Exceptional Research Opportunities Program (EXROP)

EXROP provides outstanding summer research experiences in HHMI scientists’ laboratories to exceptional undergraduate students from disadvantaged backgrounds and groups underrepresented in the sciences.

Sample EXROP Research Projects

View 2017 EXROP mentors and their project ideas.


The Exceptional Research Opportunities Program (EXROP) aims to ensure that a diverse and highly trained workforce is prepared to assume leadership roles in science, including among college and university faculties responsible for developing the next generation of scientists. To do so, EXROP leverages the resources and expertise of HHMI’s Science and Science Education departments.

Since EXROP’s inception in 2003, 867 undergraduates from 170 colleges and universities have been matched with 233 HHMI investigators, professors, early career scientists, and Janelia group leaders. Two hundred sixty-five of the 555 EXROP alumni who have earned a baccalaureate degree have gone on to graduate programs.

Exrop student Michelle Davila at 2014 meeting

• 10 weeks of full-time mentored research in an HHMI scientist’s laboratory 

• A $5,000 stipend

• Participation in a local summer research program with other undergraduate researchers 

• Long-distance travel and housing arranged and paid for by HHMI 

• Participation in two EXROP meetings at HHMI’s headquarters in Chevy Chase, MD, with travel and housing arrangements made and paid for by HHMI

• Future funding opportunities, including a second summer experience, participation in previewing advanced science courses, and graduate school support

EXROP is open to students from racial, ethnic, and other groups—including students from disadvantaged backgrounds—that are underrepresented in science in the United States. Students must be nominated by an HHMI professor, a director of an HHMI-funded undergraduate program at a college or university, or a faculty member at an active Science Education Alliance (SEA) school. A nominated student need not be from the same institution as the HHMI-affiliated faculty nominator and the faculty nominator is not responsible for writing a letter of recommendation unless asked to do so by the student. Once accepted into the program, students are matched with HHMI scientists who have volunteered to provide mentored research experiences.

Additional eligibility requirements are:

• Undergraduate enrollment in the fall after participation in EXROP

• Students can not receive funding during the summer from another organization. Examples of programs include MARC, RISE, IMSD, or other similar sources of funding.

• Commitment to 10 consecutive weeks of full-time mentored research

• Potential and maturity to excel in an independent research project

• Interest in graduate school and potential for excellence in graduate-level work

• Potential to become a future leader in academic science

Additional eligibility considerations are:

• Prior research experience, which has proven successful for a majority of applicants

• U.S. citizenship is not required, but international students must complete federal tax forms and provide U.S. tax payer identification information 

• Confirmation of health insurance throughout the entire summer may be required

Competitive EXROP candidates have demonstrated they are: 

• Highly motivated, well-prepared, and able to take advantage of an HHMI-caliber research experience

• Prepared to use existing knowledge and to learn new skills within different lab environments, particularly a large and high-powered one

• Interested in pursuing a career in academic science

• Able to present their knowledge, skills, and prior research experience accurately in the application, as HHMI scientists and staff members use this information to match students with labs

• Independent and mature enough to develop new relationships and successfully navigate a large university and city

Application is by nomination only from an HHMI professor, a director of an HHMI-funded undergraduate program at a college or university, or a faculty member at an active Science Education Alliance (SEA) school.

A completed application includes the following:

• Applicant information

• Descriptions of previous research experience

• Personal statement

• List of undergraduate science and mathematics courses and corresponding transcripts

• Letters of recommendation from two faculty members who can evaluate the applicant’s potential as a scientist

The application also includes a scientist preference section. This section is not made available to the external review panel that evaluates applications and helps select EXROP students. After awardees are selected, HHMI staff use the information provided in this section to match awardees with HHMI scientists. Preferences are not guaranteed, but the information provided in this section will be crucial in determining a successful scientist match for each awardee.

Note: Application information will be sent to nominated eligible students. The next nomination cycle is expected to begin in early September 2016 with applications available for students in early November 2016.