Frequently Asked Questions

Program Eligibility:

Q: Is the program open to transfer students? Or 3rd- or 4th-year students

A: Currently, the program is designed to accept first and second-year students only. It is OK if you have enough units to be a junior but are in your 2nd year at UC Davis. 


Q: Do I need prior research experience to apply for the ASPIRE program?

A: Absolutely not! The ASPIRE program aims to provide you with research experience; therefore, no prior research experience is necessary or expected at all. 


Q: What major do I need to be in?

A: All majors are welcome. 


Q: Do I have to join a lab that is in the same department as my major? For example, if I am an NPB major, can I join a Psychology lab?

A: You do not have to be a specific major to work in a given lab. 


Q: Are there any specific grade or GPA requirements? For example, are we expected to have all As and no Cs?

A: There is no GPA requirement. We perform a holistic review of your application materials, and no single grade will disqualify you from the ASPIRE program. 


Q: If a student takes more than 4 years to graduate, could they stay in the ASPIRE program?

A: Once a student is accepted into ASPIRE, they can remain in the program for the duration of their time at UC Davis as an undergraduate.

Application questions:

Q: What kind of transcript should I upload? 

A: If you are a first-year student, we ask that you upload your high-school transcript. If you are a second-year student, we ask that you upload your unofficial transcript from your first year at UCD. If you have multiple transcripts (e.g., high school plus a few community college courses), you can combine them into a single PDF and upload them together.


Q: How many students get accepted into the program each year?

A: Each year is different. In some years, we’ve accepted 15 students into the program; in other years, we have accepted only 8. It depends on the number of faculty that are accepting students each year and the number of outstanding applicants. We will be able to provide more details at the information session(s) before the application due date.  


Q: Do we need official or unofficial transcripts? How do I access my unofficial transcript?

A: Unofficial transcripts are sufficient (that way, you do not need to pay for them!). You can read more about accessing your unofficial transcript here:


Q: Do I need to apply in the Fall, or are applications also open in the winter and spring?

A: We only accept applications in the Fall.

Additional Program Questions:

Q: Does this program cost money? 

A: Absolutely not! 


Q: When will the program begin? 

A: We typically begin accepting applications in late October and conduct interviews in November. Students who are accepted into the program typically begin working in a lab at the beginning of the winter quarter. 


Q: Does the ASPIRE program run during the academic year only, or does it also run during the summer? Do we need to be available for ASPIRE in the summer?

A: The ASPIRE program officially runs during the academic school year. Some labs may provide research opportunities over the summer, but summer research is never required


Q: How many hours will I work on my research project or in my research lab a week?

A: We expect ASPIRE students to dedicate 10 hours per week to their lab.


Q: How will the ASPIRE program fit into my schedule? How flexible are the 10 hours a week? 

A: We understand that you have a busy schedule that varies from quarter to quarter. Once accepted into the program, you will work directly with your research supervisor to set your schedule in the lab (and then update it as necessary).


Q: I have a physical disability and cannot do hands-on work in a lab. Are there opportunities for me to still participate if I can only do computer-based work? 

A: No problem! Most labs have research activities that are entirely computer-based and can accommodate physical disabilities.


Q: Would the research be conducted in labs or would they be in classrooms?

A: Most of the research will be conducted in university buildings on campus or off-campus buildings (e.g., the Center for Mind and Brain). However, you may conduct some aspects of the research, such as reading, analyzing data, or writing reports at locations of your choosing.


Q: How many different labs do ASPIRE students work in while they are in the program?

A: The ASPIRE program aims to place students in a single lab for the duration of their undergraduate studies. However, research interests can change, or the fit between the lab and the student may no longer be productive. In these rare cases, we will work to place the student in a different lab whenever possible.


Q: If we're doing in-depth research beginning as 1st or 2nd-year students, will there be a knowledge gap between our classes and our research work, and how hard will that transition be? 

A: We try to place students in labs that will be suitable for their current skill level. For example, we would not place a student with no strong statistics or computational background into a computational lab. Mentors understand that ASPIRE students have less foundational knowledge than 3rd or 4th year students, and they are prepared to fill in those gaps. Mentors often spend the first few months giving the necessary background information needed for a student—you should expect to read journal articles and pay close attention during lab meetings! Although it may be intimidating at first, you will catch up quickly.


Q: Can we connect with the students currently in the ASPIRE program to learn about their experiences in the program?

A: If you have friends/contacts in ASPIRE, feel free to ask them about their experiences. Some of our former and current students have given talks about their experience in the program and are comfortable discussing with interested students. 


Q: What level of freedom do we have in choosing our research topics?

A: We work hard to place students with labs that match their interests. In most cases, students begin by working on ongoing research in the lab. As they progress through the program, they may have more freedom in choosing research topics. 


Q: How many credits can we sign up for each quarter?

A: Students usually sign up for 3 units per quarter during their first year in the program.


Q: What departments do the participating labs come from?

A: We have faculty from a broad range of departments, currently including: Psychology, NPB, Linguistics, Communication, Biomedical Engineering, Cognitive Science, Human Ecology, Neurology, Sociology, Neurological Surgery, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation


Q: Is it OK if I study abroad for one or more quarters? If I choose to study abroad, can I work with a research professor in the abroad program?

A: Study abroad is a fantastic opportunity that we fully support. We will work with you to figure out the best way to integrate your study abroad experience with ASPIRE.