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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 10-week 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 2023 URP Program will be held Wednesday, June 7 – Saturday, August 12, 2023.

2023 Applications are now closed.

Former URP participants share their summer experience

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 Python.

Lecture series

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

  • Genomics in the cell
  • Small RNA transcriptomics in Zea mays
  • Quantitative principles of the nervous system

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

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 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory 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 directly.
  • Notification of application status will be sent by the end of March.


  • 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 directly.


Students receive a stipend of $6,000. All room & board expenses will be covered.

Housing Environment

URP participants reside in the cabins on the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory campus. Each cabin provides single-gender housing for 8 individuals, with two 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.

Mia Amato with Dr. Lucas Cheadle

photo of Mia Amato
Mia Amato

Spending the summer at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as an URP was like no other summer I’ve ever experienced. It was filled with so many opportunities to learn, and not just in the lab. From meeting people from around the country and even those from outside it, to attending educational seminars, and traveling around Long Island and into the city, you’re absorbing so many unique experiences that are teaching you so much more than what is academic. The friendships I’ve made, and the conversations had on scientific research were invaluable. To be with a group of students so enthusiastic about research and discovery was refreshing.

Working in Dr. Lucas Cheadle’s lab also provided an exceptional learning environment that facilitated growth in every way possible. It’s really nice to be able to witness what a lab team looks like in motion; everyone has their quirks and their jokes, yet they function together as a well-oiled machine. I dove into a topic of neuroscience that I had only skimmed in my academics and sunk my teeth into the data analytics of genetic data which was both exciting and challenging.

CSHL is at the intersection of biological scientific research and discovery, and this summer, it provided an astounding community of researchers, students, and faculty that all contributed to the URPs’ career growth. The opportunity to network, enforce and attain new skills, and dive into heavy research alongside others with the same fervor will have a lasting impact on my career and entire perspective.

Scarlet Au with Dr. Doreen Ware

photo of Scarlet Au
Scarlet Au

Conducting research as a member of the Ware Lab and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Undergraduate Research Program has been a wonderful and enriching experience. I had the opportunity to further pursue my research interests at the intersection of the computational sciences, environmental biology and plant science under the mentorship of Professor Ware. Professor Ware has been an incredible and supportive PI, who has truly made my time at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory an eye-opening experience. Under her and my mentor’s guidance, I tackled computational and statistical questions, worked at the farm and attended lab meetings, which showed me the broad range of approaches that one could take in addressing a research question and the impact our work had in the scientific field and agriculture community. I enjoyed the collaborative academic culture and inclusive lab environment at the Ware Lab, where it was both exciting to see the possibilities at the forefront of science and work alongside inspiring scientists in the team. The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Undergraduate Research Program led by the program directors has greatly expanded my horizons. From hearing URP program alumni and faculty at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory speak about their scientific careers at seminars to the great friendships I have made with the fellow URPs, this has been a transformative and fruitful learning experience that I will remember as I continue along on my academic journey.

Will Borges with Dr. Lloyd Trotman

photo of URP student Will Borges
Will Borges

The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Undergraduate Research Program (URP) is an immersive summer experience in biomedical research. During the program, I was given the opportunity to develop an independent research project to address a high-impact question in the field of prostate cancer research. Everyone at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory was extremely welcoming and helpful. I experienced excellent mentorship from Professor Trotman and members of the Trotman lab. I learned important research skills from conducting my project and presenting my project at the preliminary/final talks and in a research paper format. As an URP student, I was provided several opportunities for networking and professional development with program alumni, including Professor Alfred Goldberg at Harvard Medical School, and the incredible people at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Throughout the program, I grew as a scientist and formed friendships with my URP colleagues that will last a lifetime. It is a privilege to have participated in the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Undergraduate Research Program and to now be part of such a distinguished network of students.

Chris Cizmeciyan with Dr. Adrian Krainer

photo of Chris Cizmeciyan
Chris Cizmeciyan

The Undergraduate Research Program at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is unlike any other summer internship. As an URP, I had the opportunity to work alongside brilliant researchers at Krainer Lab and gained new sets of laboratory and analytical skills. Throughout the program, I learned new protocols and techniques to test specific interventions from RNA splice switching in cancer cells and enjoyed learning the scientific nuances behind the results I acquired. Learning the fundamental components of the protocols I performed and understanding what I was doing at each step gave me the confidence to manage multiple protocols simultaneously and engage with fellow researchers in the lab with a greater appreciation for the intricacies behind their work. The constant support from lab members, the program directors, fellow URPs, and alumni of the program reinforced the idea that at Cold Spring Harbor, all research is equally vital for innovation.

The program directors and CSHL community take great pride in ensuring students also enjoy their time outside of the lab. Grabbing dinner with everyone at Blackford Hall, talking about what we did in our labs, what terrible movie we wanted to watch next, and the late-night ping pong and pool matches are memories I’ll remember forever. The chance to meet such intelligent, kind, and science-loving individuals is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I am incredibly privileged to be a member of the CSHL URP alumni.

Rosa Sanchez with Dr. Leemor Joshua-Tor

photo of Rosa Sanchez
Rosa Sanchez

The Undergraduate Research Program (URP) at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory was a life changing experience. It helped me become a more confident researcher and scientist. This summer I work under Dr. Joshua-Tor with my mentor Leah Braviner. Here, I learned methods of purifying proteins, using Cryo-EM, and how to critically think about results/methods! By the end of the program, I was confident and excited to share my research with other undergraduate researchers at the Grace Symposium! More than a wonderful research experience, the URP program introduces you to great mentors and lifelong friends.

At CSHL, not only did I experience conversations filled with exciting science, but I also got to try several new activities. I played Frisbee, volleyball, and sailing– all for the first time! Not to mention, the afternoon walks to the beach with a scenic sunset were a huge plus.

Abigail Williams with Dr. Arkarup Banerjee

photo of URP student Abigail Williams
Abigail Williams

I spent the summer with the Banerjee Lab investigating vocalizations in singing mice, a species I didn’t even know existed before coming to CSHL! As an evolutionary biologist, I was initially nervous that I wouldn’t have the knowledge necessary to carry out a project in systems neuroscience. However, my mentor and PI brought me up to speed really quickly and ensured that my project catered to my interests. This was a great opportunity to apply familiar concepts, such as gene duplication and neofunctionalization, in an entirely new context. Additionally, my time at CSHL has really opened my eyes to the world of neuroscience and its links with behavioral ecology, a field I am keen to explore further in future. This exposure to new fields and ideas is, in my opinion, one of the best things about the undergraduate research program. My time at CSHL has completely changed the way I think about science, and I’ve become much more confident in communicating my research as a result. Most importantly, though, the program has solidified my plans to pursue a career in scientific research. The skills I’ve gained will be invaluable as I progress to graduate school and beyond.

Outside of the lab, I had a wonderful time living and working with the other URPs. We shared some unforgettable experiences&mdsh;from playing volleyball (badly), to exploring New York City and even learning to sail—which helped to forge lifelong friendships. The program strikes a perfect balance between work and play, making for a summer experience which is as enriching socially as it is scientifically. I come away from the program with new skills, friends, and ‘real’ science experience, and for these reasons cannot recommend the program highly enough.

Marta Zaccaria with Dr. Tobias Janowitz

photo of URP student Marta Zaccaria
Marta Zaccaria

It’s truly challenging to capture in a few words what a wonderful learning experience this summer has been. I was given the opportunity to work on my own research project in the Janowitz lab whilst benefitting of the expert supervision of my principal investigator and graduate student mentor. I’m grateful for experiencing the ups and downs which are integral to the research process; indeed, these nine weeks at CSHL have contributed to my growth as a scientist and are bound to influence my upcoming career choices. I enjoyed discussing about the host response to cancer with Dr Tobias Janowitz and other lab members, during lab meetings or over meals, thus gaining clarity on my personal research interests.

Beyond the lab, I was impressed by the open and immersive environment at CSHL, which facilitates communication and exchange among brilliant minds with diverse backgrounds. I had the additional chance to approach excellent scientists during the lecture series integrated within the URP calendar. Extra-curricular activities like volleyball, ultimate frisbee and sailing, provided the occasion to connect with new people, to have great fun at the end of a day spent at the lab bench, and ultimately to make lifelong friendships. Having lived and studied in Italy and the UK, this summer has also opened the way for further experiences across the globe, as I was exposed to graduate school and future research opportunities at CSHL and in the US in general. Altogether, it was an incredible privilege for me to take part in such a rich and stimulating undergraduate program set in CSHL’s unique campus.

2021 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 CSHL URP 2022 participants
The CSHL Undergraduate Research Program (URP) participants, Summer 2022

Previous alumni by year

2022  |  2021  |  2019  |  2018  |  2017  |  2016  |  2015  |  2014  |  2013  |  2012  |  2011  |  2010  |  2009  |  2008  |  2007  |  2006  |  2005  |  2004  |  2003  |  2002  |  2001  |  2000
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NSF Sponsored REU in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

CSHL’s REU program in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology 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 Biology 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
  • Alexander Dobin – Computational genomics; transcriptomics; epigenomics; gene regulation; big data; precision medicine
  • Tatiana Engel – Neural dynamics and computation; neural circuit models; machine learning; stochastic processes; dynamical systems theory; decision-making; attention
  • Hiro Furukawa – Membrane proteins; x-ray crystallography; electrophysiology
  • Thomas Gingeras – Genome-wide organization of transcription and the functional roles of non-protein coding RNAs
  • Molly Hammell – Gene regulatory networks; integrated genomic analysis; bioinformatics; RNA biology; small RNAs
  • 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.
  • Bo Li – Synapse, physiology and plasticity, neural circuits, fear processing, reward processing, rodent behaviors related to mental disorders
  • 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
  • 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
  • Pavel Osten – Anatomical mapping of brain connectivity; neurological diseases
  • Ullas Pedmale – Plant growth; signaling; genomics; development; plant-environment interactions
  • 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


All URP participants may take part in the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology 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 NSF eligibility requirements).

REU Program Alumni