National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF)

Spend part of your summer working elbow to elbow with researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, one of the world's leading research organizations and home to four Nobel Prize winners. Gain valuable hands on experience, work with cutting-edge technology, and sample the Washington D.C., or Boulder, CO, area.

SURF students receive stipend, housing, and travel allotments (as needed). Funding for students comes via a federal grant issued to the school from NIST. Students who complete the full 11 week program will receive a $5,500 stipend. The only real expenses that students should expect to pay out-of-pocket are personal entertainment and food.

This is a competitive program that reviews both the university and student portion of the application to determine the final list of SURF awardees. The NIST SURF program will support approximately 100 students.

NIST-SURF Student Eligibility

  • Applicants must be undergraduates and selected to participate by at a U.S. university or college with a technical major. MTSU's Internal Application Deadline is January 26th, 2015.
  • A grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 (out of 4.0) or better is recommended. Students with physics, materials science, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, or engineering majors are encouraged to apply. There may be research opportunities for students with other majors including forensic science.
  • The program is open to United States citizens and permanent residents.
  • Applicants must be covered by health insurance through their school or family.
  • For NIST Boulder, new applicants must be enrolled to continue their undergraduate education for fall 2015. For NIST Gaithersburg, applicants must be enrolled in undergraduate classes at the time of application (Spring 2015).

MSTU Information Session

An information session covering application requirements and procedures as well as a question and answer session will be held in SCI 2120 at 4pm on December 3rd, 2014. This session will be led by Dr. Alicja Lanfear of the Department of Biology and Dr. Samantha Cantrell of the Office of Research Services (ORS). If you are interested in applying but are unable to make it to this information session please contact Dr. Lanfear at

In addition, Dr. Lanfear will host a writing assistance and application review session at 3pm on January 20th, 2015 in SCI 2130.

Some useful tips for writing your personal statement are available here.

MTSU's Internal Application Requirements

For your benefit, please plan on attending the information session on December 3rd, 2014 at 4pm in SCI 2120. This session is not mandatory, but will cover all application procedures and requirements as well as serve as a Q&A session for interested students. Questions? Email Dr. Alicja Lanfear 

  1. Complete the MTSU NIST-SURF Internal Application form by no later than 5pm on January 26th, 2015. You can download this form here. (Right click the link, save to your computer, and open with Adobe Reader.) Application includes the following components:
    1. Resume
    2. Unofficial copy of your transcript
    3. Personal statement of commitment to participate and description of research interests
    4. Verification of U.S. Citizenship or permanent legal residence (e.g. Copy of birth certificate, passport of green card)
  2. Ask two faculty members to write you a letter of recommendation and have both complete the MTSU NIST-SURF Recommendation Form by January 26th, 2015. Faculty can download this form here. (Right click the link, save to your computer, and open with Adobe Reader.)

Successful applicants will be notified by February 7th, 2015 and may be required to submit additional documentation by the February 13th, 2015 NIST-SURF deadline.

Email Dr. Alicja Lanfear

Research Opportunities

NIST-SURF Boulder, CO: May 18 – July 31, 2015

Research Opportunities in the fields of:

  • Chemical Science and Technology
  • Electronics and Electrical Engineering
  • Information Technology
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • Physics

Specific research opportunities for NIST-SURF Boulder will be released December 15, 2015.

NIST-SURF Gaithersburg, MD: May 26 – August 9th, 2015

Research Opportunities in the fields of:

  • Biochemistry
  • Biological Sciences
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Engineering
  • Materials Science (including forensic science)
  • Mathematics
  • Physical Sciences
  • Physics
  • Statistics

Specific research opportunities for NIST-SURF Gaithersburg can be found for each participating laboratory and are linked from the main research program page (

Download a flyer about NIST-SURF