Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship

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The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program is one of many programs administrated through OUR and designed to enhance the educational experience of undergraduates by engaging them in research opportunities. The SURF program is made possible by funding from many campus units. Please visit the SURF contributors link on this website to read more about the many contributors to this program.


All full-time undergraduates who are enrolled in baccalaureate programs at UNC-Chapel Hill and who are in good academic standing are eligible to apply. To be awarded a SURF, undergraduates must also be enrolled in both the semester before (Spring) and semester after (Fall) completion of the SURF.

SURF recipients are expected to engage in undergraduate research, scholarship, or performance for at least 9 weeks, with a minimum of 20 hours/week during the summer (May-August). Please note that some projects may require more than the minimum of 20 hours/week. SURF projects must be carried out under the supervision of a UNC-Chapel Hill faculty research advisor, and additional collaboration with a postdoctoral fellow or graduate student mentor is encouraged.

Students are encouraged to apply for both the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship and the Summer Award for Research-Intensive Courses, but must accept only one of these awards for the same summer.

Morehead-Cain Scholars, Robertson Scholars and McNair Scholars are not eligible to apply for SURF as they already receive support for research experiences during the summer and are expected to fully engage in required summer components of their programs. Students who receive funding to participate in other summer experiences (e.g., BURCH, SEAS, Chancellor’s Science Scholars, Class of 1938 Fellowship, NASA) may not accept SURF funding for the same summer.

In coordination with Excel@Carolina, the Carolina Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (C-SURFs) program provides a small group of incoming first-year students the opportunity to apply for a SURF and receive $5,000 for their research project. The typical SURF award is for $3,000. Students who are eligible for C-SURFs must apply for a SURF following the guidelines in the “Applying for a SURF” section below. All C-SURF applications will be reviewed as part of the standard SURF selection process. Eligibility for a C-SURF does not guarantee funding; proposals submitted by C-SURF applicants must be ranked Level 1 by the Faculty Selection Committee for the C-SURF to be awarded. If you have questions about the C-SURF program, please refer to Frequently Asked Questions about the C-SURF.

Students wishing to submit a proposal for an Honors Carolina SURF should follow the instructions on this page and submit their materials to the Office for Undergraduate Research. All successful SURF applicants who are in Honors Carolina will be considered for a Taylor award. Students whose projects qualify for the Pine Tree Fund SURFs should also follow the standard instructions for submission; successful applicants with appropriate projects will be considered for a Pine Tree Fund SURF. Students who are interested in being considered for Frances Ferris Hall Fellowship funding should follow the standard instructions for submission; successful applicants with appropriate projects will be considered for that funding.

Each student may submit only ONE SURF application per year. Students who have received a SURF award in previous years are not eligible to apply.

Anticipated Number and Amount of Awards:

We expect to make at least 60 individual awards of $3,000 each. Selected students will receive $2,000 at the start of the summer, and the remainder of the award ($1,000) after they have submitted the required final materials and the materials are approved by OUR.

Students whose projects are related to women in the American South will be considered for the Frances Ferris Hall Fellowship. The FFHF funding will be included in the standard SURF funding. Selected students will receive $2,000 at the start of the summer and the remainder of the award ($1,000) after they have submitted the required final materials and the materials are approved by OUR.

Honors Carolina expects to make at least 8 Taylor Fellowship awards of $4,000 each. Taylor Fellowship recipients will receive $3000 at the start of the summer, with the remainder awarded after the required final materials have been submitted and approved by OUR.

The Program in Sexuality Studies expects to make at least two Pine Tree Fund SURF awards of $4,000 each for work in LGBTQ studies. Pine Tree Fund SURF recipients will receive $4,000 at the start of the summer. Students are required to submit final materials for OUR approval.

If a graduate student will be involved in mentoring the undergraduate, then the grad student should be encouraged to apply for the Graduate Student Mentor Award. If a postdoctoral fellow will be involved in the mentoring, then s/he should be encouraged to apply for the Postdoctoral Scholar Award for Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduates.

Proposal Development:

You must identify a suitable and willing faculty research advisor for your work. 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 2015. No Peer Writing Advisors will be assigned after February 15, 2017.

Applying for a SURF

Application Materials:

There are four required parts to a complete application. All parts, including the optional letter of support, must be received by Thursday, February 23, 2017 at 4:00 pm.

  1. (required) The online application, which includes 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.
  2. (required) The written proposal must be submitted by email to Please submit your proposal in .pdf form and name it “LastNameFirstNameSURFYearProposal,” where LastName and FirstName reflect your name, and year is the current calendar year with four digits (20xx). The written proposal should be typed in 12-point font and double-spaced. Sections (1) through (9) of the written proposal should be a maximum of 1200 words. We have included suggested word lengths for each section, but these may differ by discipline. With clearly labeled headings, please include the following in the written proposal:
    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. 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. This statement is required for all proposals. 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.
    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.
  3. (required) A letter of support from the faculty research advisor who will oversee the research project. The letter of support should include your advisor’s assessment of the potential significance of your project and a review of your qualifications to carry out the project. In addition the letter should address any academic weaknesses. 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. All letters of support must include a statement noting whether or not your project requires or has IRB or IACUC approval. Finally, the letter of support should be written on departmental letterhead, saved in .pdf format and named “LastNameFirstNameSURFYearLetter,” where LastName and FirstName are the student’s name and year is the current calendar year with four digits (20xx). Letters should be submitted by email to Note: Faculty advisors are encouraged to review the SURF Rubric used by the selection committee.
  4. (required) A copy of your official UNC transcript from the Registrar’s Office. 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 or hand-delivered to Graham Memorial 221 but it must arrive in the official sealed envelope. You must follow these instructions if you want to send your transcript electronically.
  5. (optional) A letter of support from a sponsoring agency or organization.  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.

All parts of the application must be received by Thursday, February 23, 2017 at 4:00 p.m. 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.

Format Requirements:
  1. Your written statement and faculty letter of support should be double-spaced.
  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. Please do NOT include a cover page, Appendix materials, separate CV, or budget.
  3. You must adhere to the 1200 word limit on parts (a) through (f), and to the limit of 3 figures/tables.
Application Submission:

Please complete the on-line application, submit your proposal via email, and then bring or have your transcript delivered to:

The Office for Undergraduate Research
c/o SURF Program
Room 221 Graham Memorial
CB # 2800

Faculty should submit letters of support via email to

The deadline for receipt of all materials is Thursday, February 23, 2017 at 4:00 p.m.

After Application

Selection Process:

A multidisciplinary faculty committee will meet to select the SURF recipients based on the written application and the faculty research advisor’s recommendation letter. The committee will assess each proposal based on the criteria described in this SURF Rubric. The committee also 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.

Acceptance Checklist:

Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships are paid in two installments, one at the beginning of the summer, and one at the end. In order to process your first payment, we must receive all required items listed on checklist #1.

Final Payment Checklist:

In order to process your second payment at the end of the summer, we must receive all required items listed on checklist #2.

Reporting Requirements:

Upon completion of their SURF, successful applicants must: (1) submit a summary statement and evaluation, (2) submit a PowerPoint presentation for display on the OUR website, and (3) present their project at UNC’s Annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research.

For details about the submission process, read the post-project submission checklist. To view previous PowerPoint presentations submitted by SURF recipients, please visit the Past Student Projects page.

Finally, successful applicants should acknowledge support from the Office for Undergraduate Research in any publications or presentations resulting from the project. Please see our guidelines for acknowledging OUR support for information on formatting acknowledgments.