Emerson Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURFs)

The Emerson Fellowship fosters student participation in undergraduate research and experiential learning by offering a 10-week, full-time, paid summer undergraduate research experience at RIT.


The Emerson Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURFs) increase the number of research opportunities at RIT for students to work with faculty in the College of Science and provides $5,500 for ten weeks of summer research.

Funded by the Emerson Foundation, the Black Awareness Coordinating Committee (BACC), the RIT Honor's Program, and the NY Space Grant Consortium, the funding has awarded over 40 fellowships each year.

Eligibility and Conditions

Any student who will be enrolled in a BS or BS/MS program within the College of Science during the Fall semester of 2024 may apply. The student must write the proposal to be eligible for consideration, though the faculty mentor is expected to provide guidance and support.

  • This award is intended to involve full-time participation by the student during the summer term of 2024.
  • Students should not be engaged in outside employment or coursework during this period.
  • All recipients are expected to participate fully in all aspects of the research.
  • Preference will be given to students without prior funding in this program.
  • All recipients will present at either the Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium at RIT or the College of Science Undergraduate Research Seminar Series.

Application and Deadline

Applications for the Emerson Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowshipthe Black Awareness Coordinating Committee (BACC), Honors Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, and NASA Fellowship Grant can be submitted using the online form listed below.

See the instructions below for submitting proposals under Instructions and Guidelines. The complete application package must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, February 19, 2024.

Instructions and Guidelines

The proposal must be written by the student in order to be eligible for consideration, though the faculty mentor is expected to provide guidance and support. Keep in mind that the members of the review committee are not necessarily experts in that particular field. The entire research proposal should be no more than 3 pages in length, excluding up to a page of references. If students include diagrams, data, or other content reproduced from other publications, they must provide appropriate citations. Students can view a sample evaluation form which aligns with the criteria listed below.

In particular, any successful application will demonstrate:
Clear statement of a research problem or question. Well-defined project goals. An explanation of the scientific merit, importance, or value of the research. Clearly described methodology and project design. Students must make it clear that the project is feasible in a 10 week period. The project has clear educational merit for the students’ development as a professional scientist. The student is qualified for the project.

Each of the following components MUST be included:

Abstract (200 words or less): Concisely state the aims of the project. The students should answer the following questions:

  • What are the specific questions you seek to answer?
  • What are your specific goals and objectives for the summer?
    [Addresses criteria 1 and 2 of the sample evaluation form]

Background and significance: The student should clearly lay out the problem or question they will attempt to answer by providing the following:

  • Sufficient background to help the general reader understand the project.
  • Description of the project in language accessible to the general science audience since reviewers will not necessarily be experts in that particular field.
  • Provide citations from the relevant literature. What is known and not known in this area of inquiry?
  • Explicit and clear explanation why this problem is important.
  • Address who would find this work interesting?
  • Description of how important the solution to this problem would be.
  • Summary of what makes this project novel?
    [Addresses criteria 1, 2, and 3 of the sample evaluation form]

Project Design: As specifically as possible, the student should describe how they will attack the problem, using language accessible to the general science audience and not going into highly technical detail. While it is true that research often goes in unforeseen directions, success during the summer term project requires a very high level of focus. Students are more likely to have a productive research experience if they begin with clear goals and a plan. Within the project design, make a case that the project is feasible within a 10 week period. It is important to indicate the specific contributions the student will make to the project. If the work requires compliance with published university research policies e.g., work with human subjects, animals, hazardous material, etc., the student must explain what steps they will take to receive the required approval.[Addresses criteria 4 and 5 of the sample evaluation form]

Educational Merit: The research project should be a valuable professional development experience in scientific research. The student should briefly describe the various experiences or opportunities they expect to have and the skills and abilities they expect to gain through the participation in the project. [Addresses criteria 6 of the sample evaluation form]

Recommendation letters from faculty mentors must be submitted online.

Faculty mentors are required to write a letter of support. Letters of support must describe opinions of the student and place the research project in the context of any ongoing research. The following questions should be addressed:

  • Is this a new project or part of an ongoing investigation?
  • Will this project spawn additional work that extends beyond the summer?
  • What are the primary benefits of this project for the student? [Addresses criteria 6 in the sample evaluation form]
  • What are the primary benefits of this project for you, the mentor?
  • Why is this particular student well-suited for the project? [Addresses criteria 7 in the sample evaluation form]

Faculty mentors with multiple students applying for funding in this program must provide a ranking indicating a preference of which projects they would most like to see funded. This will not preclude lower ranked students from being accepted, but the mentor’s insight about each student/project is useful.