2008 STAR alumni female wearing goggles working with test tubes 2010 STAR Alumni female sitting in an uninhabited aerial vehicle 2010 STAR Alumni female examines phytoplankton and zooplankto using microscope 2010 STAR Alumni female showcasing her research poster 2010 STAR Alumni working with a fiber optic strainsensing system Group photo of 2010 STAR Alumni at the Romberg Tiburon Center 2009 STAR Alumni men working in robotics lab

S cience - T echnology - E ngineering - M ath

About STAR

The STEM Teacher and Researcher Program (STAR) is a nine-week summer research internship for aspiring K-12 STEM teachers. If you’re an undergraduate, masters, credential or baccalaureate student who wants to be a K-12 science or mathematics teacher, then this is a program for you! This is the deal. You spend nine weeks of the summer working full-time with a science team on cutting edge research, challenging yourself and learning new skills. You meet fabulous people and immerse yourself in the culture of science. Each week you participate in an education workshop focused on transferring your experience to the classroom and you share your knowledge at two conferencese. We pay you $500 per week. Want to learn more? Read about the experiences of a few STAR fellows and how their STAR involvement has changed their education career!


STAR aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic STEM research and helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice.


STAR is a nine-week program with three major components: summer research internships, education workshops, and opening and closing conferences. Our participants, called STAR Fellows, are aspiring teachers from California State University (CSU) and the Robert Noyce Scholarship Program.

Summer research internship. Under the guidance of research mentors, Fellows conduct cutting-edge research at one of more than twenty laboratory facilities run by CSU, Department of Defence, Department of Energy, NASA, NOAA, NSF, and the SETI Institute. Fellows receive a weekly stipend of $500 for their full-time research work. At the end of the summer, Fellows present their research to the broader STAR community at the STAR Closing Conference.

Check out examples of STAR research projects on Cal Poly Digital Commons.

Education workshops. Fellows attend weekly three-hour education workshops co-taught by a Master Teacher and a Faculty Mentor with extensive experience K-12 STEM education and the credential process. Workshops have two major learning objectives: 1) help you develop a deep understanding of the nature of research and, 2) help you develop your inquiry-based teaching strategies that align well with Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The workshops culminate in Fellows creating a lesson plan for an inquiry learning activity based on their research.

STAR conferences. The Opening and Closing Conferences serve as bookends for the summer experience. The Opening Conference serves as an orientation to STAR and an introduction to the teacher-researcher identity through presentations and hands-on workshops. The Closing Conference is a research showcase and networking opportunity where STAR Fellows present to one another and the broader STEM education community.

Click here to download the program for the 2014 STAR Closing Conference.

Watch a Webcast about the STAR Program

Learn more about the STAR Program in this webcast originally broadcast in January 2012. It includes a presentation explaining what the STAR program is, as well as an informational video and a Q and A session with three STAR Program Alumni. The recording is approximately 46 minutes in length.




STAR applicants must meet all of the following eligibility requirements in order to apply for the program:

  • at least 18 years old by the start of the program;
  • a student or alum of the California State University and/or a current or former member of the NSF Robert Noyce Scholarship Program;
  • a US Citizens or Permanent Resident Alien; and,
  • a pre-service teacher or a STAR alum with two or fewer years of participation in STAR and two or fewer years of teaching experience.

To clarify the last bullet point: first time participants must be pre-service teachers, i.e., future teachers who have not yet worked as a paid, full-time teacher. Alumns of the STAR Program are encouraged to participate in up to three STAR research experiences, provided they have not been teaching for more than two years. Successful applicants will have:

  • a demonstrated interest in teaching math and science in grades K-12;
  • at least junior standing with a strong record of undergarduate coursework in mathematics and science; and,
  • a minimum GPA of 2.7 (3.0 or higher preferred).


STAR is a highly competitive, prestigious program for pre-service science and mathematics teachers and there is a certain level of responsibility that goes along with participating in this program. Expectations for students placed in the program are as follows:

  1. Participate in the entire 9-week summer research internship. Fellows are expected to work 40-hours per week during this period.
  2. Prepare and present a research product (either poster or PowerPoint as directed) at the lab site and the STAR Closing Conference. Participants are also expected to submit an electronic copy of their research piece to Cal Poly Digital Commons. 
  3. Develop and submit an education product, including a research-connected lesson plan. Participants are expected to share their lesson plan.
  4. Participate in weekly half-day seminars focused on STEM teaching as part of a 40-hour per week commitment.
  5. Participate in two STAR conferences focused on topics associated with the program. The Opening Conference will provide an orientation to the STAR program, discussion of the identity of a teacher-researcher, and breakout sessions regarding activities and resources related to science teaching. The Closing Conference will involve presentations of fellows research experience and culminating reflections of the STAR program.
  6. Participate in teacher-researcher community building and cohort activities (in person and online).
  7. Participate in STAR Program evaluation activities, before, during, and after the program.

Selection Criteria

Following the application deadline, all STAR applications will be reviewed by a panel of readers, and determined to meet the minimum eligibility requirements as stated above. Once an applicant has met the minimum qualifications, the application materials are forwarded to the top lab site choice for placement consideration. The placement process is very selective dependent on matching skill sets, experience and qualifications with available placement opportunities. Although it is a good sign for your application to be forwarded to the lab sites, it is not a guarantee for placement.

Once your placement has been confirmed, you will receive two congratulatory email communications, one from the STAR Program and a second from your lab site. The STAR email will contain information about program expectations, housing needs, stipend payment schedules, and your project description. The lab site communication will be more detail oriented with additional information about your specific placement, points of contact at the lab site and other programmatic details. You will have two weeks to formally accept the offer by logging in to the application site.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


General Info:

Download a PDF of the 2014 STAR Orientation Packet by clicking here.

Q: What does acronym STAR mean?
A:STAR stands for STEM Teacher and Researcher. STEM is an acronym that is commonly used today to represent the broad fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and it more accurately represents the variety of backgrounds and majors that STAR serves.

Q: How many people have participated in STAR since its existence?
A: STAR began in 2007 with 16 fellows at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Since then, STAR has provided over 300 research opportunities at 27 research sites across the country, but most are located in California.

Q: What are the dates of the 2015 STAR Program?
A: All sites will begin on Monday, June 14th, and will end on Saturday, August 14th with a Closing Conference in the San Francisco Bay Area. Travel arrangements for out of state and Southern California participants will be coordinated during the summer by the STAR Program office.

Q: I am thinking about applying for the program, but cannot commit to the full program. What should I do?
A: STAR requires a commitment to the full 9-weeks of the program. Individual time off can be requested in advance and is approved on a case-by-case basis, but typically does not exceed 1-2 days during the entire program.

Q: What does the STAR Program provide in terms of housing and relocation support?
A: STAR provides a $250 stipend for relocation expenses, in addition to reimbursements up to $2000 for housing expenses (excluding deposit) for qualified applicants.

Q: What are the qualifications to receive housing support?
A: STAR participants whose regular summer address (had they not been in the STAR program) is more than 50 miles from the lab site will qualify for housing and relocation support. STAR may provide suggestions for accommodations in each area, but it is the responsibility of the STAR fellow to make all arrangements and enter into any contracts that may be necessary to secure the housing accommodations. STAR will reimburse actual expenses up to $2000. Any extra expenses will be the responsibility of the STAR fellow.

Q: As a STAR participant in need of housing, what am I responsible for?
A: The participant is responsible for making their own housing arrangements, entering into a contract, paying the deposit and paying the monthly rent. Participants are encouraged to converse with others who are also searching for housing at their particular lab site to share efforts, and perhaps living expenses during the summer. In some cases, the CESaME office can provide suggestions for housing locations that have been utilized in previous years.

Q: What do I need to send to STAR in order to get reimbursed and where do I send it?
A: The STAR Housing Receipt Form (downloand PDF) form should be completed for each month’s rent payment. The form should be scanned and uploaded to the SurveyGizmo site as a PDF. Note that JPEG images taken with a mobile device will not be accepted. Scanning programs such as Genius Scan or CamScanner are available on mobile devices for both Mac and PC platforms. Alternatively, many copy machines have the capability of scanning documents.

Q: How do I request and receive the relocation stipend?
A: This stipend will automatically be issued to individuals who have qualified for housing in conjunction with their first paycheck.

Q: Who do I contact if I have any questions or concerns about finances?
A: Kaylene Wakeman, the STAR Program Coordinator at (805) 756-2403 or kwakeman@calpoly.edu.


The STAR Program has several goals as outlined below:

  1. Attract undergraduate science, mathematics, engineering, and liberal studies majors to STEM teaching careers by providing them with professional identities as scientists as well as educators
  2. Allow future science and mathematics teachers to gain first-hand experience within applied research settings
  3. Cultivate increased interest and prestige in the science and mathematics teaching profession to address the severe shortage of science and mathematics teachers in California.
  4. Anchor pre-service teachers in a community of scientific practice, they will come to better understand what it means to be a scientist and a teacher of science or mathematics.
  5. Foster inquiry-based science teaching and learning strategies and increase science and mathematics interest and learning among K-12 students
  6. Reduce science and mathematics teacher attrition
  7. Open the door to expanded outreach between national labs, universities and K-12 schools that will also include experiments, field trips, and guest scientists