We ask UC San Diego’s business and community partners to consider our students as young professionals seeking career guidance and mentoring. Please see considerations below to conduct a mutually successful REAL (Research Experience and Applied Learning) experience.

Supervision and Mentorship

During the REAL experience it is crucial that a good level of supervision and feedback are provided throughout the experience. Therefore:

  • As part of the educational process all student employees, interns, and volunteers are required to have a dedicated supervisor within the organization.
  • When a student is hired, the supervisor and student should get together to collaboratively set learning objectives that are clear and realistic.
  • On-going communication is key to making the experience positive for the organization and the student.

Intellectual Property

Undergraduate students are not subject to the University’s patent and copyright policies while engaging in tuition supported course activities.  As such, under many circumstances undergraduate students own any Intellectual Property (IP) they create and are free to assign those IP rights to others.  It should be noted that undergraduate students who join a faculty research lab or make material use of a University resource not otherwise provided in exchange for their tuition, may be subject to the UC Patent Policy and/or UC Copyright Policy.

During an internship, it is expected that students will be embedded with the host company and will make meaningful contributions towards the goals of the company.  The quality and depth of the student’s internship experience may depend upon the company’s confidence that they will not lose control of their IP.   A willingness to assign IP developed by the student during an internship should be a clear expectation for both the student intern and host company.  

To avoid any potential conflicts between host company IP expectations and UC policies on use of funds, resources and facilities, student internship activities should be thoughtfully managed by the company and University.

Non-Disclosure Agreements

Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) are customary between parties seeking to engage in collaborative efforts while ensuring that their ideas are protected from third party disclosure.  A NDA not only protects a company from having its sensitive business information shared with competitors, it also ensures that potentially patentable innovations remain unpublished for purposes of seeking “first-inventor-to-file” status with the US Patent and Trademark Office.   Undergraduate students should expect to enter a NDA with their host company, covering the activities related to the internship.  University faculty, graduate students, staff and other researchers may also enter NDA with host companies but should be sure the terms of the NDA are not in conflict with preexisting employment obligations under the UC Patent Policy and/or UC Copyright Policy.  Questions in this regard can be fielded by UCSD’s Technology Transfer Office at

Good Practices

  • The student employee, volunteer, or intern will demonstrate professional and ethical conduct in the workplace such as punctuality, dress code and professional communication.
  • Organizations will treat the student employee, volunteer, or intern with the same level of respect they show their employees.  
  • Organizations will provide training for the student employee, volunteer, or intern where necessary. These may include issues relating to general lab and chemical safety, biosafety, animal welfare, controlled substances, et cetera. 

Types of Internships

For-profit companies who provide intern positions, as employees rather than trainees, typically must pay the interns. The Department of Labor explains that there are some circumstances where interns who participate in for-profit companies may work without compensation. Please refer to the criteria that must be applied when determining paid or unpaid internships. 

Through the Academic Internship Program (AIP), and some academic departments, students can receive academic credit for academic internships. Here is AIP's guidelines for academic internships. Students need to apply for special studies classes to gain credit and thus, timing of posting these opportunities is crucial. Here is AIP's calendar for posting academic internships.