SUMMER UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH FELLOWSHIP FAQs

DEADLINES

  • Faculty must provide description of research opportunities to the Career Center by February 1
  • Students must apply for SURF positions on Handshake by March 1
  • Student funding applications are due April 1

To get started:

  1. Decide what your summer research project will be and how many students you will need and submit your research fellowship opportunity to the Career Center via this form by February 1 so that interested students can apply for it on Handshake.
  2. After the March 1 student application deadline, Handshake will automatically email the application packet for you to select an applicant. Please review the applications, interview the best applicants, select the best applicant, and officially offer the SURF position to the student and make sure they accept.
  3. Notify the Career Center of your selection. If your SURF position is unpaid, please complete this confirmation form for the student so they can apply for university funding by April 1.
  4. After what is hopefully an engaging and enriching SURF experience, please submit an evaluation of the student by August 15.

What does a SURF experience involve? 

The SURF program provides students with the opportunity to work closely with a faculty member on a research or scholarly project for an extended period of time. SURF students are also expected to participate in various professional development and research-related workshops. Well-being activities and social events are also offered to the students. Both the student and the faculty member are expected to complete an assessment form at the end of the experience. It is important that faculty ensure that the research experience occurs during the time that student housing is available. Students are provided with a stipend, but they are required to pay for their own room and board. More information about summer housing may be found here.

Why was the name changed to “research fellowships”?

Summer academic research opportunities involving Sewanee faculty are called "research fellowships" (RFs) instead of "internships," in order to clearly distinguish between academic research-oriented experiences mentored by our faculty (RFs) and more general off-campus, career-related experiences (internships). The term “research fellowship” is understood to apply to all research or creative activity in all modes of inquiry. 

How do I let students know about these opportunities?

Students know to look on Handshake for internships and SURF opportunities with faculty. The best way to get the word out is to submit your project to Handshake. The sooner you submit, the sooner students are able to consider the opportunities available.

Is there a defined process for selecting a research fellow?

No, you may set any reasonable criteria for selection such as required coursework (or performance in those courses) or skills and knowledge required for the project. You might require a student to be at or beyond a particular point in their academic career (e.g. you may require sophomore or later status). You may also restrict the applicant pool to a particular set of majors or majors (or not). The more detail provided in the Handshake position, the better application pool. 

Do I still have to post the position on Handshake if I have already selected a student?

All opportunities should be posted on Handshake for transparency and equity. 

How do I find funding for a research fellow?

The endowments that support collaborative faculty-student research are currently the Undergraduate Research Fund (formerly FITL), the Science Research funds (including Beatty, Davis-Pinson, Greene, and Yeatman endowments), Raoul Conservation Fund, McGriff-Bruton Mathematics & Computer Science Research Fund, and the Environmental Studies funds (inc. Brewster, Fitzsimons, Mellon, Lankewicz, Leroy, Sommer-Speck, and Thomas endowments.) While many of these funds are restricted to specific disciplines, projects from all areas and all majors are eligible for funds. Please note that these funds must be applied for by the student research fellow (not the faculty member) by the deadline of April 1.

What are the rules and qualifications that apply for the funding?

Generally, the grant is intended to support full engagement in the scholarly work for up to 8 weeks. Research fellows are paid a stipend of $400 per week, with the expectation that they will work full time (32-40 hours per week) on the project. Typically, this expectation means that the research student will not have other jobs. That said, the precise arrangements are somewhat flexible and can be negotiated with the research mentor. The qualifications are determined by the mentor that is sponsoring the work. 

Can I have a part-time research fellow during the summer?

The SURF experience was designed to be full time (32-40 hours per week). That said, there are a few ways to offer a part-time experience. For example, if your research project is best carried out with a 16-20 hour a week commitment, you could request half the number of weeks of stipend for your student (3 weeks instead of 6; 4 weeks instead of 8). Another possibility, if either the student or the faculty member cannot be on campus would be to consider offering a part-time remote experience. Students report that such an experience can be useful, although they would greatly prefer an in-person experience. Please confer with the Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship for guidance on how to best handle situations like this.

What SURF projects tend to be funded?

Recognizing that judging projects from a wide range of disciplines is intrinsically difficult, the various review committees look at the student’s prior academic record (readiness to carry out scholarly work), the aims of the project, the appropriateness of the project timeline, and the likely outcomes of the work. This last category includes both the tangible products (i.e. presentations, papers, works of art, etc.) and the intangible products (e.g. student intellectual growth or career preparation).

It is important to note that the selection committees have been hesitant to fund pedagogy work if there is no statement about scholarly outcomes. The reason for this resistance to funding pedagogy projects is in part because there is support for such projects from the Center for Teaching. However, if there is a pedagogy project that is also expected to produce scholarly results, such proposals may be eligible for co-funding from both offices. It is wise to discuss such plans with the relevant directors prior to beginning the proposal process.

If you need further guidance about the eligibility of a project for funding, please contact the Director of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship directly to discuss your ideas.

Can a student apply for funding after they graduate?

It is not currently forbidden for a graduating senior to apply for such funding; however, such students will receive a lower priority for funding than continuing students in a competitive funding process. Questions about the appropriateness of the request might be discussed with the Director of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship or the individual charged with administering a given fund. 

Can a student take a summer school course while having a SURF position?

Research fellows are strongly discouraged from taking courses. However, if the faculty member is supportive of such an arrangement, it might be possible to allow for a student to do this, but in such cases, the student will likely only be eligible for stipend support for the weeks that they are not enrolled in summer school. This should be discussed in advance with the Director of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship.

Housing issues can become complicated for students enrolled in summer school. Research fellows are typically provided a subsidized rate for the entire summer, but summer school students are not. The dates of available housing must be considered when planning for the SURF experience, even without the complication of summer school. More information about summer housing may be found here.

Is it possible to have more than one research fellow?

Since funding is made to the student and not to the faculty member, it is indeed possible for multiple students to apply for support to work with a single faculty mentor. However, it is critical in such cases that the proposals clearly show how each student will contribute to the work either by working on separate aspects of a larger project or because a team approach is required for the work.