STAR Abstract Information

Helpful Suggestions for Preparing a STAR Research Proposal Abstract

Application reminders:

  • The application uses a PerfectForms online format. Students and mentors should prepare the application together and are encouraged to open the application early to familiarize themselves with the various sections.
  • Mentors will upload their letter of recommendation WITHIN the application.
  • The mentor will receive an automatic email when the student enters the mentor’s name and email address in the application. That email will include a link to the unsubmitted application.
  • Only one mentor’s name and email address can be entered in the application. It is fine to have multiple mentors but please enter the information for your primary, UC Davis mentor. Multiple letters of recommendation can be uploaded as one PDF.
  • Every time the student or the mentor saves the application, an automatic email will be sent to both the student and the mentor. The automatic emails will have a consistent link to access the unsubmitted application. For example, the email to the mentor will look like this:


SUBJECT: New STAR Program Student Application – [Student Name]

Dear Dr. [Mentor Last Name],

Recent changes to this STAR Program Student Application form have been SAVED, but not SUBMITTED. Please use the link below to access the form.


  • Students and mentors together should complete the YELLOW shaded areas of the application; mentors should complete the BLUE shaded areas of the application.
  • The application does not support special characters. Please use only standard ASCII text (Aa-Zz, 0-9).   
  • There are character limits for the Personal Statement and Research Proposal Abstract sections of the application. The character countdown above the text box will tell you how many characters are remaining. Both spaces and letters are included in the character count. Applicants are encouraged to use Microsoft Word or another word processing program to finalize the text and word count prior to pasting into the application. IMPORTANT NOTE: if you paste from Word into the text box, double-check the text box to make sure all of your text has been entered. There is a character counter at the top of the box to assist you. After pasting, press the space bar once to calibrate the character counter.
    • Personal Statement: 5000 characters
    • Title and Hypothesis: 1000 characters
    • Specific Aims: 2000 characters
    • Project Plan Significance: 500 characters
    • Innovation: 500 characters
    • Approach (Rationale and Methods; Potential Problems and Alternatives; Experimental Rigor): 8000 characters
    • Citations: no character limit
    • Previous Publications (in the Mentor section): 2000 characters
  • It is the student’s responsibility to ensure the application is complete and submitted by the February 9, 2022 deadline.

General principles:

  • Single-space is fine; note that spaces are included in the character count.
  • If sufficient characters are available, use headings or subtitles for each section.
  • Use third person (he/she/it) or passive voice tense throughout, EXCEPT in the Personal Statement.
  • Be specific and give details as to what you will be doing and the extent of your own participation in the proposed research. 
  • Projects should be designed so as to be completed by the end of the STAR 10-week period. Remember, there are only 10 weeks of the summer to conduct and complete a project, so the hypothesis must be reasonable.
  • While travel to another institution for conducting part or all of your project is allowed, no funding is available for travel.
  • Your hypothesis cannot be your mentor's research project, but it can be and hopefully will be related to your mentor's expertise and research foci.
  • Potential pitfalls should be listed, as well as alternatives in case these pitfalls materialize.
  • If the research involves use of animals, an IACUC approved animal protocol must be in place before start of work; if animal protocol approval is pending, and is not approved prior to the start of work, the award will be rescinded.
  • If the research involves use of humans, an IRB approval must be in place before start of work.
  • An application must include the mentor's letter of support. Mentors can upload their letter to the application.

Sample proposals:

Proposal Sample 1

Proposal Sample 2

Proposal Sample 3

Suggestions for STAR Program Proposals:

Title: Title of research proposal should be phrasic, descriptive, and informative.

         "good" Role of aspirin in diminishing the incidence of headaches in dachshunds

          "bad" Aspirin and dachshunds

Hypothesis: Hypothesis is defined as "a supposition that appears to explain a group of phenomena and is assumed as a basis of reasoning and experimentation."

A hypothesis is thus not a question, is not a prediction, does not seek to describe a phenomena, nor can it be answered with a "yes" or a "no". A hypothesis is a statement, the most important part of your grant application, and must satisfy the definition given above. A well-conceived hypothesis takes a lot of time to draft, but once written, the rest of the application nearly writes itself. A written hypothesis makes tangible the thoughts and ideas swimming in one’s head. A written hypothesis is the intercellular matrix of the body of the grant application. A written hypothesis defines a beginning and an end to your project. Finally, a written hypothesis makes it clear to the reviewer what one is going to study.

         "good" Aspirin diminishes headaches in dachshunds by inactivating prostaglandin-synthetase pathways in astrocytes.

          "bad" Does aspirin block prostaglandin-synthetase in the brain?

Specific Aims: Specific aims are statements that indicate how one shall test their hypothesis. They are the means by which the experimental plan shall be organized. The specific aims are concrete, well-defined, and tactical. Together, one's specific aims are the strategy to test the hypothesis. Specific aims define the length, depth, and extent of the experimental plan. Remember the time constraints of the summer, and do not be overly ambitious. Also, never, ever, propose specific aim "2" if it depends on successful completion of specific aim "1". Interdependent specific aims are a death-knell, but interrelated specific aims are scientifically harmonious.

Project Plan Significance: In your own words, provide a few sentences indicating to what important question(s) or unresolved issues in the field the research you propose will contribute.

Innovation: Provide a few sentences indicating how the research approach(es) you will be undertaking are new and cutting-edge.


Rationale and Preliminary data (if applicable): In this section, the background and justification for the hypothesis and specific aims, and the overall project, is explained. It is not a place for an exhaustive literature review, but critical, contemporary, and the most highly related literature should be presented. The rationale explains the scientific reason for why this project should be conducted. It also begins to justify the experimental plan, such as use of special technologies and/or methods.

General research methods: Each specific aim shall have one, two, or more sub-parts that represent the actual experiments to be conducted under that specific aim. This section should include a title for the actual experiment, and a brief description of what is to be done. If methods to be used are previously published, they can be cited and not further described IF these methods are commonly in use in the mentor's lab and/or the applicant has published them. If these are methods not already established in the mentor's lab, then they should be briefly explained in addition to being cited and a comment as to how feasible and practical it is to establish the method in the mentor's lab in the available timeframe of study. The expected results should be stated.

Potential Problems and Alternatives: Clearly state the one or two most likely problems that you will encounter once you are ready to start work on your specific aims or you are confronted with while gathering and analyzing your data, including not obtaining anticipated results or any results due to experimental challenges. State how you will work to circumvent these roadblocks should they arise.

Experimental Rigor: This section should indicate experimental sample sizes and how they were calculated to assure that biological and technical variation is adequately addressed. A statement about validation of animals, cells and reagents used (eg, cell lines, antibodies used for western blot or immunohistochemistry, genotype of genetically modified organisms, datasets not obtained by you lab, etc).