Applying for a SURF

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SURF Applicants: We will email you by Monday, February 27 to confirm receipt of your materials. Due to the volume of applications, we may not be able to confirm application status until that time.

This page addresses the process for applying for a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). More information about the SURF, including eligibility, can be found on the SURF overview page.

SURFs are highly competitive; you will need to plan in advance and devote time to preparing and editing your proposal. All project proposals are reviewed by a multidisciplinary team of faculty members according to a comprehensive rubric.

All materials must be submitted by Thursday, February 23, 2017 at 4:00 pm. If there is a weather emergency, check the homepage or this page for deadline extensions. If UNC is officially closed for a weather emergency, the deadline will automatically be extended to 4 pm on the next working day.

This page includes information about preparing for a SURF application, the application process, and the application review & selection process.

Preparing to Apply:

You should start establishing your project idea and looking for a faculty advisor well before the application deadline. Make sure that you request recommendation letters and official transcripts far in advance as these materials must be received by the deadline above.

You must identify a suitable and willing faculty research advisor for your work. Faculty members must be available to advise you throughout the SURF process: proposal writing and review, the IRB process (if necessary), project implementation, and final reporting in the fall. This Faculty Research Advisor is the person who writes the recommendation letter to accompany your SURF proposal and formally approves your research report at the end of the summer. You may also want to consult with Postdoctoral Fellows, graduate students, research associates or others with expertise as co-advisors, and we encourage you to do this, but your primary research advisor must be a faculty member.

Discuss your initial ideas with your faculty research advisor, narrow or expand the scope of your work as appropriate, and ask for feedback on your written statement from your faculty research advisor and/or a postdoctoral/graduate mentor.

Two SURF Information Sessions have been scheduled; visit our Workshops page for more information. In addition, SURF Peer Writing Advisors are available by appointment to assist you with the application and proposal revision process. The peer writing advisors are former SURF recipients who have received specialized training from the Writing Center. For more information, see the SURF Peer Advising Program (pdf).

To sign up to meet with a peer advisor in your general area of research, please submit the short, online SURF Peer Advisor Request Form. Please note: you will need to have a rough draft of your proposal ready for your first meeting with your peer advisor. You may also want to look at our Proposal Writing Resources page. We will begin assigning Peer Writing Advisors in December. No Peer Writing Advisors will be assigned after February 15.

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 Application materials & Application Process

 Application Materials:

There are four required parts to a complete application; the fifth is optional:

  1. Online Application
  2. Project Proposal 
  3. Research Advisor Letter of Support
  4. Official UNC Transcript (registrar requires two weeks’ notice — ask for this early!)
  5. Optional: Letter of Support from Partnering Organization(s) 

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Online Application

The online application asks for information about the student, faculty advisor, and the project title (100 character maximum). The online application also requests information on scholarships and other awards that you have received at Carolina or have applied to receive for the same summer. You may complete the application at any time, but most students complete it as soon as they know the name of their faculty advisor and their project title.

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Project Proposal

The project proposal must be submitted by email to our@unc.edu. 

Format requirements:
  1. Your proposal should be double-spaced and written in 12-point font.
  2. Please put the title of your application on the first page of your written statement, and include your name and PID number on each page. Do NOT include a cover page, appendix materials, separate CV, budget, or any other additional application materials.
  3. Your letter of recommendation must be sent separately directly from your faculty advisor. Do not include it in the proposal pdf.
  4. Sections (1) through (6) must total no more than 1200 words, and you may not include more than 3 figures/tables/images. 
  5. Name your proposal in following the format “LastnameFirstnameSURFYearProposal,” where Lastname and Firstname reflect your name, and year is the current calendar year with four digits (i.e., 2017). Example: GarciaMarySURF2017Proposal.pdf.
  6. Submit your proposal as a .pdf and email it to our@unc.edu with the subject line “SURF Proposal Submission.”

With clearly labeled headings, please include the following in the written proposal. The suggested word lengths below are general guidelines, but these may differ by discipline. 

  1. Project Goal(s) or Aim(s): Provide a statement of your research question(s) or a description of what you intend to create, invent or discover. Suggested length: 150 words.
  2. Project Background and Significance: Clearly explain the potential importance of your research project, your performance or creation, or your invention. In addition, explain the theoretical or critical frameworks you will use to guide your research or the development of your performance or creation. Include appropriate citations as directed in (8) below. Suggested length: 400 words.
  3. Methods: Describe the steps you will take to complete your project and explain why each step is necessary. Methods differ from project to project. They may include conducting laboratory experiments, fielding surveys, interviewing key informants, analyzing critical texts or artifacts, viewing related performances, or traveling to specific field locations or archives. Include a brief timeline for completing your project during the summer. While students may continue their projects after the end of the summer, the research funded by the SURF must be completed by the start of the Fall semester. Suggested length: 400 words.
  4. Preliminary Work and Experience: Briefly summarize any preliminary work accomplished for your project and/or the course work and other experience you have had that demonstrates your capacity to complete your project successfully. Suggested length: 150 words.
  5. Final Products and Dissemination Plan: Indicate what the resulting product of your research will be and how this product will be disseminated or shared with others. Examples of final products include a paper submitted for publication, a conference presentation, a software application, a web site, or a performance or other event. Suggested length: 75 words.
  6. IRB/IACUC statement: Please indicate whether your proposal requires IRB or IACUC approval.Most research involving contact with human subjects (i.e., interviews or surveys) requires IRB approval. Most research involving animal subjects must be approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). For more information about IRB requirements, please visit the IRB guide for students and faculty. For more information about research involving animal subjects, please visit the IACUC webpage.This statement is required for all proposals; if your project does not require IRB approval you must state that explicitly. 
  7. Word Count: At the end of section (6), please include a word count of sections (1) through (6). List it as “Total word count: ##”. Sections (1) through (6) must total less than 1200 words.
  8. References: Provide a list of the references you cited in your proposal. References are not included in the 1200 word limit. You can use whatever citation style is standard in your discipline.
  9. Figures and Tables: Figures and tables are not required as part of your written proposal. However, if you choose to include figures or tables, please number them sequentially and refer to them in the text by the appropriate number (e.g., Figure 1, Figure 2, etc). Place these after the references.  Do not embed figures and tables in the body of the proposal (i.e. sections 1-5). Do not include more than a combined total of 3 figures and tables.  Figures and tables are not included in the word limit.

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Letter of Support from the faculty advisor

The letter of support must be written and submitted by the faculty research advisor who will oversee the research project. The letter of support should include:

  • The advisor’s assessment of the potential significance of your project
  • A review of your qualifications to carry out the project as well as any academic or professional weaknesses that may interfere with your ability to complete the research project
  • If your research is part of a larger project, the letter should indicate what aspect of the larger project will be set aside for your own independent research
  • A statement noting whether or not the project requires or has already received IRB or IACUC approval

Formatting requirements:

  • The letter of support must be written on departmental letterhead in double-spaced 12-point font
  • The letter should be saved as a .pdf and titled “LastNameFirstNameSURFYearLetter,” where “Lastname” and “Firstname” are the student’s names and “year” is the current calendar year with four digits (20xx), for example, “WashingtonTonySURF2017Letter.”
  • The letter should be submitted as an attachment to our@unc.edu. All recommendation content must be in the .pdf; content included in the body of the email will not be seen or considered by the review committee.

Faculty advisors are strongly encouraged to review the SURF Rubric used by the selection committee.

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Transcript

You must submit a copy of your official UNC transcript from the Registrar’s Office with your grades through the end of the Fall semester. Please note that the Registrar’s Office requests a minimum turn-around time of two weeks; order your transcript early.

The transcript may be sent directly, electronically or by mail. If you choose to bring it yourself it must arrive in the official sealed envelope. Follow these instructions if you want to send your transcript electronically.

Bring or send physical transcripts to:
The Office for Undergraduate Research
c/o SURF Program
Room 221 Graham Memorial
CB # 2800
Chapel Hill, NC 27599

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Letter of Support (optional)

Some projects require the support from individuals and/or organizations who will provide you with access to essential resources for your research.  If your research requires support from an individual or organization, please provide a letter of support from that individual or organization.

This letter does not replace the required letter from your advisor described above.

Letters should clearly indicate the student’s name and the organization’s or individual’s willingness to work with the student on the named project. These letters should be sent as .pdf attachments to our@unc.edu.

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Review & Selection Process

A multidisciplinary faculty committee will meet to select the SURF recipients based on the written application and the recommendation letter(s). The committee will assess each proposal based on the criteria described in this SURF Rubric. The committee aims to have a balance of disciplines represented, and also a balance of students at all stages of their academic careers. Once the SURF selection committee has chosen which projects to fund, a sub-committee of the Honors Carolina Faculty Advisory Board will select the Taylor Fellowship recipients from the group of successful SURF applicants. All applicants will be notified via e-mail of the SURF selection committee’s decision by April 15.

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