Internships at Sanford Burnham Prebys

Hands-on training opportunities in biomedical science
photo of an intern

Our commitment to education

Sanford Burnham Prebys is a preeminent research institution dedicated to training the next generation of scientists from all backgrounds. We run robust internship programs for meaningful exposure to working in a biomedical research lab.

These include the SPARK internship, which is open to high school applicants throughout San Diego and Imperial Counties, as well as a second internship open to high school students attending the Preuss School. We are also proud to host summer interns affiliated with California State San Marcos’s COMPASS program.



Funded by a five-year grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), Summer Program to Accelerate Regenerative medicine Knowledge (SPARK) offers California high school students an invaluable opportunity to gain hands-on training in stem cell research at some of the leading research institutes in California. SPARK program specifically selects students who represent the diversity of California's population, particularly those who might not otherwise have opportunities to partake in research internships to due socioeconomic constraints.

This program is a six-week, fully paid internship open to high schoolers from San Diego and Imperial Counties who are 16 years or older at the start of the internship (mid-June). A select number of spots are reserved for students affiliated with the San Diego MESA Alliance, a statewide model for intersegmental regional collaboration in mathematics, engineering and science education for economically disadvantaged and underrepresented student populations.

Interested in the SPARK program?

For more information about SPARK, please contact Program Director Dr. Paula Checchi or fill out the contact form here:

Request Info

Learn more about CIRM-Funded Internship Programs


California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) is excited to partner with Sanford Burnham Prebys for our COMPASS program. Sanford Burnham Prebys faculty will be mentoring interns in the program and providing opportunities for them to explore career opportunities. This is an exciting opportunity to expand the interactions between CSUSM and our Institute.

Preuss internship

Each year, high school students from the Preuss School come to Sanford Burnham Prebys to try their hands at biomedical research in an intensive three-week internship program. This program is open to applicants from the Preuss School and is generously funded by Peggy and Peter Preuss and Debby and Wain Fishburn

Demographics and outcomes of former Preuss interns

Between the years of 2010-2019, Sanford Burnham Prebys hosted (A) 80 interns (37 M, 43 F), who each completed 6-week mentored internships at our Institute, after which 100% matriculated to College (B) with the majority (76%) pursuing STEM majors (C). Among interns from the 2010-2016 cohorts who we have tracking data (n=45) (D) 100% have now graduated with College degrees (light blue circles), and did so within 4 years. Of this population, 11 earned Master’s degrees (light blue with square pattern [MS, MPH, or MF]), and two earned doctorates (light blue with crosshatches). One student from this cohort earned an Associate’s Degree (AS [dark blue]).   


A sampling of anonymous, written feedback we received from students who completed the SPARK internship.

  • “Sanford Burnham Prebys is an amazing institute with well-qualified scientists and up-to-date machines and technologies to further research. Many of the procedures that we learned were complicated and confusing at first but were useful and tied nicely to our field of research. Additionally, my mentors were very enthusiastically willing to help and gave us every chance to learn.”
  • “In the internship, I liked how I was able to work by myself with my mentor. I was able to see what a real research laboratory was and discovered whether I wanted to pursue the career or not. I also liked the activities we did and the tours, as I got to meet new people.”
  • “The SPARK internship has helped me understand more about what it is like to have a career as a scientist since before the internship I had no background around what a scientist does when working in a lab, as of now I can say that I had the opportunity to work with scientists that are striving for their PhDs and doing research.”
  • “I really liked interacting with all the other SPARK interns and also working with my lab members. The researchers were so welcoming and always gave me the chance to work with them in an experiment or watch them do some of their more interesting lab work. I felt like I was part of the scientific community and was really engaged in all parts of the internship.”
  • “Overall, I enjoyed interning at Sanford Burnham Prebys and being a part of the SPARK summer research program because I was being able to meet many talented individuals that I can now say I have a great connection with, as well as having the ability to work in lab environment with these same people and have them all be my mentors providing me with many oral presentations and hands-on lab experiments through my summer internship. I also am very grateful that I participated in the 2022 CIRM SPARK Symposium Conference held in Oakland California where I got discuss what topic I choose to present in my poster to other interns within CIRM and reach out to many adults that were a part of the symposium as well.
  • “I really enjoyed meeting students from other schools across California. I got to learn about many new perspectives and cultures from this program.”
  • “I loved being able to work in an environment that was so welcoming. Everyone was so intelligent and willing to teach and support me.”
  • “I loved the connections I made and exposure I received to medicine, amazing program that I wish I could do again!”
  • “The thing I liked most about the internship was having opportunities to meet new people from all over the world. Some of the mentors in this program really are amazing. Also, I enjoyed the field trips we took and seeing new places I didn’t even know existed.”
  • “The best part of the internship was working in the lab. Many days I would come to the lab unprepared for the day ahead but, that was the fun part as we learned about and physically did different procedures. Additionally, the community at Sanford is very welcoming, diverse, and collaborative talking to my mentors during lunch about their life as a high school/undergrad/grad student.”
  • “I liked the hands-on experience involved with this internship, and being able to see what it’s like to work in a real lab. I liked being able to work with scientists who have their own projects that they’re passionate about, and as a result I was able to develop a passion for the work I was doing. I like how although the work I was doing was understandable for a high school level, my time at the lab wasn’t fully accommodated for a young student so I really got to know what it was like to be a scientist inside and outside of the lab. I also enjoyed meeting people, conducting experiments and gradually gaining independence and confidence regarding lab procedures. 
  • “This is an amazing opportunity, and it should continue to run for as long as possible.”