LEAP Postbacc Program

NCI-Designated Cancer Center Education & Training
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Lab Experience As Pathway

Thank you for your interest in the LEAP to Graduate School Postbacc Program!

The Lab Experience As Pathway to Graduate School (LEAP to Grad School) is a one-year mentored training and career development experience designed to prepare recent college graduates with new skills and lab experience to become more competitive and succeed in STEM Ph.D. programs.


The overarching goal of this one-year program is to provide recent college graduates with the mentored training, laboratory skills, and professional development needed to be competitive and successful in STEM Ph.D. programs.

An additional goal of the program is to recruit and support participants from historically marginalized groups in STEM, who may face additional barriers to developing a successful research career.


  • Eligible students are current college seniors and recent graduates (2021 or later) in a science-related field.
  • Due to federal funding guidelines, applicants must be US citizens or permanent residents.
  • Applicants must reside in the greater San Diego area for the duration of the program.
  • Applicants from historically marginalized groups are strongly encouraged to apply. See NIH criteria and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Research Experience

The program will provide both classroom and laboratory training. The classroom portion will introduce fundamental concepts of scientific research and workshops on scientific communication and leadership development. The laboratory portion will provide hands-on training in basic experimental techniques and research experience. Participants will be matched to perform scientific research in either one (one full year) or two laboratories (6 months in each laboratory). Participants will participate in ongoing projects in the mentor’s lab and gain hands-on experience in wet-lab and/or dry-lab (computational) techniques.

During the one-year program, each participant is expected to participate full-time. Our program consists of 80% research and 20% professional development modules and workshops. Participants will convene on a weekly basis for cohort meetings, training modules and workshops.


  • Fundamentals of Experimental Research will cover basic concepts that underlie experimental scientific research, such as critical thinking, generation and testing of hypotheses, use of controls, and logical interpretation of results.
  • Basic Experimental Techniques will explain and provide hands-on training of basic experimental techniques commonly used in biomedical research, such as biochemistry, computational biology, genetics, microscopy, sterile techniques, and tissue culture.
  • Fundamentals of Modern Drug Discovery will provide an overview of drug discovery approaches and introduce participants to the basics of high throughput automation and miniaturization through a blend of lectures and hands-on training.

Workshops include

  • Oral and Written Scientific Communication - will explain principles of effective scientific communication and provide corresponding practical training. 
  • Leadership Development - this workshop series will cover self- assessment, understanding others, communication preferences, navigating conflict, developing cultural competence, and creating an inclusive lab environment.
  • Graduate School Application Preparation - this workshop will explain the graduate school application and selection process. Topics to be covered include preparation of CV, writing personal statements, selecting a school, obtaining strong reference letters, and preparing for interviews.
What’s unique about the LEAP Program?

A unique feature of this program is the opportunity to receive hands-on training and experience in modern drug discovery offered in partnership with the Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics.

When does the LEAP Program Start?

The LEAP Program will run from July 1, 2024 - June 30, 2025.

Applying to the LEAP Program

Our application portal will open on Monday, January 29, 2024. The last day to submit your application is Thursday, March 7, 2024.

Selection Process

The Review Committee will evaluate all completed applications received by the deadline. If you are selected for an interview, you will receive notification by March. Interviews will take place via Zoom in April. Notifications of acceptance to the program will be sent by May.

  • $41,500 annual stipend plus benefits.
  • High quality 1:1 mentorship from our world-renowned scientists.
  • Cohort structure to enhance your social and professional network. 

Apply Now


For inquiries and more information, please contact the LEAP Postbacc Program at leappostbacc@sbpdiscovery.org


Mentors are established principal investigators whose research spans a broad array of topics, from autophagy to metabolism and more, impacting many disease areas, such as cancer, neurodegeneration, and metabolic disorders. 

See below for the current list of mentors that will participate in the LEAP Program. Note that this list will be updated as more mentors indicate their willingness to participate.