Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about STAR

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General Program Info:

Read about the program at 'About STAR,' eligibility requirements at 'Apply Now.'

Applying & Eligibility

Q: Do I have to finish the application in one session?
Q: Where can I get STAR flyers to post at my school or department?
Q. I am a CSU alumnus but I’m no longer a student. Can I still apply?
Q. I am not a science, math, engineering, or technology-based major. Can I still apply?
Q. I want to teach Elementary School. Can STAR help me to gear my research towards a K-6 level?
Q. I’m in my first year of teaching. Am I eligible to apply for the STAR Program?
Q: I've just gotten my teaching credential, can I still apply for STAR?
Q. My GPA is lower than 2.7. Can I still apply?
Q. I want to have a research opportunity but don’t want to become a teacher. Is STAR a good program for me?

Schedules

Q: What does the acronym STAR mean?
Q: How many people have participated in STAR since its existence?
Q: What are the dates of the STAR Program?
Q: I am thinking about applying for the program, but cannot commit to the full program. What should I do?

Financial

Q: Do I get paid as a STAR Fellow?
Q: What does the STAR Program provide in terms of housing and relocation support?
Q: As a STAR participant in need of housing, what am I responsible for?
Q: What travel costs am I responsible for?
Q: Who do I contact if I have any questions or concerns about finances?
Q: How do I deal with my STAR Fellowship on my income taxes?
Q: Do I have to declare my stipend and assistance to my Financial Aid Office?
Q: What insurance do I need?

Q: Do I have to finish the application in one session?
A: Thankfully, no! After you complete the eligibility page of the application you will see a 'Save and Continue' option at the top of the next page. Clicking on this button will ask you for an email address. A link to come back to your survey will be sent to that address. If you don't see the 'Save' option check if your browser is configured to block pop-ups. If you don't get the confirmation emai after pressing the submission button, check your SPAM folder. We highly recommend that applicants review the sample survey provided on the application page, write their essays in a separate text editor, then fill out the application online (copying and pasting surveys). Please do review your application carefully before you submit. You will received a confirmation email! If you did not receive a confirmation email then we do not know that your application is complete and it will not be processed, so ensure that you've gotten confirmation after you believe you submitted your final application.

Q: Where can I get STAR flyers to post at my school or department?
A: They are right here, thanks for asking and posting them!

Q. I am a CSU alumnus but I’m no longer a student. Can I still apply?
A. The STAR Program aims to recruit current students of CSU campuses AND alumni. You are still eligible to apply for the STAR Program as long as you have attended a CSU campus, have a valid transcript, and have not yet been employed as a teacher. If you have graduated from a CSU campus and you aren’t teaching, you can definitely apply! 

Q. I am not a science, math, engineering, or technology-based major. Can I still apply?
A, Yes! We have had a mix of majors in the STAR Program over the past eight years. Successful applicants do not need to major in a STEM field but do need to have strong knowledge and undergraduate work in math, science, engineering, or technology to be chosen by a research mentor. We look for upper division STEM units, as well as academically successful students in these fields. 

Q. I want to teach Elementary School. Can STAR help me to gear my research towards a K-6 level?
A. Many aspiring elementary educators have been successful in our program! Research practices and culture is as important when working with younger students as it is in secondary schools. Research experience is less about the content and more about the practices and cultural support utilized by successful researchers. Not only can you encourage important practices (like productive struggle) among younger students, but you can also become aware of how research can make your teaching better from year to year and pass on the culture of science so that younger students see science, engineering, and math as career options.

Q. I’m in my first year of teaching. Am I eligible to apply for the STAR Program?
A. The STAR Program is geared to serve undergraduates pursuing a teaching career, credential candidates, preservice teachers, and teaching interns in their first year of teaching. If you are a STAR alumnus and have been in the program for less than three years, you are eligible to reapply if you have taught no more than two years. If you have extensive teaching experience in other situations (e.g. non-credentialled private school instruction) you will probably be best served in one of the many Research Experience for Teacher (RET) Programs available for in-service teachers throughout the country.

Q. I want to have a research opportunity but don’t want to become a teacher. Is STAR a good program for me?
A. STAR Fellows spend a lot of time on K-12 STEM Education practices. We are searching for applicants who are passionate about teaching and want to bring their science background and their research experience to classrooms. If an applicant isn't keen on teaching, we suggest that you apply for one of the many research experience for undergraduate (REU) programs (Like these) that do not have a K-12 educational aspect. STAR is not a good program fit for applicants that only want research-based internships. 

Q: What does acronym STAR mean?
A: STAR stands for STEM Teacher And Researcher indicating the STAR Fellows develop their professional identities as teacher-researchers. STEM is an acronym used to broadly represent Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematical fields of study.

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 500 research opportunities for over 400 Fellows (you can be a Fellow for up to three years!) at 32 research sites across the country, but most are located in California.

Q: What are the dates of the STAR Program?
A: Please see 'Key Dates' tab for current information.

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-week program. Individual time off can be requested in advance and is approved on a case-by-case basis, but typically does not exceed 1 or 2 days during the entire program.Time is precious in such a concentrated research period and little time is left after your research and education workshop schedule commitments. If you have specific dates you will be missing from the beginning or end of the program, it is essential that you make this clear in your application as it may suit one lab perfectly, but not another (e.g. I can start one week earlier, but must leave one week earlier as well).

Q: Do I get paid as a STAR Fellow?
A: Yes. You will work 30-35 hours with your Research team each week. In addition, you will work 2-5 hours per week on the education component of the Program. You will receive a base stipend of $500/week. All Fellows also receive additional funds to help with housing costs. Each STAR Fellow receives a stipend paid in regular intervals (see Key Dates). Available funding and the costs of living differ in each area so the amount of stipend above the base differs. Stipends for 2017 are not yet set, but you can estimate your stipend using the 2016 table below. Fellows staying in a family home or not relocating will receive one payment of $500 in addition to their $500/wk stipend to offset housing costs. If you must relocate more than 50 miles to participate in the Program you will receive additional support. These amounts vary from year to year as funding and actual housing costs vary.

Fellow Placement Total 2016 Stipend
No relocation necessary $5,000
Relocating to Biosphere 2, RTC, SLAC, LLNL, SNL, or SFSU $6,550
Relocating to any other STAR Partner Laboratory $6,350

Q: What does the STAR Program provide in terms of housing and relocation support?
A: Wherever possible STAR and Lab Staff will provide information on affordable housing opportunities other Fellows have utilized. Each Fellow is responsible for making their own housing arrangements and payments.

Q: What travel costs am I responsible for?
A: Once all arrangements are made for you to work in a particular lab site as a 2017 Fellow, you are responsible for making their own travel arrangements to and from their homes to their lab sites at the beginning and end of the Program.

STAR will provide round-trip travel and accommodations to the Research Conference for Fellows who live more than 50 miles from the conference venue. Fellows living within 50 miles of the Conference location will be provided accommodation-only.

Q: I've just received my teaching credential, can I still apply for STAR?
A: STAR aims to impact pre-service and early career teachers. If you have your credential, but have not yet been employed as a teacher, then you are welcome to apply for entry into the program. If you accept and complete a placement, you can then participate in STAR Summer research up to three times or until your second year as an employed teacher. If you have already been employed as a teacher then we are unable to accept you into the program, but we encourage you to participate in other teacher development and /research programs.

Q. My GPA is lower than 2.7. Can I still apply?
A. STAR understands that cumulative GPAs are not the only indication of a strong application, but we do put an emphasis on those who meet the 2.7 requirement. This is because many of our partner laboratories search for academically rigorous and successful candidates. You are eligible to apply without a 2.7 GPA but some research mentors may preferentially search for higher grade point averages while other researchers may make exceptions towards the GPA requirement if your application provides evidence of other skills that you possess. If you are not accepted this year, please reapply the following year as research projects and people change from year to year.


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 tenancy contract, paying the deposit, and paying the monthly rent and any utilities. 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 most cases, STAR can provide suggestions for housing locations that have been utilized in previous years.

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

Q: How do I deal with my STAR Fellowship on my income taxes?
A: STAR does not make any deductions from your Fellowship stipends and therefore does not issue any W2 forms. All Fellowship stipends are potentially taxable and the ultimate tax liability depends on an indvidiual taxpayer's circumstances. Therefore, to the extent that you (and/or your tax advisor) determine that a portion or all of the funds received are not subject to taxation, receipts or other documents should be retained that show the total amount paid for “qualified” expenses. A Fellowship stipend payment received by a degree seeking candidate is generally not taxable income if it is used for “qualified” expenses. The IRS defines these as tuition and required fees, and/or expenses for books, supplies and equipment required of all students enrolled in the course. However, you may have to pay taxes on any portion of the Fellowship stipend spent on incidental expenses, including room and board, travel, research, clerical assistance or equipment and other expenses not required for enrollment or attendance. All “qualified” Fellowship stipend payments will be reported to the Cal Poly Office of Financial Aid. Additionally, a “qualified” Fellowship stipend payment is made to an individual for their attendance or participation and not for services rendered. The payments cannot be tied to any obligation for past, present or future services. There can be no employer/employee relationship associated with a “qualified” Fellowship stipend payment. If you have questions regarding the tax liability associated with your Fellowship stipend payment you receive, please refer to IRS Publication 970 and seek the advice of your qualified tax advisor.

Q: Do I have to declare my stipend and assistance to my Financial Aid Office?
A: Federal law requires that any student who receives stipend or financial assistance from STAR during the same time period when they are in an active enrollment period must declare those funds to their financial aid office. Because STAR is a full-time summer experience, most Fellows are not enrolled in any summer enrollment period and therefore will not need to make any formal declaration to your Financial Aid Office. Please consult your financial aid office if you are uncertain whether or not you should make a declaration.


Q: What insurance do I need?
A: STAR provides general liability insurance to the lab sites to which STAR Fellows are placed, but STAR does not provide any insurance coverage to Fellows. Every Fellow must carry personal health insurance coverage for the summer Fellowship period. STAR has no further coverage requirements, but coverage must permit lab site personnel to seek medical aid on your behalf in the unlikely event of an emergency. Fellows who are offered a placement can ask about any additional requirements from their Lab Site Coordinator. STAR does not endorse any particular insurance provider. In the past, Fellows without permanent insurance have found affordable, short-term options at eHealth.