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Research Associates Program

Welcome and congratulations! You have found your way to what we believe is the best faculty/mentor 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. You will work with people of all shapes, sizes, races and financial circumstances. You will have direct one-on-one patient interaction. You will work closely with Emergency Department physicians and nurses on various clinical research projects. This will provide you with opportunities to develop relationships to obtain letters of recommendation and publish research papers. Some topics currently being investigated include: chest pain, abdominal pain, and falls in the elderly.

We provide students with optional quarterly seminars. Some topics may include: interviewing skills/mock interviews, how to write a personal statement, what medical schools look for, and other important topics that will increase your chances of being accepted to medical school.

We look forward to working with you in the future.

  • Edward M. Castillo, Ph.D., MPH
    Assistant Adjunct Professor
  • Gary M. Vilke, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
    Professor of Clinical Medicine
  • Michael Wilson, MD, PhD, FAAEM
    Attending Physician
  • Jesse J. Brennan, MA
    Research Scientist
  • Mey Pflaum
    Research Associate Program Coordinator
    For more information about our program, please email

Benefits of our program:

  • Work along side Emergency Department physicians and nurses
  • Secure letters of recommendation for medical school or graduate studies
  • Publish research papers
  • One-on-one patient interaction
  • "Hands on" clinical research experience
  • Optional quarterly seminars
  • Course credit (follow the links below)
  • Year-round program
  • Research paper publishing opportunities

Who may apply to our program?

  • Undergraduate students
  • Post-baccalaureate students
  • Pre-medical students
  • Nursing students
  • Foreign medical graduates
  • 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 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

All Research Associates are technically hospital volunteers and must therefore complete the volunteer requirements:

  • Commit to at least 100 hours/6 months of volunteer service
  • Attend a general orientation session
  • Complete the JCAHO required online safety trainings
  • Complete HIPAA training
  • Complete a placement interview and be accepted into our program
  • Purchase a uniform ($20 in the hospital gift shop) and abide by the volunteer dress code
  • Complete or show proof of routine health screening for tuberculosis, measles, German measles and chicken pox

When you've completed the necessary requirements and are cleared to work through the Volunteer Office, you will complete our program training session which includes the following:

  • UCSD Human Research Protections Program training
  • Electronic medical records training (EPIC ASAP)
  • RA Program orientation

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.