiences, and play a role in the development and programming of the team robot
  • Problem Solving and Concept Development Program the motions needed to outmaneuver the other robots
  • Creativity Resolve programming problems on the fly

Mechanism Design and Build Challenge

Work in teams with limited materials to experience all phases of the product development cycle by designing, building, revising, and testing a catapult prototype. 

In this course, students will:

  • Work as a team to overcome design and implementation challenges
  • Learn engineering concepts and expand knowledge of material properties
  • Build confidence in their abilities to handle complex projects as they plan and create a practical project from initial design to final catapult

The courses that make up this institute can be taken individually with another 4 week enrichment course.


Finance and Marketing Academy (4 Weeks)

Learn how to start a business and gain the ability to take charge of your own financial life. Discover how to create a marketing plan that identifies and targets markets. This intensive academy will give you the knowledge of business and marketing to be an entrepreneur on a global scale.

Personal Finance & Entrepreneurship

Learn the principles of investing and saving, including stocks and bonds. Discuss credit and investment, the difference between the NYSE and the NASDAQ, and how to deal with interest rates in an easy to understand way.

Marketing & Advertising in the Global Marketplace

Explore the fundamentals of marketing and advertising for various international audiences via multiple media channels. Focus on creating integrated marketing campaigns with real-world marketing strategies using digital and traditional tactics.


Contemporary Medicine Academy (4 Weeks)

Build a strong foundational knowledge of the field of medicine, while taking an in depth look into the structure and science of the brain. Through experiential learning activities, participate in and explore the various career possibilities that exist within the field. Take a look at today’s most pressing medical issues and analyze the use of medical knowledge for the wider community.

Brain Science 101

Dive into an in-depth look at one of our most complex organs. Learn how the brain works, exploring topics such as memory, and how we as people learn and think.

Introduction to Contemporary Medicine

Get a broad introduction to the field of medicine, combining topics in related sciences like medical biology, kinesiology, pharmacology, infectious diseases, cancer, and mental health, plus innovative work by doctors and health practitioners to reduce health disparities among populations.


Research Mentorship Program - RMP (6 Weeks)

If you would like to apply to the Research Mentorship Program, please click here.

The Research Mentorship Program (RMP) engages qualified, high-achieving high school students from all over the world in interdisciplinary, hands-on, university-level research. It provides a unique opportunity to experience the process of original research in a wide variety of disciplines.

Join a UCSB research group as they carry out their cutting edge investigations in field, laboratory, and library settings. Work closely with your mentor and become an integral part of their research team. You will work on your project approximately 30-40 hours per week and learn about research techniques, data collection and analysis. Students will learn how to write a technical research paper and will present their findings in a formal research symposium that parents and friends are welcome to attend.

RMP students enroll in two research courses
(4 credits each)

  1. Presentation Techniques in Interdisciplinary University Research Introduction to presentation techniques in interdisciplinary university level research. Oral presentation methods, poster presentation structure, elevator pitch techniques. Exposure to a variety of research projects by way of evening lectures given by UCSB researchers or individuals who are leaders in their fields.
  2. Introduction to Interdisciplinary University Research Techniques Introduction to university level interdisciplinary research writing techniques. Abstract, introduction, research goals and methods, discussion and results. Reference style techniques. Hands-on guided research experience in laboratories and/or libraries for all disciplines. 

RMP students will gain a deep relationship with their mentor, they will learn about current research techniques, gain insight into professional research-based opportunities, and mature their academic goals. The lecture series - GRIT talks - will connect students to some of the best minds among the UCSB research community who present on their ground-breaking research and innovative technology. Along with these academic benefits, students will be immersed in university life and networked with equally ambitious and curious peers by participating in a variety of fun field trips and special social events.

Application Requirements

For a full list of requirements and the online application, please visit:

  • The minimum requirement for admission is a 3.8 weighted GPA using honors and AP credit. GPA is only one factor considered for admission to RMP.
  • For more information, or to inquire about any other research disciplines not listed, please contact UCSB at or (805) 893-7053.

Research areas include, but are not limited to:

  • Anthropology
  • Engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Policy
  • Media, Arts & Technology
  • Biology
  • Feminist Studies
  • Music
  • Chemistry
  • Geography
  • Neuroscience
  • Chicano Studies
  • Geology
  • Physics
  • Computer Science
  • Global Studies
  • Psychology
  • Ecology
  • History
  • Sociology
  • Economics
  • Materials Science
  • Statistics

Science & Engineering Research Academy - SERA (4 Weeks)

If you would like to apply to the Science Engineering Research Academy, please click here.

The Science & Engineering Research Academy (SERA) is a dynamic summer program that introduces qualified high school students to the research enterprise through project based, directed research in STEM-related fields. Students will develop academic and professional skills by presenting their research findings in a capstone seminar, networking with peers, and experiencing university life in a fun and challenging environment.

Students will earn 4 university credits by taking an interdisciplinary research course that teaches fundamental concepts in the particular track they choose, leading to more specific topics current in the field.

During the first half of the program, students collaborate in groups to participate in specially designed hands-on labs that demonstrate concepts and reinforce principles learned in lecture. In the second half, the focus will shift from labs to group discussions in order to allow students to develop an appropriate research question in a collaborative setting, investigate findings, and present the results in a formal capstone seminar on the last day of the program.

SERA Students can choose one of the following research tracks :

Track 1: The Invisible Power of Social Networks – Exploring Networks, Data Analysis, and Artificial Intelligence

Disciplines: Computer Science, Data Science, Machine Learning, Mathematics

We live in a connected world. Social networks pervade our lives: in our families, schools, workplaces, communities, and across the world. In fact, due to the recent interest in network science and its vast applications, it is called the science of the 21st century. An understanding of these complex social systems helps us tackle major societal issues such as election results, marketing campaigns, the spread of news, etc. In this course, we apply tools from network science to understand how certain phenomena occur as individuals make actions in social networks. We will introduce concepts from graphs theory, computer science, mathematics, and statistics and probability theory; and apply them to various projects on epidemic/gossip propagation and opinion dynamics. We will also learn about techniques from artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to work with data. We will see that in contrast to traditional uses of computers, a human programmer cannot always provide an explicit, fine-detailed specification of how complex tasks should be executed; and thus we apply AI techniques that allow us to continually learn from data, detect meaningful patterns, and predict the future. The tools taught in this course will benefit students who aim to become future influencers of the tech industry.

Track 2: Marine Biology – Understanding and Solving our Ocean's Problems

Disciplines: Ecology, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Conservation

Earth’s oceans cover over 70% of its surface, support an unparalleled diversity of life, and provide invaluable services to humans. Yet, human activities that use marine and coastal resources can result in changes along coastlines that have unforeseen consequences. In this track, you will learn the techniques marine biologists use to ask research questions, set-up experiments, and collect data. We will focus on topics, such as marine biodiversity, food webs, links between marine and terrestrial systems, species and ocean conservation, and the impacts humans can have on our oceans and some practical solutions promote a more harmonious relationship between humans and marine ecosystems. Students will dissect marine organisms and learn about their biology, discover the importance of coral reef and kelp ecosystems, learn about whale migration patterns in the Santa Barbara channel, and go on local field trips to the beach and intertidal zone to collect data for their research projects. At the end of the course, students will have learned key concepts in marine biology and ecology, how human influences can alter marine ecosystems, and how to conduct original research.

Track 3: Human Population Genetics – The Causes and Consequences of Genetic Variation in Homo Sapiens

Disciplines: Evolutionary Biology, Genetics, Genomics, Genetic Engineering

With the recent advent of genome sequencing technology, scientists have declared that we are living in the post-genomic era! But, for the human population, what does this mean? In this course, we will discuss what we've learned from the variation in DNA sequence among individuals in the human population. Specifically, we will tackle two important questions: (1) Where does genetic variation come from? And (2), How does it affect the human population now and in the future? We will focus on current research conducted in the genetics of human neurological and psychiatric disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, Autism Spectrum Disorder, schizophrenia, and more. Students will learn about current methods in genome sequencing, analysis, and genome engineering. We will discuss these issues in light of personalized health care, genetic modification, direct to consumer genetic testing (like 23andme), and the ethical implications that result. In lab, students will extract their own DNA to test for a common genetic mutation and will get an introduction to using computer programming to analyze DNA sequence data.

Track 4: Under Pressure – Reconciling Tensions Between International Law and National Sovereignty

Disciplines: International Law, Global Studies, International Relations, History

Perhaps the biggest tension that exists in global politics is that concerning international law and national sovereignty: when one country’s national interest and laws conflicts with international treaties and accords, which should take precedence? Do nations owe a bigger duty to their citizens or the international community? How can we reconcile the principles of national sovereignty with attempts to develop institutions of global governance? Using the broad theme of Global Studies and International Law, this course will introduce students interested in international law to the foundational framework of the modern system of international governance. It will challenge students to apply their new knowledge to devise policy solutions to some of the world’s ongoing conflicts and international legal disputes. Additionally, this course aims to provide students with training and tools needed to conduct research in the Humanities and Social Sciences. This includes exploring the different types of methods available, how to construct a strong research question, writing a thorough literature review, finding and analyzing sources, and effectively integrating findings into a research paper.

Track 5: In the Digital Age – Experiencing Architecture and Music Through STEM

Disciplines: Architecture, Music, Media Arts, Technology

In this course, we will challenge what you think architecture and music are by examining how the intersection of these topics evolved over time through the lens of human experience and the digital age. For example, the way in which theme parks are intentionally designed or the role that a musical score plays in movies to enhance or manipulate the audience's experience. You will learn the basic concepts of digital architecture and computer music through exercises using physical and digital modeling, 3D fabrication, haptics (touch sound), and interactive design highlighting how new media technologies and fabrication tools have allowed for the integration of STEM and the fine arts. Students will attend a field recording workshop and develop a hands-on studio project to learn creative techniques in music composition and sound making. In addition, students will develop oral communication and formal presentation skills through a series of workshop project presentations. By the end of the course, you will develop the methodologies for an interdisciplinary research project. This is an excellent opportunity for participants interested in both science and art, to increase their skills and knowledge towards their college education.

In addition to the academic benefits, SERA students will participate in a variety of social gatherings such as field trips and special seminars that will help them develop long lasting friendships with students from all over the world.

Application Requirements

  • For a list of program requirements and the online application, please visit:
  • While GPA is only one factor considered in the admission process for the SERA program, applicants must meet the minimum requirement of 3.6 (weighted using AP, IB, and honors credit).
  • For more information about the program, please contact UCSB at or (805) 893-7053.

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