How to Apply-Undergraduate Research Office - Carnegie Mellon University

SURF: How to Apply


All students and advisors connected to a SURF must REGISTER. When registering, please update any incorrect or missing information in your profile.  When registering, please also update any incorrect or missing information in your profile.

Please note:  All faculty advisors and students on group projects must be added by the student initiating the project registration.  You MUST use their ANDREW ID to enter those individuals.  ID exchanges will not enable you to apply (i.e.;; cmu.sei.cmu;, etc.)  Use of the online application required WebISO authentication for each applicant. 

The Application

Your application is your chance to tell us about your proposed research, why it's significant, and how well you are prepared to undertake such a project.  All parts of your application must be submitted online.  Once you have submitted online, your advisor will receive an email prompt to submit the letter of collaboration.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Be in good academic standing (not on probation, leave of absence or suspension.)
  • Have a minimum 3.0 GPA in the prior fall semester.
  • Enrollment at Carnegie Mellon as an undergraduate during the academic year of application (alumni are not eligible the summer following graduation.)
  • Work with a Carnegie Mellon faculty mentor.
  • Conduct research on-campus (SURF is not intended to support research at other institutions outside of Pittsburgh or study abroad; travel for specific and limited research purposes is allowed with prior permission from the URO.)
  • Commit fulltime to the research position—SURF is in lieu of a job; students work regular hours and submit time cards through their home departments.

Components of Application

  • Proposal - 3 pages maximum. (NO BUDGET IS REQUIRED FOR SURF.)
    Please follow the guidelines on the URO website for Type I and Type II proposals. You may submit either type, but you must follow the structure laid out by the URO.
  • Biography - 1 page maximum.
    Please use this biography to tell us about yourself.  Feel free to be creative - introduce us to your background and your interests - even those that may take you beyond your formal education and your research interests.  These can include hobbies, travels, family background, what it was like to grow up in your hometown, athletics, and/or service interests.  Or, if there is a compelling story that can explain why you chose to go in a particular direction, this can also be the basis of the biography.  It should NOT be an opportunity to tell us what courses you have taken, why you deserve this opportunity, or why you chose Carnegie Mellon.  This is a chance to reveal other sides of yourself and help the committee get to know you better. 
  • Applicant’s college transcript
    Please include an official or unofficial transcript that includes your fall mid-term grades. The preceeding fall GPA is one of the factors, although not the most important, that we will consider. We will also look at overall trends. If there was a difficult semester or two, we will focus on a pattern over time.
  • Resume
    If you do not have an updated resume, please see the Career Center for advice on resume writing.
  • Recommendation Form by mentor
    A SURF requires full-time research on campus for 8-10 weeks under the direct and regular supervision of a Carnegie Mellon faculty member/researcher. The Recommendation Form comments not only on the student’s abilities but also on how the mentoring relationship will work.  It tells the Committee about the research expectations for the student and how the relationship between mentor and student will be structured and defined, for instance: how often mentor and student will meet; if there are graduate student mentors involved; who will take over if the mentor is out of town for a short time; the timetable for the project; and the nature of the student’s contribution.
  • URO History
    Please let us know if you participated in past SURG projects or received a SURF.
    Name(s) of Projects
    SURG and/or SURF

Proposal Types

There are two types of proposals. Which of the two types - I or II - should I submit?

For students who are in the Arts and Creative Humanities, Type I research-based "making" proposals are most appropriate. If you are submitting a proposal in any of these areas, you should see the "Guidelines for Students Writing Art and Creative Humanities Grant Proposals" below.

All other students should submit Type II proposals and follow the standard guidelines below.

Both proposals follow the same Proposal Format in terms of length, font, and submission, and ALL students must submit a one-page biography, resume, and transcript. All students are encouraged strongly to work with their advisors and also to seek help from the Undergraduate Research Office in assembling these documents.  Proposal Writing Workshops are available (dates on the our main page) and students should take advantage of them.

If you are uncertain about whether Proposal Type I or Type II is most appropriate for you, please contact Stephanie Wallach, Director of the URO, at, Joanna Dickert, Assistant Director of the URO, at, or Richelle Bernazzoli, Assistant Director of the URO, at or call 8-5702.


Type I: Guidelines for Students Writing Art and Creative Humanities Grant Proposals

Type II: Guidelines for All Other Proposals


You will submit this information online using the registration link. 

Program Requirements

Fellowship recipients must:

  • Be employed through the University for 8-10 weeks, full-time; this is your fulltime job.
  • Be in “residence,” conducting their research at Carnegie Mellon.
  • Participate in the various professional development and social activities.
  • Plan a meeting with the URO Director or Assistant Directors with your mentor and you during the summer to talk about your project.
  • Submit a written reflection of your work (instructions to be given at the end of the summer).
  • Participate in all surveys connected to the Undergraduate Research Office
  • Present at the Meeting of the Minds.  

The Process

Before the deadline, you should do the following things:

  • Ask your project advisor to complete the Recommendation Form.
  • Draft your proposal based on the guidelines in Writing Your Proposal.
  • Attend a URO Proposal Writing Workshop (dates listed on our main page.)
  • Meet with our Director or Assistant Directors (this is strongly suggested.)

If you will work with Human Subjects:

- Read A Note on Human Subjects for instructions.