Carnegie Mellon University

SURF: Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships

Summer 2021 SURF Proposal Deadlines:

Student Proposal: WEDNESDAY, MARCH 24, 2021 (11:59 pm)
Faculty Letter of Recommendation Upload: SUNDAY, MARCH 28, 2021 (11:59 pm)

IMPORTANT:  Due to the evolving nature of the COVID situation, we are allowing the following for SURF 2021 participants:
  • Students should work remotely if their project allows for it.
  • If their project does not allow for remote work, then they can start the project when they are able to return to campus and research is approved.  
  • There may be some limited circumstances where a student has already been working in person with their research group; in these cases, they can likely continue in person for the summer, assuming their lab’s in-person protocol does not change due to pandemic conditions.
  • Applicants need not include remote/COVID contingencies in their research plans. The URO committee will be evaluating proposals on the merits of the projects; the ability to work remotely (or lack thereof) will not figure into the selection process.

Please note: Students who intend to work on their project remotely must be physically located within the US.  

Decisions announced: late-April

The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program awards $3500 to undergraduates at Carnegie Mellon for 8-10 FULL-TIME weeks of summer research in any field of study.

What can I do?

Students interested in any form of research may apply, whether faculty led or a self-initiated project. All you need is a faculty advisor willing to supervise your research on campus for 8-10 weeks. You can work alone or in a group, you can join an existing project or you can propose one on your own, but you must apply as an individual – unlike SURG, no group awards are available.  You are also eligible to participate in SURF if you are planning to join a research project within Pittsburgh, at the University of Pittsburgh or Hillman Cancer Center, for example.

How much SURF funding can I get?

Each Fellowship is given as a $3500 stipend. You will work full-time at a pre-determined hourly rate of $11.67 (37.5 hours per week) over 8-10 weeks, working 300 hours over the course of the summer.  Students will complete their hours on Workday through their department; the faculty advisor and business manager will each need to sign a copy of the student’s contract upon acceptance of the fellowship stipend. The award is subject to all applicable taxes.  Students will not be compensated from the URO beyond the $3500 maximum or beyond the established 300-hour maximum.

Housing is not provided with SURF.  Information on summer housing is available here.

Can I take a summer course or serve as a TA/instructor for a summer course and also participate in SURF?

Summer research is a full-time endeavor.  Students are generally discouraged from pursuing credit-bearing work during the period of their undergraduate research.  If a student has a compelling reason to take a summer course, the coursework cannot interfere with the student's research, or with our required Speak Up! series; it should not require any adjustment to the student's research schedule.  Students must receive permission from their faculty mentor and from the head of the URO, Dr. Stephanie Wallach, before they may enroll in credit-bearing work or participate as a TA/instructor for the same time period.  

Can I receive SURF and also work another job?

As stated above, summer research is considered to be full-time.  Students may opt to have a second job in the evenings to earn extra funds, but this must not interefere with your full-time hours of research.  If you plan to work in addition to your SURF hours, you CANNOT have another position within Carnegie Mellon University, as working over 40 hours per week at CMU would throw you into overtime status, and we are not willing to pay overtime hours.

Am I eligible? 

You are eligible if you:

  • are a CMU undergraduate student - including freshmen - in a degree-granting program;
  • are going to be enrolled fulltime during the Fall semester after your fellowship; alumni are not eligible the summer following graduation;
  • have a minimum 3.0 GPA in the prior fall semester; any issues with GPA eligibility, please contact Dr. Stephanie Wallach 
  • are in good standing at the university (not on academic or disciplinary probation or suspension);
  • if you are on a leave of absence the semester in which you are applying for SURF (Spring 201),  or are planning to be on leave during the semester after the grant (Fall 2021), please contact Stephanie Wallach;
  • have not received SURF in the past;
  • have a faculty member who will meet with you over the summer and oversee your progress
  • SURF is not intended to support research at other institutions outside of Pittsburgh or for study abroad.  Any questions, please contact Stephanie Wallach
  • will commit fulltime to the research position—SURF is in lieu of a job; students work regular hours and submit their time through their home departments.

What are the Fellowship Requirements?

By accepting a SURF, you are agreeing to:

  • participate in all required URO events
  • write a thank you note to your funder
  • plan to meet with the URO Director, Associate or Assistant Director, and your mentor during the summer to talk about your project
  • complete all surveys connected to your SURF
  • present your work at the Undergraduate Research Symposium (Meeting of the Minds)
  • follow human subjects guidelines.  Read A Note on Human Subjects for instructions
  • be on campus to begin your research prior to the first Speak Up! session in June (see dates below)
  • attend Speak Up! - a cross-disciplinary communication skills seminar for undergraduate summer researchers.  Speak Up! is a series of five communication modules for SURF students.  Students will learn across each module about when, why, and how we communicate to different, often "non-expert" audiences, through real-world oral and written communication activities focused on translating expertise and energizing audiences.  Please see dates to right.

Failure to satisfy these requirements will result in ineligibility for future awards.

When should I apply?

If you are interested in SURF for Summer 2021, the student proposal deadline is Wednesday, March 24, 2021. Appointments to meet with the Director or Assistant Directors of the URO to review proposals should be made no later than March 23, 2021. Faculty mentors will have a deadline of Sunday, March 28, 2021 to submit the letter of recommendation.


There are two types of Proposals. Type I is designed for students who are in the Arts and Creative Humanities and covers research-based “making” proposals.  All other students should submit Type II proposals.

If you are uncertain about whether Proposal Type I or Type II is most appropriate for you, please schedule an appointment with Stephanie Wallach; Director of the URO; Brittany Allison, Assistant Director; or Richelle Bernazzoli, Associate Director.