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Research Associates Program

Welcome and congratulations! You have found your way to what we believe is the best student research program available in the San Diego region. This program was created to expand research opportunities for students interested in careers in medicine, public health, or clinical research. 

Our program is committed to creating a positive atmosphere of learning and we are always looking for enthusiastic and energetic volunteers. The Emergency Department is a wonderful place with a diverse patient population. As a Research Associate you will be able to meet people of all shapes, sizes, races and financial circumstances. Further, you will have an opportunity for direct one-on-one patient interaction through screening, enrolling and interviewing patients for various clinical research studies. Some topics currently being investigated include: chest pain, abdominal pain, cancer screening, marijuana and vaping use, and palliative care.

We look forward to working with you in the future.

  • Edward M. Castillo, Ph.D., MPH
  • Gary M. Vilke, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
    Professor of Clinical Medicine
  • Christopher Coyne, MD, MPH
    Assistant Clinical Professor
  • Jesse J. Brennan, MA
    Senior Research Scientist
  • Melodie Santodomingo, MPH
    Research Scientist
  • Elizabeth Tang
    Administrative Research Coordinator

For more information about our program, please email

Benefits of our program:

  • One-on-one patient interaction
  • "Hands on" clinical research experience
  • Optional quarterly seminars
  • Course credit (follow the links below)
  • Year-round program
  • Additional research opportunities as they become available

Who may apply to our program?

  • Undergraduate students
  • Post-baccalaureate students
  • Pre-medical students
  • Nursing students
  • Current volunteers


Reliable coverage in the Emergency Department is key to the success of the program. The program is designed to treat scheduled shifts as a class for each (UCSD) quarter.  Weekly shifts are scheduled as follows:
  • Hillcrest: Sunday through Saturday in 4-hour blocks 24 hours a day beginning at 7am (7am-11am; 11am-3pm; 3pm-7pm; 7pm-11pm; 11pm-3am; 3am-7am).
  • La Jolla: Sunday through Saturday in 4-hour blocks beginning at 7 am (7am-11am, 11am-3pm; 3pm-7pm; 7pm-11pm). 

Course Credit

Depending on your college or university, it may be possible to get credit for:

  • Independent study
  • Research electives
  • Thesis projects
  • Honors projects

For more information on obtaining credit:

  • UCSD students please click here
  • SDSU students: Available credit will vary based on your program. Please inquire in your department for details
  • All other colleges please ask your college counselors for more information

Application process

We are currently full, but please keep checking back for updates.

 Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. If your application is accepted, you will be referred to UC San Diego Health Volunteer Services to become a Health System Volunteer. RAs will need to meet all volunteer requirements before being placed in the RA Program. General volunteer service requirements include the following:

  • Commit to at least 100 hours/6 months of volunteer service
  • Complete or show proof of routine health screening, such as MMR and yearly flu shot
  • Complete assigned on-line organizational orientation curriculum
  • Complete a background check

Once cleared to participate in the Research Associates Program by Volunteer Services, you will also need to complete our program specific training requirements:

  • UCSD Human Research Protections Program training (online)
  • Electronic medical records (EPIC ASAP) training (online)
  • Program orientation at Hillcrest Medical Center
  • One-on-one training in the ED (Hillcrest or La Jolla)

If you have any questions about the application process email

If you are interested in learning about other programs available through UC San Diego Health Volunteer Services please see the Volunteer website.