Student Opportunities for AIDS/HIV Research (SOAR)

SOAR Student Opportunities for AIDS/HIV Research

The Student Opportunities for AIDS/HIV Research (SOAR) Program is a two-year intensive academic and research mentoring experience for juniors and seniors at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

The program aims to prepare students for graduate education and eventual research careers in behavioral and social science research (BSSR) on HIV/AIDS, with a focus on sexual and gender minority communities. Behavioral and social scientists from an array of backgrounds conduct HIV-related research, including those in the fields of public health, nursing, social work, psychology, sociology, anthropology, public policy, political science, economics, women’s and gender studies, global studies, LGBTQ+ studies, and more.

SOAR students complete a year-long HIV-focused research experience, a summer research experience, two required seminar courses, and receive holistic mentoring and support. 

SOAR is funded by a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health. The program is administered out of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, in collaboration with the School of Public Health, School of Nursing, School of Social Work, and College of Literature Science & the Arts.

Given the program’s thematic focus on HIV-centered behavioral and social science research priorities within sexual and gender minority communities, we encourage applications from students who are from backgrounds that are identified by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as underrepresented in the U.S. biomedical, clinical, behavioral and social sciences research enterprise. This includes an individual who identifies as Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander; an individual with a disability; or an individual from a disadvantaged background (including low-income, first generation, rural, homeless, foster care, and others).

We also encourage applications from sexual and gender minority (SGM) students (as defined by NIH) which include, but are not limited to, individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, transgender, Two-Spirit, queer, and/or intersex.

Program Goals

The SOAR Program aims to:

  • Provide students with a solid foundation for understanding and experiencing HIV-focused behavioral and social science research through a combination of coursework, workshops, and faculty mentored research experiences
  • Provide the mentoring, support, and skills needed to gain acceptance into doctoral programs focused on HIV research
  • Support students in completing their undergraduate degree and transitioning into graduate programs and career trajectories as researchers in HIV-centered behavioral and social sciences for the benefit of sexual and gender minority communities

Read more about the program's activites and requirements.

Applications for Fall 2022 will open in late January and are due by March 31, 2022.


  • Rising juniors at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor*
  • Students who are interested in behavioral and social science research regarding HIV/AIDS in sexual and gender minority communities and/or communities of color 
  • Students who intend to pursue a PhD in behavioral and social sciences (e.g., Psychology, Sociology, Health Policy, Public Health, Anthropology, Political Science, Women’s & Gender Studies, Afro American Studies, etc. -- not medical school)
  • We especially encourage students who identify as sexual or gender minorities, and those who identify as Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander; individuals with disabilities; and/or first-generation college students to apply.

*If you won't have junior standing in the fall, but want to be notified when future applications are available, please email


This is a two-year program. Students will participate in SOAR during their junior and senior years, including the summer between junior and senior year. Please review the program requirements before applying.

Application Process

  • Apply online by March 31, 2022 at 11:59 p.m. EDT (applications will open in late January)
  • Top applicants will be interviewed between April 11-22, 2022.
  • Decisions will be made by the end of April.
  • Admitted students will be invited to an orientation session in the spring/summer term.

The application includes:

  • Two essay questions: 
    • Interest and Qualifications: Explain why you are interested in the SOAR program and what you hope to gain from participating (500 word limit); and 
    • Contribution to Diversity and Inclusion: Explain how your personal background will bring a unique perspective to the program and contribute to a diverse and inclusive SOAR community (250 word limit).
  • You also must upload a copy of your most recent U-M unofficial transcript, and acknowledge your willingness to enroll in the required course, Behavioral and Social Science Research in HIV: Methods and Perspectives for SGM Communities in Fall and Winter.

Applications will open in late January.

View Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for prospective students.

The SOAR Team:

  • Gary Harper - Co-Director & Research Director; Professor of Health Behavior & Health Education, School of Public Health
  • Anna Kirkland - Co-Director & Academic Director; Director, Institute for Research on Women & Gender; Professor of Women's & Gender Studies
  • Andrea Bolivar - Education Director; Assistant Professor of Women's and Gender Studies; Faculty Associate of Latina/o Studies Program
  • Heidi Bennett - Project Coordinator & Academic Counselor
  • Gabriel Johnson - Graduate & Undergraduate Peer Mentor Coordinator; PhD Student, Health Behavior & Health Education, School of Public Health
  • Nicole Perry - Administrative Coordinator

Questions? Contact Heidi Bennett, Project Coordinator at