Photograph showing a group of SPARK students and mentors Create lasting connections

During SPARK, you develop many relationships with lab mentors, advisers, personnel, and other students from schools in and around Jacksonville, Florida. This network of colleagues can provide guidance, feedback and advice through critical stages of your college and career development.

Application Process

High school juniors and seniors in participating Florida school districts who are interested in joining the SPARK Research Mentorship Program must apply through an application process. The process is extremely competitive, and the number of high school students selected depends on the availability of research faculty mentors from Mayo Clinic.

Eligibility criteria

A student must meet these criteria to apply for SPARK:

  • Be enrolled as a junior or senior at a school in Duval County or St. Johns County in Florida for the upcoming academic year
  • Have a minimum 3.5 unweighted grade-point average
  • Provide a letter of recommendation from the current high school science teacher
  • Provide a letter of recommendation from the current high school guidance counselor or other school staff as determined by the school district

In addition, applicants must complete a one-page research abstract, using the program abstract form, for the original research they wish to pursue. Students should submit a second choice in case the first research topic is filled.

A Mayo Clinic committee selects highly qualified candidates for interviews based on the availability of research mentors. The final screening includes an interview with the student's potential faculty mentor.

Program requirements

Once accepted into SPARK, scholars must meet these program requirements:

  • Before starting work in the lab, students must complete online lab safety training modules.
  • Students must maintain lab notebooks as documentation of their experiments.
  • Students must log a minimum of 20 hours in the lab each week (weekdays and weekends) during the summer for a successful project to be completed for entry in a science fair. When school is in session, students and mentors determine a flexible schedule.
  • Students must compete in either the Northeast Florida Regional Science and Engineering Fair (NEFRSEF) or the St. Johns County Science Fair (SJCSF). Students who attend a school within Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) must also submit their project to the DCPS District Secondary Science Fair, which is typically held each January.
  • If their projects are selected, students are expected to compete in state, national and international science fairs.
  • Students are responsible for their own transportation.