The Pacific Rim Experiences for Undergraduates (PRIME) program was created in 2004 to provide a project-based, hands-on research internship program combined with an experience in international cultural awareness for science and engineering undergraduates at the University of California, San Diego. PRIME grew out of the PRAGMA collaborative project framework and people network. PRIME’s projects are also facilitated through additional collaborations between UC San Diego and international researchers outside the PRAGMA network.


The PRIME research internship takes place annually over a 30-week period that includes four phases:

  • Admission Process (Winter Quarter): Application (a student-written internship project based on the research interest and expertise of the dual mentors), interview and placement process;
  • Research and Cultural Preparation (Spring Quarter): On-campus, mentored research skill building and cultural competency development;
  • Research and Cultural Internship (Summer): Summer internship at the host site and ongoing cultural competency development through weekly reflection essays; and
  • Re-entry Activities (Fall Quarter): (a) Participating in workshops to systematically reflect on the international experience and to describe it meaningfully in a professional resume; (b) sharing the experience with other students during study-abroad info sessions, in meetings with student organizations and at UC San Diego’s Admit Day; and (c) continuing the research in the UCSD mentor’s laboratory with ultimate goal of publishing the research.


The students’ internship projects range from structural biology, bioengineering, geosciences and visualization to earthquake engineering, computational chemistry, cultural heritage and more. Each student uses or develops components of cyberinfrastructure to complete his or her project. The work of previous students has led to the development of software products as well as to publications in peer-reviewed journals. Examples of students’ contributions have been highlighted in the PRAGMA Collaborative Overview (click on images below for most recent years’ overviews).


2004: NSF $156,000, 3-year grant to PRIME; inaugural class of 9 go to Australia, Japan or Taiwan.

2005: Program expands to 13 students and China.

2006: Women outnumber men among 14 students, and PRIME opens up to non-engineering majors.

2007: Cohort expands to 15 students despite end of original 3-year NSF grant.

2008: PRIME grows to 21 students and adds host sites in Malaysia and New Zealand.

2009: 33 students go to 13 host institutions, including first site in India, University of Hyderabad.

2010: 29 students fan out to host sites in 9 countries.

2011: 23 undergraduates push PRIME alumni above 150 to date.

2012: PRIME alumna Haley Hunter-Zinck, Class of ’08 in Australia, donates $100,000 to PRIME in memory of her late mother, Jennifer Zinck; 18 students participate in summer program.