Virtual Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Program at Gaithersburg

Gaithersburg, Maryland
Jan 26, 2021
Feb 02, 2021
Full Time


The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is seeking undergraduate students to serve as guest researchers for the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Program. SURF is focused on developing talent and experience for careers in STEM which supports the NIST mission. To learn more about the program, visit .

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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 in science and engineering. SURF gives students an opportunity to:
  • Gain substantive career experience related to your academic interests,
  • Acquire lifelong leadership, management, and analytical skills,
  • Learn about a career in public service,
  • Build professional relationships, contacts, and networks, and
  • 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 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines including (but not limited to) biochemistry, biology, biophysics, chemistry, computer science, engineering, materials science, mathematics, nanoscale science, neutron research, physics, and/or statistics. Students work under the guidance of a research mentor in the NIST operating units (OU). The following OU's 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), and Physical Measurement Laboratory (PML). As part of the application process, all students are required to identify and select first and second choice host laboratories where they would like to be considered for a possible placement. Laboratories should be chosen carefully, because the completed application is considered primarily by the first choice host laboratory.

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

While duties and responsibilities may vary by laboratory, all accepted students must:
  • Attend a virtual technical seminar series
  • Participate in extramural group activities intended to enrich their fellowship experience
  • Compose and submit an abstract half-way through the program summarizing research accomplishments
  • Deliver an oral presentation SURF during the final week of the program

Travel Required

Not required

Supervisory status

Promotion Potential


Conditions of Employment

To be eligible for a fellowship, all of the following requirements must be met:
  • Must be a U.S. citizen or U.S Permanent Resident,
  • Must be at least 16 years of age.
  • Currently enrolled as a full-time degree-seeking student at an accredited institution in the U.S. and its territories. Seniors graduating in May 2021 are eligible to apply to the program.
  • Must be in good academic standing (recommended 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale)
  • Able to pass background check.
  • Receive payments by direct deposit.
  • Verify proof of health insurance


We are looking for students who are 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:
  • Interest in conducting scientific research in a remote location.
  • Current enrolled undergraduate (freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior) at a 2-year or 4-year institution of higher education in the U.S. or its territories at the time of application. Graduating seniors may apply to the program and must be a registered undergraduate at the time of application.
  • Pursuing a STEM related major including but not limited to biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, materials science, mathematics, nanoscale science, and/or physics.
  • Considering pursuing a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) graduate degree (M.S. or Ph.D.).
  • Commit to eleven (11) full continuous weeks, or a minimum of nine (9) full weeks (Monday through Friday) during the summer of 2021 to participate in the SURF Program. Due to the length of the program, students are not permitted to take vacation.

We especially encourage applications from groups underrepresented in STEM, including those who self-identify as a woman, African American, Black, Hispanic, Latinx, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, person with a disability, and/or LGBTQI+.


  • Currently enrolled as a full-time degree-seeking student at an accredited institution in the U.S. and its territories.
  • Required to be an undergraduate majoring in a STEM discipline such as biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering (including nuclear), materials science, mathematics, nanoscale science, and/or physics
  • You MUST provide transcripts or other documentation to support your educational claims. Unless otherwise stated, unofficial transcripts are acceptable which display current enrollment status. All materials must be submitted 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 year of age
  • Must be able to works 40 hours/week, Monday through Friday during the fellowship appointment.

How You Will Be Evaluated

You will be evaluated for this job based on how well you meet the qualifications above.

You will be evaluated for this appointment based on how well you meet the indicated qualifications.

Once the announcement has closed, your questionnaire responses and supporting documents will be used to determine if you meet the qualifications listed on this announcement. If you are minimally qualified, questionnaire responses and supporting documents will be forwarded to your first and second choice laboratories preferences for additional review. If you are found to be among the top qualified candidates, you will be referred to the selecting official for employment consideration. Note: The number of offers to participate in the program are contingent upon the availability of funds and projects in the host laboratories.

Your qualifications will also be evaluated on the following criteria:
  • Fit of the undergraduate student's stated interest and commitment to the program priorities of NIST and objectives of the SURF Program.
  • Fit of the undergraduate student's interests and abilities to the available NIST research projects and when appropriate, to the research priorities of NIST scientists and engineers in the specified laboratory program.
  • Relevance of the student's course of study to the program objectives of the specified NIST laboratory in which that SURF Program resides
  • Evaluation of academic accomplishments. Note: A cumulative minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale is recommended for all completed courses taken as a undergraduate student at the current institution and at any institutions attended as an undergraduate student during the 5 years preceding the start of the most recent enrollment. (This does not include college or university courses taken while solely a high school student.)
  • Quality of research accomplishments to date.
  • Assessment of whether the laboratory experience is an opportunity for the student which may encourage future postgraduate training.

To preview questions please click here .

Background checks and security clearance

Security clearance
Not Required

Drug test required

Required Documents

Your application must include:

1. Responses to the on-line questions.

2. Two (2) letters of recommendation from individuals (preferably professors, department heads, previous internship mentor, or academic adviser) familiar with the applicant's education, training, experience, aptitude, or promise relevant to the SURF Program are suggested.
Note: It is the responsibility of the applicant to notify their letter writers through the online application system. Letter writers will receive instructions on the content of their letters and they must upload their letters via the online application module by the closing date of the vacancy announcement.

3. Resume which includes professional and research experience.

4. Undergraduate transcript. You must submit college transcripts (unofficial transcript is acceptable) showing your name, the name of your university(s), all courses completed, and cumulative GPA. Additionally, the transcript must verify proof of your enrollment. Submitted transcripts must have all Social Security numbers and/or dates of birth removed (blanked out, blackened out, made illegible, etc.) prior to uploading into the application system.

5. Proof of U.S. citizenship or U.S. permanent residency . Acceptable forms of proof of U.S. Citizenship includes a Certified Birth Certificate, U.S. Passport, U.S. Passport Card, Naturalization Certificate, Certificate of Citizenship, Consular Report of Birth (of U.S. citizen) Abroad, or Certification of Birth; Acceptable form of U.S. permanent residency is an unexpired green card. Note: Social security cards and driver license do not meet the requirements for proof of U.S. citizenship.

6.Proof of health insurance coverage by including a copy of a valid insurance card.

7. Personal statement- The personal statement is the opportunity for NIST staff to learn more about the student and why he/she should be selected for a fellowship in the SURF Program. Students are encouraged to compose a personal statement which includes the following:
  • Commitment to participate in the program and work in a laboratory environment;
  • Description of relevent research experience;
  • Description of prioritized research interests;
  • How you expect to personally benefit from participating in the program;
  • Career goals.

Students must submit all required documentation during the application process to be considered for review. Incomplete applications will not be considered for review in the SURF Program. It is highly recommended you preview the on-line questions for this announcement before you start the application process. [The sentence "To preview the questions please click here (hyperlinked)" is entered here by the automated system, and is visible on all announcements]

If you are relying on your education to meet qualification requirements:

Education must be accredited by an accrediting institution recognized by the U.S. Department of Education in order for it to be credited towards qualifications. Therefore, provide only the attendance and/or degrees from schools accredited by accrediting institutions recognized by the U.S. Department of Education .

Failure to provide all of the required information as stated in this vacancy announcement may result in an ineligible rating or may affect the overall rating.

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