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What is OPTIMUS?

OPTIMUS ( Outreach   Program   To   Inspire   Minority and   Underrepresented   Students) is an educational 8-week cancer research internship for high school students in San Diego.



OPTIMUS 2023 will extend from June 21st through August 11th . The program will be hosted by medical students and graduate students from UC San Diego. We are planning for an in-person program where students will come up to Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego, work in real cancer research labs, spend time shadowing doctors in clinic, and learn about medicine, cancer, and research. Students will be awarded a stipend for participation.



OPTIMUS students learning to suture from surgery residents.

OPTIMUS class of 2019

OPTIMUS class of 2019



Eligible Schools: Must reside within San Diego and attend Lincoln, Hoover, Crawford, Morse, Madison, Garfield, Mark Twain, or Preuss High Schools.

Minority/Underrepresented status  is required for OPTIMUS participation. Applicants should identify with one or more of the following criteria:

  • African American, Hispanic American, Native American/Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander descent.
  • Socioeconomically disadvantaged/low-income background (e.g., participated in the National School Lunch Program).
  • Neither parent/guardians graduated from a four-year US college or university.

Age requirement: Students in grades 10 and 11 are welcome to apply.

COVID-19 vaccination requirement: students must adhere to UC San Diego COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

Link to application: Please find application here


OPTIMUS on the News!

We were featured on the news back in 2019, check it out below!



James Murphy

Faculty Lead

James Murphy, is a Professor in Radiation Medicine and Applied Sciences at UC San Diego, and he runs a cancer outcomes research laboratory focusing on improving cancer care quality and addressing health disparities.


Program Coordinator

Kelly Fernandez, BA, is a UC Los Angeles graduate, who works as the Community Education Specialist within the Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego. She is passionate about volunteer work and serving underrepresented communities.


Our OPTIMUS supporters

We would like to thank our generous donors for supporting OPTIMUS, as well as the continued support from the Department of Radiation Medicine and Applied Sciences, Department of Surgery, and the San Diego State-University of California San Diego Cancer Center Partnership.

If you would like to support our program, please click  here .