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What is OPTIMUS?

OPTIMUS (Outreach Program To Inspire Minority and Underrepresented Students) is an educational 6-week cancer research internship for high school students in San Diego.



OPTIMUS 2022 will extend from June 20th through August 12th . The program will be hosted by medical students from our School of Medicine and undergraduate 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. However, these plans may change pending changes with COVID-19 restrictions within UC San Diego. If we cannot bring students onto campus, we will plan to host a virtual program. Students will be awarded a stipend for participation.

OPTIMUS suturing workshop

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 or Morse 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, 11, and 12 are welcome to apply. Students must be 16 years of age or older before the program commences.

Link to application: Our partners at the Biocom California Institute  assist our OPTIMUS team with the application process. Please find the 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 an Associate 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 a Research Administrative Assistant within the Department of Radiation Medicine 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.