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Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Program - Gaithersburg, MD (Physical Science)

Gaithersburg, Maryland
Closing date
Feb 2, 2023

The SURF program provides research opportunities for students to work with internationally known NIST scientists, to expose them to cutting-edge research and promote the pursuit of graduate degrees and careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). SURF gives students an opportunity to:
  • Gain substantive career experience related to academic interests
  • Acquire lifelong leadership, management, and analytical skills
  • Learn about a career in public service
  • Build professional relationships, contacts, and networks
  • Observe the daily operations and working environment of a premier federal laboratory

Imagine Yourself in the NIST Laboratories

NIST seeks students from a broad range of STEM disciplines, including but not limited to biochemistry, biology, biophysics, chemistry, computer science, engineering, materials science, mathematics, nanoscale science, neutron research, physics, and statistics. Students work under the guidance of a research mentor in NIST operating units (OUs). The following OUs participate in the SURF program:
  • Communications Technology Laboratory (CTL)
  • Engineering Laboratory (EL)
  • Information Technology Laboratory (ITL)
  • Material Measurement Laboratory (MML) in partnership with the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR)
  • Physical Measurement Laboratory (PML)

As part of the application process, all applicants must identify and select first and second-choice host laboratories for placement consideration. Applicants should carefully choose host laboratories because the completed application is considered primarily by the first-choice host laboratory.

Due to the multidisciplinary nature of NIST's research, we encourage students to look through the different laboratory websites to discover interesting project areas. For example, a computer science student may find project opportunities in CTL, PL, and EL in addition to the logical choice of ITL. Similar opportunities exist for those in other disciplines. For a detailed description of SURF projects in each NIST laboratory and prior acceptance rates, students are encouraged to review laboratory descriptions and acceptance rates at .

For in-person fellowships, all students must work at the NIST campus in Gaithersburg, MD for the entire appointment. For virtual fellowships, all students must work remotely for the entire appointment.

While duties and responsibilities may vary by laboratory, all students must, in a format (in-person or virtual) consistent with their fellowship:
  • Work with their mentor on a designated research project
  • Attend a technical seminar series
  • Participate in professional development and group activities
  • Compose and submit an abstract halfway through the program summarizing research accomplishments
  • Deliver an oral presentation during the final week of the program


Conditions of Employment

Applicants must meet all the following requirements to be eligible for a fellowship:
  • U.S. citizen or U.S Permanent Resident
  • At least 16 years of age
  • Able to pass a background check
  • Receive payments by direct deposit
  • Verify proof of health insurance


We are looking for students interested in gaining valuable, hands-on experience working with cutting-edge technology in one of the world's leading research organizations. Additional preference will be given to students who possess the following qualities:
  • Strong computer and laboratory skills
  • A high level of motivation and a positive inquisitive workplace demeanor
  • Interest in conducting technical research in a federal laboratory in Gaithersburg, MD, or virtually
  • Interest in pursuing a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) graduate degree (M.S. or Ph.D.)
  • Ability to commit to eleven (11) full continuous weeks, or a minimum of nine (9) full weeks (Monday through Friday) during the summer of 2023; due to the short length of the program, students are not eligible for paid time off

Additionally, we encourage applications from groups underrepresented in STEM, including those who self-identify as a woman, African American, Black, Hispanic, Latinx, American Indian, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, a person with a disability, and/or LGBTQI+. We also consider the impact participating in SURF will have on an applicant's future career in research.


  • Currently enrolled as a full-time undergraduate (freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior) degree-seeking student at an accredited 2-year or 4-year college or university in the U.S. or U.S. territories
  • Strongly preferred to be an undergraduate majoring in a STEM discipline including but not limited to biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering (including nuclear), materials science, mathematics, nanoscale science, or physics with rigorous academic coursework relevant to grade level (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior)
  • Good academic standing (3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale)
  • You MUST provide transcripts or other documentation to support your educational claims. Unless otherwise stated, unofficial transcripts that display current enrollment status are acceptable
  • Submit all materials by the closing date of the announcement

Additional information

  • If selected, you are required to complete a background investigation suitability check
  • Males born after 12-31-1959 must be registered or exempt from Selective Service (see
  • Must be 16 years of age
  • Must be able to work 40 hours/week, Monday through Friday during the fellowship appointment

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