Research Associates Program

Welcome and congratulations! You have found your way to what we believe is the best student research program available in the San Diego region. This program was created to expand research opportunities for students interested in careers in medicine, public health, or clinical research. 

Our program is committed to creating a positive atmosphere of learning and we are always looking for enthusiastic and energetic volunteers. The Emergency Department is a wonderful place with a diverse patient population. As a Research Associate you will be able to meet people of all shapes, sizes, races and financial circumstances. Further, you will have an opportunity for direct one-on-one patient interaction through screening, enrolling and interviewing patients for various clinical research studies. Some topics currently being investigated include: chest pain, abdominal pain, and medication adherence. 

Research Associates will also will also be able to attend Emergency Medicine research lectures and Grand Rounds. Past topics have been: how to evaluate the literature, grant writing, wilderness medicine, healthcare informatics, strategies in injury prevention and disaster research, analyzing data ultrasound in Emergency Medicine, and other important topics that will increase your knowledge of Emergency Medicine and clinical research.

We look forward to working with you in the future.

  • Edward M. Castillo, Ph.D., MPH
    Associate Adjunct Professor
  • Gary M. Vilke, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
    Professor of Clinical Medicine
  • Christopher Coyne, MD, MPH
    Attending Physician
  • Jesse J. Brennan, MA
    Senior Research Scientist
  • Mey Pflaum
    Research Associate Program Coordinator 

For more information about our program, please email

Benefits of our program:

  • One-on-one patient interaction
  • "Hands on" clinical research experience
  • Optional quarterly seminars
  • Course credit (follow the links below)
  • Year-round program
  • Additional research opportunities as they become available

Who may apply to our program?

  • Undergraduate students
  • Post-baccalaureate students
  • Pre-medical students
  • Nursing students
  • Current volunteers


Reliable coverage in the Emergency Department is a key to the success of program. The program is designed to treat scheduled shifts as a class for the quarter or semester. Shifts are scheduled as follows:
  • Hillcrest: Sunday through Saturday in 4-hour blocks 24 hours a day with double coverage beginning at 7am (7am-11am; 11am-3pm; 3pm-7pm; 7pm-11pm; 11pm-3am; 3am-7am).
  • La Jolla: Sunday through Saturday in 4-hour blocks with single coverage beginning at 11am (11am-3pm; 3pm-7pm; 7pm-11pm). Coverage may be expanded to additional hours or double coverage if the need arises.
    • Note: All initial training and shifts are required to be at Hillcrest. Once complete, RAs can begin working at La Jolla, but only after shadowing an experienced RA at that location

Course Credit

Depending on your college or university, it may be possible to get credit for:

  • Independent study
  • Research electives
  • Thesis projects
  • Honors projects

For more information on obtaining credit:

  • UCSD students please click here:
  • SDSU students: Available credit will vary based on your program. Please inquire in your department for details
  • All other colleges please ask your college counselors for more information

Application process

The Research Associates Program is just one of many wonderful volunteer opportunities available through Volunteer Services with UC San Diego Health, and applying to and being accepted to a volunteer orientation through Volunteer Services is the first step. General volunteer service requirements for those accepted to an orientation include the following:

  • Attend the general orientation session for which you applied
  • Complete or show proof of routine health screening for tuberculosis, measles, German measles and chicken pox
  • Commit to at least 100 hours/6 months of volunteer service
  • Complete assigned on-line organizational orientation curriculum
  • Complete a placement interview
  • Purchase a uniform ($20 in the hospital gift shop) and abide by the volunteer dress code

When you've completed these necessary requirements you can request placement into the Research Associates Program; however, placement into this program cannot be guaranteed. Once placed into the Research Associates Program by Volunteer Services, you will also complete our program specific training requirements:

  • UCSD Human Research Protections Program training
  • Electronic medical records training (EPIC ASAP)
  • Program orientation
  • One-on-one training in the ED

Please note that the general Volunteer Services orientations occur at scheduled times throughout the year. Please be aware that our program does NOT coordinate these orientations. Please direct any and all questions regarding the general orientation session to the Volunteer Office itself at either 619-543-6370 or

Additional information may be obtained on the volunteer website.