SURF Applicant and Participant FAQ
If after reading this FAQ you find that you still have questions, please contact Heather McQueen at the SURF program email address firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have more than just a quick question that can be answered via email, she can make an appointment to meet with you.
On Friday January 26, 2018 starting at 12:15 in McConnell 103, Heather will host an info session with lunch provided. Program timeline, application process, funding, and student responsibilities will all be discussed. It is not mandatory for applicants, but a chance to get an overview and ask questions.
Who is eligible to apply for Smith SURF funding?
Currently enrolled Smith College undergraduate students (as well as Smith College graduate students in the Department of Biological Sciences and Post Baccalaureate students in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics), who apply to work directly with a Smith College science research advisor are eligible to be considered for SURF fellowship funding. Students enrolled at other institutions are not eligible to apply to Smith SURF. Students who wish to work exclusively with advisors at other institutions are not eligible to apply.
In limited circumstances, Smith students may apply for SURF funding to work jointly with a research advisor from one of the other four Colleges in the Five College Consortium as their secondary advisor, if their primary research advisor is from Smith College. Please have your Smith research advisor email email@example.com if you are interested in pursuing something like this.
In limited circumstances, Five College undergraduates may participate in SURF if their Smith College research advisor has external grant funding available for Five College students or if the Five College undergraduate is funded by their own college. Please have your research advisor email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in pursuing something like this. Non Smith students are not, under any circumstances, eligible for on campus housing.
Graduating seniors are eligible to apply for SURF funding, but are NOT eligible under any circumstances to apply for on campus summer housing. Arrangements must be finalized well before the end of the academic semester, as graduating seniors must be paid their stipend before the semester ends. Graduating seniors cannot be brought into the SURF program after the semester ends on the last day of exams.
What are the dates of the SURF program?
Official SURF program dates are Monday, May 14 – to Friday August 17, 2018.
What is the duration of SURF participation? How many hours per week do I have to work?
It is expected that program participants will complete 10 weeks of research. Participants may opt, in consultation with their faculty sponsor, to complete 10 nonconsecutive weeks or fewer than 10 weeks. Stipends will be prorated for fellowships that are less than 10 weeks in length. SURF funding is not available for more than 10 weeks.
SURF participants are expected to concentrate on their SURF project for the number of weeks agreed in advance with their advisor and approved in their SURF application. The typical SURF participant works full-time (40 hours) on their SURF project during their period of summer residence on campus. You will be expected to keep to the timetable specified for your project in your SURF application unless you and your advisor agree a mutually acceptable alternative (please notify us of changes at email@example.com). Your stipend will be adjusted if you work less time than proposed.
Unless otherwise noted, fellowship stipends provided for participation in Smith SURF 2017 will be in the amount of $4,800. Stipends are based on 10 weeks of participation at 40 hours per week doing independent research working with a Smith science advisor. The majority of stipend payments are made in one installment on or around June 1. (Graduating seniors have to be paid prior to the end of the semester.) No 1099 forms or other IRS documents are generated. While it is expected that program participants will complete 10 weeks of research, participants may opt, in consultation with their research advisor, to complete fewer than 10 weeks. Stipends will be prorated for participation less than 10 weeks in length at the rate of $480 per week. For U.S. residents, please consult your tax advisor about your SURF stipend in preparation for your income tax return, to understand to what degree your stipend may be taxable. The IRS website topic “ Do I Include My Scholarship, Fellowship, or Education Grant as Income on My Tax Return? ” provides some guidance.
Taxes may be withheld on your stipend if you are a citizen of a country that does not have a tax treaty with the US. If you are concerned about how much this may be, please contact the payroll office at Smith College for more details.
A number of SURF stipends are funded from an outside grant from an organization such as the National Institute of Health (NIH) or internally from CFCD funds. These funding sources do not allow for lump sum stipend payments, funds have to be paid out on an hourly basis, on the College’s bi-weekly payroll schedule. During the academic year, no withholding is made from students with a work study award in the tax or FICA categories due to the regulations that apply to work study. Outside of the academic year, however, federal law requires that both income and FICA (social security and medicare) taxes be withheld from the earnings of summer students who are paid hourly.
If your stipend is taxable for either of the two reasons cited above, this means that your stipend will be a gross payment of $4,800 for 10 weeks, or the appropriately prorated amount. The net payment (the actual dollar amount you receive after taxes) will be less; how much depends on your specific circumstances.
If you receive an award, your stipend will be paid via Direct Deposit (if you have it set up) or mailed as a check to the address you give on your application form. If you withdraw from the SURF program after being paid, you will asked to pay back the appropriate portion.
The Smith SURF program does not include housing or additional funding for housing. Participants are responsible for their own housing over the summer (see the ResLife Summer Break Housing Page for details.). Undergraduates may apply for on campus housing or make arrangements to live off campus. Graduating seniors are eligible to apply for SURF funding, but are NOT eligible under any circumstances to apply for on campus summer housing.
Summer 2018 housing will be charged at rate of $164 per week. Students who are being paid biweekly can opt for a payroll deduction to pay for housing. Students who stay in campus housing receive a meal plan. Starting May 30 until August 18, the summer meal plan includes dinners Monday–Friday at Cutter/Ziskind (except where changes are noted below), plus $46 deposited weekly on to their OneCard to purchase breakfast and lunch in the Campus Center Cafe. There are no weekend meals. Please see the Summer Break Housing page for the holiday closings and times when dinner is served elsewhere than Cutter/Ziskind.
Official Program dates are 5/14-8/17/18. Students who wish to apply for on campus housing may do so during this period. Due to necessary maintenance of residence houses before the start of the academic year, applications from SURF participants to return to campus housing after 8/18 and before the start of classes cannot be considered.
If you have any questions about available housing or the application process, please contact ResLife directly.
What do I need to do to prepare for applying, besides my SURF application materials?
- Talk with your research advisor about your project. Smith College SURF fellowship funding is available for Smith College undergraduate students (and Smith College graduate students in the Department of Biological Sciences), who plan to work directly with a Smith College science research advisor. Applications to the SURF Program must be endorsed by a Smith science research advisor, who will serve as the advisor of your summer research project. The SURF program does not match applicants with advisors. Your first research advisor will automatically receive an email request for an endorsement of your application upon final submission of your application. Please be sure you have talked with your advisor about your project before you submit your application.
- Make sure you have a reasonable plan for housing.
- Chemistry Department Pre-Application: Any students who wish to work with Chemistry department faculty in the SURF Program must first complete a brief pre-application by Friday, February 2, 2018. Students will be contacted by the Chemistry Department directly to let them know of their assignment in time to submit a full SURF application.
What does a SURF application consist of?
The SURF application is collected electronically here.
- Your unofficial transcripts (There is a place on the application for you to upload a PDF.)
- Completed application questions related to your student career. (A sample of the 2018 application is available here.)
- Research Proposal (You can view guidelines and advice for submitting your SURF proposal, including samples of past project proposals here.)
- Title of your proposed research project
- Description of your proposed research project
- Explanation of why you have selected this particular project
- Explanation of your reason for seeking undergraduate research experience, and how that experience relates to your academic and career plans.
Complete SURF applications are due Friday, February 16, 2018 11:59pm EST in order to be considered for SURF funding in the first round of allocations.
- Advisor Endorsement (due the last Friday in February) submitted via email by your advisor.
All applications to the SURF Program must be endorsed by a Smith science research advisor who acts as the first advisor to the applicant’s summer research project. All applicants are eligible to be considered for SURF funding, from a pool administered by the Science Center, as long as they have a complete application and the support of their research advisor. Once a student submits an application, the first research advisor indicated in the application will automatically receive an email request for a very short written recommendation accompanied by a copy of the student’s completed application. Please be sure you have talked with your advisor about your project before you submit your application. You can view a sample of the endorsement here.
FOR APPLICANTS WITH MORE THAN ONE ADVISOR: Please note that we will not automatically request an advisor endorsement from your second research advisor. You may, if you wish and your primary advisor agrees, ask your second research supervisor to submit an advisor endorsement. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading: SURF 2018 Second advisor endorsement request. We will then send the application text and endorsement questions to your second advisor.
Do you accept late applications?
Any applications received after the deadline will still be considered, but those received by the deadline have priority for funding. Maximize your chances of being awarded a SURF stipend by submitting your application on time.
How many applicants are there and how many are funded?
Approximately 200 students apply, and approximately 150 ultimately participate. Some students who apply and receive funding ultimately opt out of SURF to pursue other programs. We make every effort to fund as many eligible applicants as possible. As long as there is funding available, we will reallocate funding from students who opt out to students on our waitlist.
How are applications chosen for funding?
All applications are evaluated by program staff and the applicant’s research advisor(s). When advisors have multiple students they wish to endorse, they are asked to rank applicants according to academic record and research interests.
I want to apply to the NOAA program, how do I do that?
Students applying for Agnes Shedd Andreae funding through the ES&P program to participate in the NOAA program do NOT need to submit a separate SURF application. Be in touch with Anne Wibiralske email@example.com x3332, Sabin Reed 114 for application information to this program.
I want to apply to the SURF NIST program, how do I do that?
Please see the SURF NIST page for more detail. The process is different for these programs.
When will I find whether or not I have received a funding award for SURF?
The majority of applicants will hear about the first round of allocations by the Friday before spring break (March 9, 2018). Due to the complexities of the many funding sources that support SURF students, some students may not here until somewhat later. We will communicate with all applicants via email to let them know the status of their application by the Friday before spring break: funded, waitlisted, or still being determined.
I’ve been waitlisted for SURF funding, what are my chances of receiving an award?
Due to the many funding sources that support SURF, many discipline specific, it is not possible for us to provide a hierarchical wait list. We make every effort to fund as many eligible applicants as possible. As long as there is funding available, we will reallocate funding from students who opt out to students on our waitlist. In recent years we have been able to fund the majority of eligible applicants.
What should I do before I officially accept my award?
- Finalize your schedule with your faculty advisor. Important program dates and start and end dates are listed here.
- Confirm your housing arrangements to the extent that you can. The Smith SURF program does not include housing. Participants are responsible for their own housing over the summer. Please see the details regarding housing for SURF participants above.
- Confirm any travel arrangements to the extent that you can.
- Understand how and when your stipend will be paid, as per the details in your award notification. See detail regarding stipend payments above.
How do I accept my award?
Reply via email to firstname.lastname@example.org indicating that you accept the terms detailed in the official award notice, by May 1, 2018.
It’s almost May 1, and I’m still not sure I’ll be able to participate, but I hope to. What should I do?
Email email@example.com with a brief explanation and when you hope to be able to confirm your participation.
Is there any required training to participate in SURF?
- Working with hazardous substances? You are required to attend one SURF lab safety seminar just prior to the start of your research or, at the very least, within the first week of work. Margaret Rakas of Laboratory Safety and Compliance Services will offer multiple sessions for SURF participants that will be announced via email.
- If you are using equipment in one of our Centers for the first time (see list below), you may be required to participate in training before you begin using equipment.
- CABR Center for Aqueous Biogeochemical Research: collection, prep, and analysis of aqueous samples
- CDF Center for Design and Fabrication: machining, welding and fabrication, woodworking, and rapid prototyping capabilities.
- CMB Center for Molecular Biology: molecular biology instrumentation including DNA sequencing
- CMI Center for Microscopy and Imaging: multiple high-powered light and electron microscopes
- CFP Center for Proteomics: mass spectrometry technologies
- SAL Spatial Analysis Lab: GIS, GOS, spatial analysis
What should I do if I have an accident or need health services while participating in SURF?
- As is the case during the academic year, if you have a lab-related injury or chemical exposure, or any medical emergency, dial 800 from a Campus Phone for Campus Police as soon as possible after receiving first aid (413-585-2490 from a cell phone); give your location and the nature of the emergency. For off-campus medical emergencies dial 911.
- Smith College Health Services is closed to Smith Students until classes resume in the fall.
For non-emergency medical care for SURF work related injuries or if you have an illness or injury that does NOT require urgent care or is not life-threatening (for example, you badly twisted an ankle while playing volleyball), there are two nearby options:
- The Emergency Room at Cooley Dickinson Hospital.Campus Police is available to take you in the event of an injury (x2490 on-campus or 413-585-2490 from a cell phone) but please understand there may be a wait if they are dealing with other more urgent issues.
- Some cases may be appropriate for the OnCall Urgent Care Center in Northampton. Please check with them directly regarding hours of operation and details regarding your insurance.
If you have a doctor you see locally, most offices have walk in-hours that do not require an appointment. Campus Police does not provide transportation to local physicians’ offices.
How do I get access to the buildings/spaces I need to work on my SURF project?
If you find that you do not have card access to buildings or space that you need for your SURF project, please provide your 99# and ask your advisor submit this form to request:
- exterior door access to the building you need;
- card access to interior spaces (primarily in Ford Hall), please have your advisor specify building and room numbers in the same email, descriptions such as “the prep room on the third floor” are not enough detail;
- keys to interior spaces, such as labs and prep areas.
How do I find out about social activities and events related to SURF?
One of the benefits of being a SURFer is the array of fun and informative activities we offer on campus in June and July: movie nights, ice cream socials, visits with alumnae, as well as physics and engineering party tricks.
As a SURF program participant, you’ll be added to our mailing list and receive regular announcements about events and activities. You can also check out our calendar of events here.
- Graduating seniors are eligible to apply for SURF funding, but are NOT eligible under any circumstances to apply for on campus summer housing.
- Arrangements must be finalized well before the end of the academic semester, as graduating seniors must be paid their stipend before the semester ends. The target payment date for 2018 is Friday, May 4.
- Graduating seniors cannot under any circumstances be brought into the SURF program after the semester ends, on the last day of exams.
- At a date to be determined at the end of June, student One Cards for graduating seniors are deactivated. Unfortunately, there is not any flexibility on this. If you need exterior door access at times outside of the regular building hours, Monday-Friday 7am to 6pm, OR card access to interior doors you will need to get an alumna card (see the application here). Drop-in hours for new or replacement cards and Campus Cash deposits are: Monday – Friday, 1:30 – 3:30 pm or by appointment at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-585-3082.
- Once you have your alumna card, please submit this form to request the transfer of access to spaces you previously had with your one card. Unfortunately, the OneCard office does not automatically transfer access to SURF participants’ alumna cards.
- Participants with alumna cards are still able to access Library services. Please see the Services for Alumnae page of the Libraries website.
- Graduate students who are completing their studies before the end of the SURF program are considered to have the same status as graduating seniors.
- ABSTRACT – At the conclusion of your summer research project, we require that you write a one-page abstract describing your work. Format guidelines for the abstract can be found here. The abstracts are important to demonstrate the nature of student research at Smith, and are essential in annual reporting to the various individuals, institutions and agencies that provide the funding that makes this program possible. Please turn in your abstract on time.
- SURVEY – We ask you to respond positively to requests from Smith College to complete surveys about your participation in SURF, now and in the future. As part of an ongoing effort to assess the impact of summer research on the careers of women scientists, we track the career progress of students conducting research through periodic surveys. These assessments are important in our efforts to improve the Smith SURF Program and to secure continued funding for future students. We look forward to your participation.
- THANK YOU LETTERS – Many SURF awards are funded by endowments established by alumnae and friends of Smith College. In most cases, students will submit this in their internal survey response.
- Is your SURF research being submitted or has it been accepted for publication? Let us know at email@example.com.
- Are you presenting your SURF Research at a professional conference? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Some travel funding is available through the Science Center. More details are available here.
Questions? Contact Heather McQueen x3950, 413-585-3950, Burton 115, email@example.com.