Urban Barcode Research Program
About the Program

The Urban Barcode Research Program (UBRP) is a student research mentorship program supported by the Pinkerton Foundation and Science Sandbox.

This science education initiative engages NYC high school students in studies of biodiversity using DNA technology. Students take two training courses covering basic concepts in biodiversity, conservation biology, and science research. These courses also provide hands-on laboratory experience with common science research techniques. Selected students then conduct independent, student-driven research projects using DNA barcoding under expert mentorship. The UBRP enables students to gain knowledge, confidence, and interest in science while studying the interaction between biodiversity and human activity. As part of the NYC Science Research Mentoring Consortium, students also have the opportunity to attend events at partnering institutions.

Student Eligibility

  • Students must be enrolled in grades 9-12 at a public or private high school in New York City. Students must reside in New York City.
  • Students are required to complete two mandatory courses: Conservation Genetics and DNA Barcoding and Bioinformatics. These free courses are offered after school, during school breaks, and in the summer. For spring 2021, we offered online courses. Students will also be required to attend a hands-on lab “bootcamp” when it is safe to do so, and will be contacted when these are scheduled.
  • After completion of the courses, students must submit an online application to be considered for the program.

Program Application

Students who have completed both courses (and lab bootcamp, if courses were completed online) will be invited to apply to the UBRP just prior to or at the beginning of the school year. After application review, 40 students will be invited to continue in the UBRP. Teams of two students will be matched with scientist mentors for the academic year. Mentors guide the students through all phases of the research process, beginning with project design and culminating in poster and oral presentations at a research symposium in May or June.

Participation Requirements

  • Mentors and students define a work schedule to accomplish a minimum of 55 hours of research during the academic year to complete their project in time for presentation at a symposium in the spring.
  • Mentors help students plan, develop and conduct a DNA barcoding project. Key components of the research cycle include writing a research proposal, fieldwork and/or sample collection, DNA isolation, amplification of DNA barcoding regions, and analysis of DNA sequences.
  • Project staff coordinate with teams and mentors to ensure that projects are rigorous and appropriately scaled to achieve results during the time allotted.
  • Mentors receive a stipend of $2,000, in addition to the costs associated with obtaining and sequencing 50 specimens will be covered. Mentors also directly impact the science education and career trajectory of urban high school students.
  • Students who complete the 55 hours of research and present their projects at the Research Symposium each receive a $500 stipend.