UCLA Competitive Edge: Summer Transition Program to the Doctorate

Group of Competitive Edge Participants sitting on a bench


Program description

The Competitive Edge program is an intensive, six-week, full-time bridge program for newly admitted, entering doctoral students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), humanities and social sciences with a strong interest in pursuing a faculty or research position. Each Competitive Edge Fellow is paired with a faculty mentor throughout the six-week program to conduct a summer research project. Additionally, Competitive Edge Fellows participates in social and professional development activities to enhance their success in UCLA doctoral programs.

To enhance, focus and advance upon the Competitive Edge Fellow’s research, the faculty-mentored research projects allows the Fellow to focus on their specific research area and interests. The social and professional development activities provide an opportunity for the Competitive Edge Fellows to develop general skills and be exposed to resources that will allow for each Fellow to succeed in their PhD programs regardless of discipline. Previous examples of professional development and social activities during the Competitive Edge program included: Imposter Syndrome & How to Overcome It; Writing Successful Grant & Fellowship Applications; Financing Your Graduate Education; & Journal Club.

In assessing the impact of the Competitive Edge Program, a 2020 Competitive Edge Fellow shared “This program has truly made a difference in my transition to graduate school. I cannot imagine how difficult it would have been without the workshops and all the folks I have met.”

The 2022 Competitive Edge program will be held in-person at the UCLA campus.

Competitive Edge Fellows funding & benefits

  • Advanced introduction to UCLA faculty and research
  • Early mentorship from UCLA faculty and peers
  • Advanced introduction to UCLA campus and resources
  • Acquisition of critical skills through workshops and lectures, including grant writing skills through a draft grant research statement
  • Community building with other incoming, first-year doctoral students and networking opportunities with Competitive Edge Alumni
  • Summer stipend of $6,000

Program expectations for Competitive Edge Fellows

All Competitive Edge Fellows are expected to participate in all Competitive Edge activities and programs including the Competitive Edge Welcome & Program Orientation and Program Closing. Any absences will result in a reduction of the Fellow’s Competitive Edge summer stipend. Additionally, Competitive Edge Fellows are expected to adhere to the following:

  • Meet with their assigned faculty mentor (virtually, in-person, via telephone) to agree upon both (1) the proposed summer research project and (2) accompanying draft research statement for either the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP), Ford Pre-Doctoral Fellowship Proposed Plan of Graduate Study and Research, or Ruth L. Kirschstein Institutional National Research Service Award (T32) Research Plan;
  • Attend at least one UCLA Graduate Writing Center (GWC) consultation appointment  for feedback on your draft grant research statement;
  • Provide proof of California health insurance before the program start date if the mentor/department anticipates any need for student to be on campus, otherwise insurance requirement is waived for Summer 2022 participants;
  • Schedule and attend at least three (3) meetings with your faculty mentor to discuss your summer research project and draft grant research statement (more frequent meetings are encouraged, if possible);
  • Access online, virtual resources that provide invaluable information about life as a Graduate Student in UCLA and Los Angeles;
  • Provide feedback on overall satisfaction of Competitive Edge during week three of the program, after the conclusion of your first quarter in your PhD program, and after one year in your PhD program;
  • Remain aware of and communicate all academic and/or financial holds that may impede your ability to receive your summer stipend to the Competitive Edge Program Coordinators;
  • Review all emails from Competitive Edge Administrators and respond in a timely manner, when requested; and 
  • Any other expectations as determined by the Competitive Edge Advisory Board and Administrators.

Program expectations for Competitive Edge faculty mentors

All Competitive Edge Faculty Mentors are expected to be in-residence throughout the duration of the Competitive Edge program. Faculty mentors who are not in-residence throughout the entirety of the Competitive Edge Program may be released from their mentorship responsibilities and have their Fellow assigned to another in-residence, UCLA faculty member within the department. As a Competitive Edge mentor, faculty commit to the following:

  • Submit Faculty Nomination Letter during nomination period;
  • Meet with your Competitive Edge Fellows at least three (3) times, in person, throughout the Competitive Edge Program to discuss progression on their Fellow’s research progress as well as their draft grant research statement. However, more meetings are encouraged (weekly meetings are recommended);
  • Establish a high knowledge level of the Competitive Edge Program and its component parts;
  • Attend both the Competitive Edge Welcome Breakfast and Closing Ceremony if program is held on-campus;
  • Submit an orientation checklist or plan and proposed summer research plan specific to your Competitive Edge Fellow during the nomination process;
  • Review the program components and expectations for both Competitive Edge Fellows and Faculty Mentors; and
  • Agrees that required, department trainings, orientation or other events will not conflict with any Competitive Edge programs or events.

Competitive Edge fellowship eligibility

  • Individuals whose backgrounds are underrepresented in physical sciences, life sciences, engineering, humanities, and social sciences
  • Strong interest in pursuing a university and/or research career
  • Accepted admission to a UCLA doctoral program
  • U.S. citizen, national, permanent residents, or undocumented students who qualify for nonresident supplemental tuition exemptions under AB 540

How to get nominated

Nominations will take place through your home academic department. Please contact your Student Affairs Officer (SAO) if you are interested in being nominated. All participants must have a faculty mentor during the summer prior to their enrollment to be considered for nomination.

For further information, contact

Rhiannon Little-Surowski, Ed.D. (she/hers)
Manager, Diversity & Inclusion Programs

Last updated: January, 2022