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 will complete two year-long HIV-focused research experiences, a summer research experience, two required seminar courses, and will receive holistic support. Research mentoring activities will take place with faculty members from across campus, and will include a wide range of global and local research projects focused on an array of topics such as innovative approaches to HIV prevention and treatment, resilience and empowerment among populations at risk for or living with HIV, influence of psychosocial factors and substance use on HIV prevention and treatment, policy and advocacy efforts to support HIV prevention and treatment, and much more.

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.

Rising juniors at U-M Ann Arbor from any college or school are eligible to apply and participate in the SOAR program beginning in Fall 2021. The application deadline was July 11.

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

Research Experiences:

  • During their junior and senior years, students engage in HIV-focused research with prominent behavioral and social science faculty during the academic year, plus a short-term summer research experience.
  • Students have the option of doing these research experiences with the same or different faculty members.



  • Students will have access to a broad network of faculty research mentors from U-M Schools of Nursing, Medicine, Public Health, Social Work, and the College of LSA.
  • In addition, students will have access to the SOAR External Research Mentor Network, with faculty and researchers from more than 50 universities and institutions across North America.
  • In their second year of the program, students will serve as peer mentors for the incoming cohort.
  • SOAR students will receive individualized graduate school preparation support, GRE course prep and tutoring, conference travel support, psychosocial support, access to the SOAR resource center, a laptop computer, and much more.

Read more about the program's activites and requirements.

Benefits & Compensation:

  • Work-study or grant-funded payment and/or independent study credits for the research experiences
  • Academic credit (8 total credits)
  • Graduate school prep & GRE tutoring
  • Experience presenting at an undergraduate-focused research conference, with travel, lodging, and conference registration fees paid
  • Summer living stipend
  • Free laptop
  • Holistic, psychosocial support and well-being workshops
  • Lane Hall study & lounge space exclusively for SOAR students
  • Support from SOAR directors, staff, graduate student mentors, peer mentors, and faculty research mentors
  • ​Access to the National Research Mentoring Network, an evidence-based virtual platform with a nationwide consortium of investigators, professionals and institutions across all career stages of biomedical, behavioral, clinical, and social science research.


  • Rising juniors at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor can apply for Fall '21.
    • If you won't have junior standing in the fall, but want to be notified when Fall 2022 applications are available, please email
  • Students who are interested in behavioral and social science research regarding HIV/AIDS in sexual and gender minority communities of color

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.

How to Apply: The application deadline closed July 11 at 11:59 p.m. EDT.

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