Each member of the leadership team works pro bono. Teri Simas’ administrative support is provided by the Biology Division and PRIME. Each person is committed to and assumes responsibility for ensuring the quality of the internship experience, including oversight of the assessment activities. Wienhausen and Haga ensure the academic rigor and educational integrity of the internship experience, including the quality of the curriculum of the pre-departure and re-entry courses and the assessment of the educational goals and outcomes. They also identify and secure PRIME internships in Asian host countries and educate and mentor the hosts about program-specific educational goals and expectations. Acharya ensures that students receive academic internship credit and training on how to present and discuss their international experience in job or graduate school applications and interviews and in other academic and professional settings. Galvin and colleagues coordinate the country-specific orientations and participate in the recruitment and selection of PRIME interns.

Program Details: Recruitment, Selection, and Preparation
Recruitment: PRIME recruits interns through a well-established and fine-tuned strategy that includes: (1) information sessions (for students, staff and faculty), during which former interns discuss their experiences with prospective students, (2) presentations during General Body Meetings of student organizations, (3) divisional events, such as Undergraduate Research Showcases and Career Fairs, and (4) university-wide programs, such as Admit Day and International Education Week. In addition, former students actively promote the program in classes, residence halls, and student groups.

We are committed to drawing from a highly diverse pool of applicants; hence our strong emphasis and commitment to outreach, especially to student groups such as the Black Student Association, National Society of Black Engineers, SPACES (Student Promoted Access Center for Education and Service), Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Society of Women Engineers, and Women in Computing (as a result of specific efforts by the program in its early stages, roughly half of the students in PRIME to date have been women).

Selection: PRIME interns are selected through a competitive process. A panel of faculty and staff of the International Center and AIP reviews applications and proposals and interviews candidates. All selected interns receive a base stipend adjusted to the cost of living in their respective host countries to cover travel and living expenses.

Preparation: Each PRIME research internship includes four phases: (1) application, interview and placement process during the Winter Quarter, (2) on-campus mentored research skill building and cultural competency development during the Spring Quarter, (3) summer internship at the host site and ongoing cultural competency development through weekly reflection essays, and, (4) re-entry activities during the subsequent Fall Quarter, including workshop participation, outreach with student organizations and prospective UCSD students, and a continuation of the research project in the UC San Diego mentor’s laboratory.

During their stay abroad, interns are supervised by host mentors. However, they submit regular interim reports to their UC San Diego mentors, who are ultimately responsible for the academic supervision, including the assignment of grades. In addition, the PRIME PI remains connected to students via email and Skype sessions throughout the interns’ stay in their host country.

UC San Diego Faculty and Research Mentors
The faculty and research mentors vary with the specific internship opportunities available. For a snapshot of current faculty research scientist mentors see:

Procedure for Awarding Credit for Internships
To receive credit for their internship, students enroll in the credit-bearing course Academic Internship (AIP 197), offered by our partner, the AIP office. The students’ UC San Diego faculty mentors are the instructors of record and assign the final grades.

Engage Alumni to Enrich the Internship Experience and Build Capacity
PRIME has reached out to Alumni Affairs, and received buy-in and support to create a partnership to facilitate interactions between interns and Asian alumni, including the more than 1,000 alumni associated with chapters in China (Beijing and Hong Kong), Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam. Alumni Affairs agreed to create opportunities to educate alumni in Asia about the value and importance of academic interns and to recruit their aid in developing internship opportunities.

Career Advice
Upon return, students are invited to participate in a Career Advice Seminar organized specifically for them. Students receive guidance on topics that include how to prepare a curriculum vita (CV) or resume that reflects and highlights their international experience.

Program Strategic UC San Diego Partners

  • UCSD’s PRAGMA (Pacific Rim Application and Grid Middleware Assembly), an existing framework for collaborative research at the interface of information technology and its applications, which places student interns at 30 institutions around the Pacific Rim.
  • UC San Diego STEM scientists from engineering, biological and physical sciences, and Qualcomm Institute, who mentor student projects in areas that range from structural biology, bioengineering, geosciences, and visualization, to earthquake engineering, computational chemistry, and cultural heritage.
  • The International Center, which prepares students for education abroad, and conducts reentry reflection workshops
  • AIP, which enables interns to earn academic credit via AIP 197

PRIME Impact and Achievements

PRIME student activities are highlighted in the PRAGMA Collaborative Overview (see, for example,, pages 27 – 33, as well as 16-17, and 18-19). PRIME students have also had an impact in their work in the public sector, as evident from this link: This work reflects the cumulative effort of students Wesley Hsu (PRIME 2011) and Jesus Rios (PRIME 2013).

Students who have been part of the PRIME program have presented their results at the UC San Diego Undergraduate Research Conferences and at a number of international conferences (four to six presentations annually from each 2004 to 2009, as well as two participants in 2010 and 2011 in the IEEE Supercomputing conference, one of the premier symposia in cyber-infrastructure).

PRIME students have also received multiple awards, including the 2012 MUSE Honeysett and Din Student Award from the American Association of Museums and the 2013 LOFT Video Game Innovation Fellowship from the Entertainment Software Association.

Several students wrote about their experiences in UC San Diego’s “This Week” web-letter:

Several PRIME students participated in a UCSD sponsored Experiential Learning Conference. This resulted in a publication from the conference, “Education in Action: Experience Learning in Higher Education” (2012). The articles are available at the PRIME website.

Then PRIME co-Director Arzberger and Jim Galvin (IC), presented the PRIME model at the conference on “Creating Globally Minded STEM Professionals Through Internships/Work Abroad Programs” ( co-hosted by the Institute of International Education.

Funding for PRIME

PRIME was created in 2004 (PIs Wienhausen and Arzberger) via a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and continued through 2011 with NSF support. These funds allowed us to make awards to STEM students to cover the travel and living expenses incurred during a summer internship abroad. Students selected to PRIME receive an award to cover travel and living expenses incurred in undertaking a summer internship abroad (airfare, food, and housing). The host countries provide funds to cover students’ housing costs.

In 2012, PRIME received a $100,000 gift from young alumna Haley Hunter-Zinck to support assistance for future students who travel to the Pacific Rim to conduct research (

In addition to NSF support, the host countries provide funds to cover students’ housing costs. Also, PRIME routinely receives supplemental funding sources from several of our partners, including Qualcomm Institute, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation program, The Balboa Park Online Collaborative, Division of Biological Sciences’ Nomura and Eureka Scholarships, UCSD Department of Bioengineering and Doshisha University, REU supplements from the PRAGMA award and individual PRAGMA members. Doing so has allowed us to magnify our resources and continue to offer the educational experience to our students.

Because NSF only provides program creation support we are currently actively exploring other funding avenues to sustain and expand PRIME. We are seeking matching funds for the gift from Hunter-Zink. Given that Hunter-Zink was a UCSD student, this Student Services initiative is very timely and appropriate. Funding through the VCSA’s budget initiative would increase PRIME’s capacity and assure its continued success.


  • Abramson, D., Arzberger, P., Wienhausen, G., Date, S., Lin, F-P., Nan, K. and Shimojo, S., “Cyberinfrastructure Internship and its application to e-Science”, e-Science 2011, Stockholm, Dec 2011.
  • Arzberger, P., Wienhausen, G., Abramson, D., Galvin, J., Date, S., Lin, F-P., Nan, K., Shimojo, S. PRIME: an integrated and sustainable undergraduate international research program. Advances in Engineering Education. 2010, (2), No 2 (
  • Blumenfield, T.B., Nerad, M. (2012). Assessing international (post) graduate education. Australian University Review, 54 (1).
  • Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program. 2005. Global Competence and National Needs.
  • Neill, N.O. (2010). Internships as a High-Impact Practice: Some reflections on quality. Peer Review, 12(4), 4-8.
  • Open Doors, Institute for International Education. November 2011 ( [Of the students that study abroad, STEM fields are under-represented: Math and Computer Science (1.5%), Engineering (3.9%); Physical/Life Sciences (7.5%).]
  • Paige, R.M., Fry, G.W., Stallman, E.M., Josic, J. Jon, J.E. (2009). Beyond Immediate Impact: Study Abroad for Global Engagement. Intercultural Education, 20 (S1-2 pS29-S44).
  • Williams, T.R. (2005). Exploring the impact of study abroad on students’ intercultural communication skills: adaptability and sensitivity. Journal of studies in international education, 9: 356.

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.