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Applying for a SURF

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.

Please review all the information below before accessing the application at the bottom of this page. All materials must be submitted by February 1, 2024 by 11:59pm EDT. Note that you must start the application process earlier to ensure that your faculty recommendations are notified of their role ahead of the February 1st deadline. We will email SURF applicants by February 10th to confirm receipt of your materials. Due to the volume of applications, we may not be able to confirm application status until that time.

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

  1. Online Application
  2. PDF of UNC Transcript (included in online application)
  3. Project Proposal
  4. Research Advisor Letter of Support for your research including how they will contribute to your research and what expertise they have in the area.
  5. Optional: Letter of Support from Partnering Organization(s)

Please review all the available resources below as you plan and write your SURF application. 

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 transcripts at least two weeks in advance as these materials must be received by the deadline above.

You should request a PDF of your transcript through Connect Carolina and upload the PDF into the application portal.

You must identify a suitable and willing faculty research advisor for your work. Faculty members must be available to advise you on the following 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. However, 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.

Human and Animal Research: 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 our IRB guide.  You may also want to attend a IRB Pop-up session to help determine if your proposed research will require IRB approval. For more information about research involving animal subjects, please visit the IACUC webpage.  if your project does not require IRB approval you must state that explicitly. It is strongly advised that if you think your proposal will require IRB or IACUC approval that you start the process as soon as you submit your SURF proposal so that you have the approval by May 1st should your proposal be funded because we cannot disburse your funding until we receive your IRB or IACUC approval. 

International Travel: Any SURF project that involves international travel will need to be approved by the University. Effective February 21, 2023, undergraduate international travel outside a study abroad program has resumed through a new, centralized process administered by the College of Arts and Sciences (for all undergraduate students regardless of school or college). Undergraduate students may initiate a request for approval of their independent education abroad activities through the HeelsAbroad portal administered by the Study Abroad Office. A complete request for approval must be submitted no later than 30 days prior to the student’s departure date, and you must share your approval with the Office for Undergraduate Research before we can allocate you any SURF funding.

The online application will open on November 15th, 2023. The application asks for information about the student, faculty advisor, and the project title (100 character maximum). The online application requests information on scholarships and other awards that you have received at Carolina or have applied to receive for the same summer. You will also use the online application system to upload your proposal, upload a PDF of your UNC transcript, and request a letter of support from your research advisor who will then receive an email from heelsabroad with a link to upload their letter of support. Be sure to inform your research advisor that you have named them as the recommender for your SURF application and to look for an email from heelsabroad.

  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. Sections (1) through (6) must total no more than 1200 words, and you may not include more than 3 figures/tables/images. Figures/tables/images should be imbedded within the text of the proposal and not added to the end of the proposal.
  4. 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.

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 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 or IACUC 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. This word count does not include your figure legends.
    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 embed them in the text. Do not include more than a combined total of 3 figures and tables. Figures and tables are not included in the word limit.

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 name and “year” is the current calendar year with four digits (20xx), for example, “WashingtonTonySURF2017Letter.”

Faculty advisors should review the SURF Faculty Advising requirements and the SURF Rubric used by the selection committee.

Once you have input your faculty advisor’s information into the recommendations portion of the application (which you should do well ahead of the deadline), they will automatically receive an email from heelsabroad with a link to upload their letter. Please inform your research mentor that the email will come from heelsabroad.

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.

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.