How to Apply
Information for Recommenders
Information for Supervisors and Mentors
Criteria for Review and Selection
Forms and Materials
Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF) Awards support University of Connecticut full-time undergraduate students in summer research or creative projects.
SURF awards are available to students in all majors at all UConn campuses. SURF project proposals are reviewed by a faculty committee representing various Schools and Colleges, and SURF award recipients are chosen through a competitive process.
The maximum total amount awarded for SURF awards is $4,500 ($4,000 stipend for the student researcher and up to $500 for consumables associated with the research project).
SURF Project Examples
Past SURF recipients have studied transcatheter aortic valves, the concept of nation in selected literature, artists’ books, and runners’ post-race thermoregulatory responses. Get inspired: read about the 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012 SURF awardees’ projects.
To be eligible to apply for a SURF Award for summer 2023, students must:
- Currently be pursuing a bachelor’s degree at UConn, and plan to graduate with that bachelor’s degree no earlier than December 2023. This includes students pursuing Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of General Studies, Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Science in Engineering, and Bachelor of Social Work degrees.
- Be in good academic standing.
- Be supervised by a UConn faculty member. (You don’t have to conduct all of your project activities on campus, but someone at UConn must be actively engaged in the supervision of your work.)
- Agree to present SURF-funded project findings at a Frontiers in Undergraduate Research poster exhibition in October 2023 or April 2024.
- Have not received a SURF award in a previous year. (Only one SURF award may be used by an undergraduate during their UConn undergraduate years.)
The 2023 SURF Application will open in late November 2022. The deadline to submit a complete application is Monday, January 30, 2023 at 11:59pm.
The OUR expects to issue SURF Award offers in early March 2023. Awards must be accepted by April 10, 2023. Students selected for SURF awards must submit a summary report of research activities to the OUR via online form no later than August 31, 2023.
How to Apply
The 2023 SURF Application will open in late November 2022. The deadline to submit a complete application is Monday, January 30, 2023 at 11:59pm. Students will submit their application through the Quest portal. For guidance on how to use the new application management system, please review the Quest Portal User Tips.
Application Process: Your application will be submitted online and you will have the opportunity to upload a PDF document that presents your project in detail as well as a timeline and budget. Get started by reviewing our detailed information on preparing a successful application, which includes all of the information that will be collected in the online application and what you should include in your PDF proposal document, timeline, and budget. All weeks of summer research must be completed between May 8 and August 25, 2023. Note that if you are proposing international travel as part of your SURF project, you will be required to answer an additional set of questions concerning your preparation to conduct research or creative work abroad. A list of the International Travel Questions is available on page 6 of the SURF Application Outline.
Plan to spend time working through your proposal, budget, and timeline on your own and in conversation with your faculty advisor and other mentors. Starting early and planning ahead will make the process a lot less stressful!
Please be aware that the final question on the application will ask you to certify that you have prepared your application materials in accordance with University standards for academic integrity. Learn more about academic integrity.
If you have questions about the SURF award program or the application process, contact the Office of Undergraduate Research at (860) 486-7939, firstname.lastname@example.org, or schedule an appointment with an OUR Advisor via Nexus under “Enrichment Programs.”
Information for Recommenders
The UConn Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF) supports University of Connecticut full-time undergraduate students who are engaged in summer research or creative projects under the supervision of a University of Connecticut faculty member.
The strongest SURF applications are those that are written by the student with the guidance and support of the faculty advisor. While the writing of the proposal should be done by the student, the faculty advisor may offer comments and feedback on the research project proposal and references. The faculty advisor should also review the applicant’s budget and timeline for feasibility and accuracy.
Students must include two letters of recommendation from faculty members. It is the student’s responsibility to contact these individuals, discuss the final SURF proposal, and secure their willingness to complete and submit the letters of recommendation by the deadline. Faculty recommendations will be collected electronically. The Information Sheet for Faculty Recommenders lists the topics each recommender should address and outlines the procedure for submitting letters.
Faculty advisors, please address the following items in your letters of recommendation for SURF applicants:
- Your knowledge of and familiarity with the research or creative project.
- Your role in the project. Is this a project that was created by the student and you are serving as an advisor? Or is this a component of a larger project that is part of your ongoing research/creative activity? In the latter case, the committee seeks evidence that the student has contributed to the design and development of the component serving as the SURF project.
- Your evaluation of the student’s academic and personal traits which would contribute to a successful SURF experience.
- Your assessment of the student’s chances for success and why the student’s project proposal would be important to the field and to the student’s development as a scholar.
- Your plan for supervision and mentorship of the student, including your ability and availability to commit to advising this student throughout the project. If you will be working in a different location from this student, please address your plan for communicating with and supervising this student from a distance.
Faculty members writing the second letter of recommendation for students, please address the following items in your letters of recommendation for SURF applicants:
- For how long and in what context(s) you have known the student, as well as your knowledge of and familiarity with the student’s academic qualifications for this award.
- The quality of the student’s proposal and the contributions the student’s research or creative project might make to his/her field.
- Your estimation of the student’s personal characteristics that would contribute to a successful SURF experience.
- Your assessment of how this award would be important to the student’s development as a scholar.
Note: Normally, the first letter of recommendation will come from a UConn faculty member who is supervising the SURF project. Occasionally, SURF proposals will be approved for research to be done at another institution under the supervision of someone who is not a UConn faculty member. These occasional exceptions to the normal rule will only be approved if (1) the faculty member elsewhere has a close research relationship with UConn (e.g., a shared grant or a cross-institutional affiliation) and (2) the project will have a secondary supervisor who is a UConn faculty member and that individual provides the second letter of recommendation.
DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION
Students will request letters via the online application system (quest.uconn.edu). Faculty should follow the link emailed to them in order to upload their letter of recommendation (message from UConn Quest Portal [email@example.com], subject line “Request for recommendation”). If the student has initiated the letter request, but you cannot locate the email, you can still submit your recommendation via the Quest Portal. Go to the main Quest Portal page, click “Log In” in the top right, select “UConn Single Sign-on” and log in with your netID and password; you should then see the recommendation task to complete.
Letters should be submitted online no later than Monday, January 30, 2023. Please note that project advisors will also be asked a series of questions about the status of research compliance approvals when they submit their letters of recommendation.
Any questions or concerns about recommendations should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also contact OUR by calling 860-486-7939 – we are happy to answer any questions you might have!
Information for Supervisors and Mentors
Effective supervision is a key factor in a successful SURF experience. Students benefit from the guidance of their mentors when they learn new techniques, encounter and seek to overcome roadblocks, work to interpret their findings, and map out next steps. We recommend that SURF recipients and their faculty supervisors discuss when and how they will communicate (e.g., in person, via Skype, via telephone, via email updates) over the course of the student’s work on the project. These advance arrangements are particularly important when the student and mentor will be working in different locations.
Criteria for Review and Selection
All SURF applications are reviewed by a committee of faculty members representing various Schools and Colleges at UConn. Primary and secondary reviewers with expertise related to the student’s proposal are assigned to each SURF application.
The review committee uses the Rubric for SURF Applications to assess proposed projects. Applicants are encouraged to review the rubric as they draft and revise their application materials to ensure that they meet the criteria associated with strong proposals.
Recommendations to fund SURF project proposals are made by the SURF faculty review committee. All projects are reviewed based on the following criteria:
Project Description: The proposal identifies a motivating idea, problem, and/or question. It presents a project design with specificity about procedures and methods, including the analytic approach.
Significance: The proposal synthesizes existing, related research or creative work and situates the project within the broader scholarly or creative field.
Goals and Outcomes: The goals of the project are articulated, with specific and attainable products (e.g., presentations, publications, other appropriate outcomes) described.
Feasibility: The budget is clear, appropriate for the project, and consistent with SURF budget policies. The timeline is realistic, detailed, and consistent with the project activities described in the proposal.
Application Quality: The application materials are well written and well organized, presenting the project in a way that is understandable to a professional outside of the project discipline.
Faculty Recommendations: Recommendations provide a positive assessment of the significance of the project, the educational value of the project for the student, and the student’s ability to undertake the project. The faculty mentor describes a plan for supervising and mentoring the student during the summer project.
Student Role in the Project: The student will play a central role in project activities, including analysis and dissemination of findings. A higher score is assigned in cases in which the student had creative input in the project’s development.
Student Qualifications: The application materials indicate that the student is well qualified and adequately prepared to carry out the proposed project.
Project Significance for the Student: The application demonstrates significance of the project to the student’s academic studies, future professional aspirations, and/or personal goals. The student’s life experience, background, and/or goals indicate high potential for the summer experience to be transformative.
Overall Impression: The application presents a coherent and compelling project, involving a well-qualified student in a high-potential, well-planned endeavor.
I have already received another award from OUR. Can I still apply for SURF?
If you have previously accepted a SURF award, you cannot apply for a second SURF award. If you were offered a SURF award and declined it, you may reapply for a SURF award.
You may not receive a SURF award and a Health Research Program summer stipend concurrently. If you are offered and accept a Summer 2023 Health Research Program opportunity, you are expected to contact OUR in order to withdraw your Summer 2023 SURF application from consideration.
You may not receive a SURF award and a UConn IDEA Grant concurrently. If you are offered and accept a Summer 2023 UConn IDEA Grant, you are expected to contact OUR in order to withdraw your Summer 2023 SURF application from consideration.
BOLD Scholars may not receive a SURF award during the summer they complete their BOLD service/leadership project (between their 3rd and 4th undergraduate years).
Beyond the situations described above, receipt of OUR awards does not affect your eligibility for SURF.
Does receiving a SURF award affect my eligibility for other OUR awards?
OUR policy restricts students to a maximum of $1,000 in supply awards over a single year (with the year beginning in the summer and ending with the spring semester). This means that if you receive a SURF award for summer 2022 that includes $500 in support for research expenses, you may only receive an additional $500 in supply support during academic year 2022-23 through an OUR Supply Award. Beyond that restriction on supply funding, receiving a SURF award does not otherwise affect your eligibility for other OUR awards.
Can I receive a SURF award in addition to other research funding?
SURF awardees cannot receive additional support from any other funding source that would duplicate the fiscal support from SURF (support for living expenses during SURF project weeks and the research expenses covered by the SURF Award).
However, we would be happy to work with you to maximize the research support you can receive over the full summer period. For example, SURF awardees who are also McNair Scholars have structured their summer research timelines such that specific weeks are covered by SURF funding and the remaining weeks are covered by McNair funding, but these two funding sources do not overlap. The guiding principle is that there cannot be duplication between the financial support received from SURF and from other programs, including the McNair Scholars program, IBACS summer grants, the MARC Scholar program, Presidential Scholars enrichment awards, and departmental undergraduate research funding programs. Please contact the Office of Undergraduate Research at email@example.com or make a SURF advising appointment if you would like to discuss your specific situation.
I’m completing my degree requirements over the summer. Can I get a SURF award?
No. SURF award recipients must plan to graduate no earlier than December 2023 and students graduating in December 2023 will be expected to present their projects at Fall Frontiers in October 2023.
If I receive a SURF award, can I enroll in a summer course?
UConn offers a number of different summer sessions that vary in duration. We recommend that you pursue no more than 3 credits of coursework simultaneously with your SURF project. You may elect to schedule your SURF weeks so as not to overlap with weeks when you will be completing summer coursework, or you may elect to adjust your time commitment to SURF during those weeks. Regardless of the approach you take, you must account for your enrollment plans in your project timeline. If offered a SURF award, you will be asked to indicate your summer enrollment plans (if any) and your advisor must initial to indicate his/her awareness and approval of these plans.
I know I want to do part of my research abroad, but haven’t decided what country I want to travel to; do I need to know this before I apply?
Yes, you do. Those students proposing international travel as part of their SURF applications will need to answer additional questions about how they determined that the country (or countries) to which they intend to travel is appropriate for the project, their plans for navigating language barriers (if applicable), and intended travel and living arrangements while in country. Please see our section on International Travel for further information.
My project supervisor is based at UConn Health. Does s/he qualify as a faculty supervisor?
Yes, UConn Health faculty can supervise SURF projects.
I know that another student working with my advisor is also applying for a SURF Award. Does this hurt my chances? Can a single faculty member advise more than one SURF awardee?
The review committee’s evaluation of your SURF application focuses on the quality of the proposal, the strength of your qualifications, and your recommenders’ support of both you and the project. Your chances of receiving a SURF award are not affected by the number of other applicants working under the same faculty advisor. Faculty advisors may supervise more than one SURF awardee.
My recommender is unable to submit his or her letter by the application deadline – does this hurt my chances of getting a SURF Award?
Applicants are encouraged to speak with recommenders early in the process, allowing them ample time to write and submit letters of recommendation. We understand that extenuating circumstances and busy schedules can make it difficult for recommenders to submit letters by the deadline. Applicants need to make every effort to ensure letters are submitted and their application is complete by the deadline. To ensure fairness to all applicants, complete applications will receive priority consideration for funding.
Do my recommenders both need to be faculty members? I would like to have a postdoctoral scholar (or graduate student, or staff member, or other non-faculty recommender) write a letter on my behalf.
Your faculty advisor (and 1st recommender) must be a full-time member of the UConn faculty. The preference of the review committee is for both letters to come from faculty members. If you feel that a non-faculty recommender is better able to speak to the topics to be addressed in the second recommendation letter (see the Information Sheet for Faculty Recommenders for more detail), you may elect to ask that person to submit a letter on your behalf, but please be aware that this might be a point of concern for reviewers.
Can I start my project in the spring semester and continue it into the fall semester?
Yes, your SURF project can be part of longer-term involvement in research or creative activity. In preparing your SURF application, it is important that you articulate the goals and outcomes specific to the summer portion of the larger project and build your timeline and budget to reflect the milestones and costs of your summer work.
Can I use all or part of the $500 in research expense funding to compensate participants?
Yes, participant compensation is an allowable use of research expense funding. You will need to submit a copy of the approved IRB protocol that delineates the plan for compensating participants. The amount you request must be consistent with that compensation plan and the number of participants you have indicated you expect during the period of the SURF project. It is important that you keep records and receipts, per IRB guidelines, in order to document these payments.
I have questions about SURF; is there someone I can speak with?
If you have questions about SURF or the application process, contact the Office of Undergraduate Research at firstname.lastname@example.org or schedule an appointment via Nexus under “Enrichment Programs.”
I was not selected to receive a SURF Award. Can you tell me why?
OUR staff are available to meet with applicants to provide feedback about the strengths and weaknesses the review committee identified in their proposals. We will not provide rubrics, scores, or name the reviewers of particular proposals.
Forms and Materials
Information Sheet for Students on Letters of Recommendation
Information Sheet for Faculty Recommenders
SURF Awards: Preparing a Successful Application (web)
SURF Awards: Budget Tips and Samples (web)
SURF Awards: Sample Timelines (web)