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Preparing for and Conducting SURF Research Projects

This page is for students who have received funding for a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). Once you receive funding for a SURF, there are additional steps you need to take to prepare for your research and fulfill the requirements of the SURF.

  1. Apply for an IRB or IRB extension (if necessary).
  2. Submit required materials to begin your SURF by 4:00 PM on Friday, April 22. If not received by this deadline you forfeit your SURF award.
  3. Prepare for your research summer.
  4. Receive payment around May 31.
  5. Conduct research for at least 20 hours a week for 9 weeks.
  6. Submit end of summer documents to OUR between August 5 and August 26.
  7. OUR staff will review your end of summer documents from (6) and request necessary additions or edits.
  8. Present at the Celebration of Undergraduate Research the following Spring and (optional) attend the fall reception to be honored for your research and talk to new students who are interested in research at Carolina.

Prior to beginning your work, we need the items listed below that constitute your program acceptance packet. Please follow the links below, complete the forms, obtain all necessary signatures, assemble your complete acceptance packet (this will include 3-6 forms depending on your project), and email to Dr. Troy Blackburn.

In order to process your payment, we must receive all required items listed below by Friday, April 22. You should receive your funds by May 31.


  1. Award Acceptance and Personal Data Sheet (all projects)
  2. Waiver of liability form (all projects) anyone can sign as your witness for this form.
  3. IRB Approval (for projects involving Human Subjects): please provide a copy of the notification you receive from the IRB. We recognize that IRB approval may not be received by the 4/22 deadline for submitting your acceptance packet. In those cases, please submit the IRB determination as soon as you receive it by emailing it to Troy Blackburn at Please note that we cannot release your fellowship payment without IRB approval.
  4. International travel liability waiver (for projects involving travel abroad). Please include a copy of your complete travel itinerary.
  5. Travel Contact Form (for projects involving travel abroad)
  6. If your study involves international travel, please note that as of March 24, 2022 the ban on University-affiliated travel is still in effect. Per University guidance “Undergraduate University-affiliated international travel outside study abroad is currently prohibited. Exceptions may be requested for travel in cases in which a student needs to fulfill a distinguishing academic or professional credential or qualification, such as advanced language study, thesis research requiring access to an archive only available in another country, or other academic purpose essential to an advanced multi-year academic program. More information about the international travel approval process can be found here.
  7. Photographs and Photo Releases. A signed photo and video release is required for every identifiable person in photographs that you provide in your final materials to OUR. As we require a photograph of you in your final project, you should submit your photo release now and make extra copies as necessary for your research.  Anyone can sign as your witness for this form.

  1. Travel and Study Abroad Insurance
    Risk management Services provides a Travel and Study Abroad Insurance Program available to students, faculty and their families while traveling abroad. In the event of injury or sickness, this program facilitates and pays for their medical treatment while in the foreign country. Another program benefit includes medical evacuation services if there are not adequate medical facilities within close proximity. To obtain coverage, please contact Janet Hoernke, Risk Management Specialist, at This policy costs about $1/day. OUR highly recommends that students traveling internationally take advantage of this coverage.
  2. Student Internship Liability Insurance
    Risk Management Services provides a Student Internship Liability Insurance Program to campus departments in order to protect their interning students. Our student interns are put into professional settings and given professional responsibilities. However, in many situations, they may not have professional liability insurance protection. A student intern also can be subject to a malpractice claim. For more information, please contact Steve Kenny, Director of Risk Management Services ( or 919-962-7360).
  3. Tax Considerations
    Your award is a fellowship, it is NOT a payment for services. You will not receive a W-2, but you may receive a 1099-MISC from UNC-Chapel Hill reporting your fellowship. For more information, please consult IRS Publication 970.

Now that you know you have received SURF funding, it’s time to expand on the plan you made in your proposal to ensure a smooth process.

Every SURF project is different. Working with your faculty advisor throughout the process is critical for a positive experience. Make sure that you and your advisor have a clear timeline, plans for communicating and checking in about your project, and expectations for when and how you will do your research.

You may need to get special training, learn to use equipment, or order materials. Doing these things before the summer starts will give you flexibility if something goes wrong. You don’t want your whole project thrown off if an archive is closed temporarily or a supply is backordered!

At the End of the Summer

You must submit the following documents to OUR to complete the terms of your research fellowship. Follow the instructions carefully; documents that do not provide information in the required format and style will not be approved.

Send one email to with the subject line “year program materials” (where “year”=current year and “program”=name of the fellowship, i.e., “2020 SURF materials”).

Each attached document should be saved with the following title format: “year_Lastname_Firstname_SURFitemname.” For example, “2020_Liu_James_SURFreflection” or “2020_Khairat_Omar_SURFslidedeck.”

All materials must be submitted between August 3 and August 20.

Please note: Al items have to be approved, not just received, by OUR. In many cases, the Final reflection and/or PowerPoint requires editing before approval, so it is in your best interest to submit your materials early.

1. Final Reflection Prepare a reflective, one-page reflection addressing the following:

      • What did you learn about the research process through your summer research experience?
      • What, if anything, would you do differently?
      • What, if anything, surprised you about your summer research experience?
      • How has this research experience affected your interests and career goals?
      • What suggestions would you give to a student applying for a SURF in the future?

This should be submitted as a Microsoft Word file (1-inch margins, 12 pt. Times New Roman font, single-spaced). Please include your name and the title at the top of your reflection.


2. PowerPoint Slide Deck Prepare a three-slide PowerPoint slide deck designed to be understood by a GENERAL AUDIENCE (i.e., your friends and family, or high school seniors preparing to enter Carolina), which we will post on the OUR website. Use this format:

    • Slide #1:
      • Project title
      • Student’s name and major
      • Faculty advisor and faculty’s Dept.
      • Photo(s). These photos are used for publicity about students’ research. The photo should provide a clear view of the student’s face. In addition, the photo should help portray the student’s research. For example, a student researching water quality in the Neuse river might show himself or herself with an image of the river in the background; a student studying in a historical archive might take a picture of herself or himself in or in front of the archive; or a student researching dance performance might show himself or herself dancing. If this is a joint project with another student then you both may be in the photo with a caption indicating the name of each student.

If your project makes it difficult to take an action shot that shows your face and your research at the same time, you may submit two photos: one showing your research in progress, and a second photo for a headshot.

    • Slide #2:

Make sure to use vocabulary appropriate for a general audience. This is not intended to be the same kind of PowerPoint you would present at a meeting of people in your field or to your advisor.

    • What is your research question?
    • Why does your research question matter?
    • Slide #3:

As with Slide #2, you must make sure your vocabulary and phrasing would be understood by the average person. Avoid jargon, unspecified abbreviations, and subject-specific terminology (unless you define it on the slide).

    • What are your results?
    • Why are your results important to your scholarly or research community?
    • Why are your results important to a general audience?

To get an idea of what we need, you can view past projects elsewhere on this website.

3. Evaluation Complete the SURF evaluation after all materials have been submitted.

4. Faculty approvals Ask your faculty advisor to review your PowerPoint slide deck prior to submitting them. We strongly recommend that you send them the description of the requirements listed above along with your PowerPonts slide deck. Before we can issue your final check, we need your faculty advisor to send an email message to with the current year and name of your program and “approval” (i.e. 20xx SURF approval) in the subject line. They must include the following text in the body of the message: “I have reviewed __________ (student’s name) PowerPoint slide deck and I approve of the content. The PowerPoint summary is suitable for display for general audiences on the OUR website.”

5. Upload your Power Point slides to The Carolina Digital Repository (CDR).  CDR is a secure digital home for the scholarly work of the Carolina community. When you deposit your articles, book chapters, data sets, media files and more in the CDR, we provide stable access for the long term. You decide who gets access – from a few colleagues to the entire world. The University Libraries will do the rest, making sure your work is findable, searchable and available to the audiences you specify.

Last Requirements: Spring Celebration of Undergraduate Research

Part of your responsibility as a SURF recipient is to share your work with the UNC Community. Accordingly, we will be expecting you to present research at the 2023 UNC-Chapel Hill Celebration of Undergraduate Research Symposium which occurs each year in late April.

The PowerPoint you submit will be posted publicly online. If your mentor would like any results to be withheld for any amount of time, please let us know, and we will not post your PowerPoint online until given permission. (We need to be notified of this when you send your materials.) We will also pull anonymous quotes from the summary and evaluation for promotional materials and for donors.

Optional Items

  1. Carolina Research Scholar Program
    This program offers several ways for undergraduates to contribute to a community of research, scholarship and creative performance at UNC-Chapel Hill. Participants will be invited to receive appropriate training and serve as peer advisors. Participants will also be invited to register for the OUR Speaker’s Bureau and talk about their experiences during Sophomore Reorientation and other campus venues. Students meeting program requirements will receive the designation “Carolina Research Scholar” on their transcripts.