Welcome to UNC's SOLAR Program

A summer undergraduate research program at UNC in the biomedical sciences for rising college juniors and seniors from underrepresented groups.


Do you want to spend the summer doing cutting edge research at a top-ranked institution?

Do you want to develop into a competitive biomedical graduate school applicant? 

Do you want to meet students from around the country with similar interests?

If you answered "YES!" to the questions above, then UNC's SOLAR program would be an excellent choice for you!

UNC's Summer of Learning and Research (SOLAR) Program is an intensive 10-week experience designed to prepare underrepresented minority students for graduate research and careers in science.  The program is open to rising juniors and seniors from underrepresentated populations from 4 year colleges and universities around the country.  Our goal is to provide undergraduate students interested in careers in biomolecular research with an opportunity to carry out independent research projects under the guidance of a UNC faculty mentor. This intense summer research experience will introduce you to cutting-edge research and will provide you with a realistic view of graduate school and biomedical research careers. You will be immersed in the research process, including the design of a research project, methods for conducting controlled experiments, data collection, data analysis, and team-work. We will help you develop strong scientific communication skills and you will have the opportunity to present your work in the cross-campus summer research poster session at the end of the summer.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Students must be from an underrepresented group in science: African Americans, Mexican-Americans, Native Americans (American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians), Pacific Islanders, mainland Puerto Ricans, and persons with disabilities. 
  • Students must be rising juniors or seniors from a 4 year college majoring in a STEM field (rising sophomores with prior research experience will also be considered). 
  • Students with graduation dates in May 2016 are not eligible to apply unless they will continue to be enrolled at an undergraduate institution in the Fall of 2016.
  • Students that currently hold a baccalaureate degree are not eligible to apply unless they will be enrolled in an additional undergraduate program in the Fall of 2016.

Competitive Applicants Demonstrate:

  • A GPA >3.0
  • An interest in a career in research (prior research experience, for example)
  • An understanding of any prior research experience through a clear description of their research in their personal statement.
  • Students with their own funding (partial or full) are encouraged to apply

The dates for SOLAR 2016 are Sunday, May 22nd through Friday, July 29th.  Please do not apply unless you can commit to being present for the duration of the program. 

Here's what past participants have said about the SOLAR Program:

"It is the best program ever. We had the opportunity to have a good relationship with our program director and the other interns."

"It is a great opportunity not only to improve your decision about graduate school, but also to get to experience at UNC and make a lot of new friends that share similar goals as you."

"It was a great experience. I learned so many valuable things that are relevant to my future career."

"It is a great opportunity not only by working in a new lab, with a mentor and learning new skills and techniques, but also the activities the program has during the summer. Also, you have the chance to make friends with the people from your lab, the program director, and the other people from SOLAR and other summer programs."

"Do yourself a favor and apply to the SOLAR program at UNC. If you get accepted you will have a great experience doing full time research. Also, the program offers many professional development talks that really aid your understanding of scientific careers. Really helpful GRE course is also offered."


Click here for answers to frequently asked questions about the program.

What will you get in UNC's SOLAR program?

  • 10 weeks of mentored summer research on an independent project in the biological or biomedical sciences
  • Weekly GRE preparation classes
  • Weekly career mentoring and professional development workshopsbywell2
  • A journal club series that teaches scientific literacy and critical thinking skills
  • Poster session to present your research at summer's end
  • Social activities
  • A stipend and housing

How do I apply?

The application package consists of an online application that is available here: https://www.med.unc.edu/oge/stad/solar/application.  The application requires students to upload a personal statement and a transcript, and provide contact information for references for two letters of recommendation.

The application deadline for SOLAR 2016 is February 24th, 2016.

If you have any questions about the SOLAR program please contact Dr. Jessica Harrell, SOLAR Director, by email () or phone (919.843.1570).

What kinds of life science research are going on at UNC?

UNC ranks among the best public universities in the nation.  We are a Research I institution with more than 300 active faculty members performing research in a variety of areas in the biological and biomedical sciences.  Many of our faculty are Nobel laureates or members of the National Academy of Sciences.  Once you are accepted into the SOLAR program, Dr. Harrell will work to place you in a lab that fits your interests, where you will receive superior mentoring and training.

To get an idea of the specific areas of active research at UNC, please visit: http://bbsp.unc.edu/research/

For our industry partners.

Please click here for information on how your company can sponsor a talented visiting summer student.

Who can I contact if I still have questions?

Please contact:

Dr. Jessica Harrell, SOLAR Director
Office of Graduate Education, School of Medicine
CB# 7108, 1121 Bioinformatics Building.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7108
919 843-1570 (office)