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FAQs

Is SURF hosting participants on the Gaithersburg or Boulder campuses for Summer 2023?

Yes, the SURF 2023 program format is hybrid. Fellowships will occur in person on both campuses and virtually.

Are there restrictions to where I may reside if I participate in a virtual fellowship?

Virtual participants will need to access the NIST network, and so they must reside in the United States to have IT connectivity to the NIST network. 

Is SURF a paid internship?

Yes, participants receive a stipend of $6600 for an eleven-week appointment. In-person participants may also receive an allowance for lodging and travel. 

How do I apply to the SURF program?

A profile on USAJOBS is required to apply to the SURF program. If you do not have a profile, create it here. Then apply to one or both vacancy announcements: Gaithersburg, MD or Boulder, CO. See more details in the "How to Apply" sections of the announcements.

How does the application process work?

The following link (https://www.usajobs.gov/Help/faq/application/process/) provides a quick summary of how to apply for vacancies on USAJobs.Gov.

Where can I find the questionnaire (vacancy questions)?

Preview the questionnaire for the Gaithersburg vacancy announcement here. Preview the questionnaire for the Boulder vacancy announcement here

Do I have to submit my entire application package in a single session?

No, we understand that applicants need time to complete the entire application. Applicants can log in and out of the USAJobs.Gov portal as often as needed. However, applicants cannot modify the references section after submitting the application, and all applications must be completed and submitted by the announcement deadline.

Can I update my application if I submit it before the application deadline?

Yes, applicants may update their applications before the application deadline, except that applicants cannot modify the references section after submitting the application. After the announcement closes, applicants cannot update their applications.

Does my university need to submit my application?

No; students apply to SURF on USAJobs.Gov.

I'm having trouble with USAJobs.Gov. Where can I get more information or help?

For assistance with using USAJOBS.Gov, please visit https://www.usajobs.gov/Help/Contact/

Can letters of recommendation be submitted by e-mail or traditional mail?

No, letters of recommendation must be included in the application submission on USAJobs.Gov. Note: letter writers have five days after the vacancy announcement closing date to submit letters through the reference portal. 

I'm having difficulties locating the section to enter the contact information for the individuals submitting my letters of recommendation. Where do I enter the information?

The information is collected near the end of the application process. After the "Documents Upload" section, the reference section is visible.

When will the references receive the request to provide a letter on my behalf for the program?

After the application is submitted, the letter writers should receive a system-generated e-mail with additional details.

My reference has not received the e-mail to submit my letter. Who should I contact? 

Sometimes, the system-generated e-mail goes to the reference's spam folder. Encourage the reference to search for an e-mail from noreply [at] msapps.monster.com or noreply [at] monstgovt.com.
It is also possible that the reference's e-mail server has security firewalls preventing the delivery of the message. If this is the case, send an e-mail to surf [at] nist.gov. In the e-mail include the location of the application and the name and e-mail address of the reference. 

My reference is unable to create an account to submit my letter. What is the problem?

Your reference will receive an email notification in their email that you provided in your application immediately after you click the submit button in the application process. The email notification includes a link to access the portal for submission of the references.

Upon clicking the link, your reference will be redirected to the login site for the portal and should click on the “Continue to Sign In” option.

There are three options on the sign in page:

  1. Sign In: If your reference has already submitted a letter for a student for the 2023 program, they will already have an account and so should sign in with the email address and password previously used.
  2. Sign Up: If your reference writer has not visited the portal for the 2023 program, they should select the “Sign Up” option below the question “Don’t have an account yet?”
    1. After clicking on “Sign Up”, your reference will see a page prefilled with their name, email address and phone number if you provided it during your application process.
    2. They must enter a password and telephone number if you did not provide it. They also need to confirm the password by entering it again.
    3. Then your reference should click “Sign Up” again.
    4. Upon completing this process, your reference should return to the login screen and enter their email address and newly created password to log in and provide your letter.
    5. If your reference receives the message, “A user with this email already exists in the system", and they do not remember their password, they need to use the “Forgot Password” option on the login screen. They should cancel out of the sign up process and select the “Forgot Password” option on the login screen. See option #3 below.
  3. Forgot Password: If your reference cannot log in and is receiving the error message “A user with this email already exists in the system” when trying to sign up, they should select the “Forgot Password” option to start the password reset process.
    1. They need to enter the email address you provided in your application and click “Next”.
    2. Your reference will receive an email from noreply [at] monster.com containing a link which expires after a few minutes.
    3. Following this link will allow your reference to enter a new password. After successfully entering and confirming the new password, they can log in with the new password and access the form to submit the letter of recommendation.

If your reference is not receiving the emails from the system, please ask them to check their spam folder. The emails will be coming from noreply [at] monster.com. Additionally, they must use the link from the original request email to access your reference request for the first time.

If the reference writer continues to experience challenges with the technical aspects of the portal, such as account management, they may contact Monster at:

Monster Helpdesk email: mgshelp [at] Monster.com

Monster Helpdesk number: 1-866-656-6831

I need to update a provided reference. How do I make the change?

Applicants are not able to modify the references section after submitting the application. Applicants may e-mail surf [at] nist.gov. In the e-mail include the location of the application and the name, e-mail, and affiliation of the reference.

How competitive is the program? How many are accepted?

Approximately one of every three students receives an offer for a fellowship. About 150 students participate in SURF each summer. Selection depends upon the number and quality of applications and the number of appropriate NIST projects available. Applicants can increase their chances by writing strong personal statements. Personal statements should answer the questions: Why are you interested in the program? Why do you think you should get accepted? What are your technical interests? It is also helpful for applicants to identify labs where they would like to work. See the FAQ about the personal statement lower on this page for more information.

Where can I see past SURF student projects?

Is the program open to foreign students or US students in foreign universities?

No, the SURF program is only open to U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents enrolled as undergraduate students at U.S. colleges or universities.

Who is eligible to apply for the SURF program? What about an F1 Visa?

The SURF program is only open to U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents enrolled as undergraduate students at U.S. colleges or universities. A student with an F1 Visa (a.k.a. student visa) is NOT eligible for the program.

Is the deadline date the day that the application must be postmarked or when NIST needs to receive it?

Without exception, complete applications must be received electronically by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on the application deadline.

What do I include in my personal statement? Is there a limited to the amount of space that I can use?

Our best advice is to take this seriously. The personal statement is essentially an essay about you, why you are applying to the program, and why you think you deserve a fellowship. Use this opportunity to describe yourself and what you hope to do with your future, and take advantage of the chance to identify your interest areas. Students are often placed on specific projects because they have the needed skills. The personal statement provides extra information to make decisions, and SURF Directors use it to match you with a summer project. Students frequently complete the program with a new perspective on a research field entirely different from their original interest area. In a few cases, these students have continued in the new field in graduate school. You may not know the exact topic area you want to work in, but you probably know what classes you like, what you don't, and why - use the personal statement to express this. NIST has eleven laboratories, user facilities, and major programs. A person with one degree (or future degree) is often suited for work in more than one lab - another reason to keep your options open.

When will I know if I've been accepted?

Applicants will receive offers by April 15, 2023. NIST strives to notify each student of their final status – whether or not the student has been offered a place in the program.

What should be on my resume?

A student's resume should include more than jobs held. The resume should also include information such as expected graduation date, relevant classes and skills (especially computer skills), hobbies, awards, and publications if any.

Does the SURF program arrange housing?

No, NIST provides an allowance to students to assist with housing costs. 

What is the housing allowance? What is the stipend?

The SURF program provides a housing allowance up to $3500 for students to arrange their housing. The program plans to share a list of affordable housing options in the Gaithersburg and Boulder areas.
SURF is an 11-week fellowship. There are a limited number of 9-week fellowships available to accommodate school schedules. Students who complete the 11-week program will receive a $6,600 stipend. Participants whose school schedules prohibit completing the 11-week program earn $600 per week.

Do I really need to have health insurance to get into the SURF program?

Yes. Each SURF participant is required to have health insurance.

How will the funds associated with my fellowship be disbursed?

NIST pays students through direct deposit. All participants must have an active account for direct deposit.

Is the stipend taxable?

A tax advisor familiar with the laws in your state is the best person to answer this question. The IRS website topic "Interest, Dividends, Other Types of Income: Grants, Scholarships, Student Loans, Work Study" may provide some guidance.

What type of clothes should I bring with me?

SURF participants are encouraged to dress for success and in a safe manner. Staff on the NIST campuses generally wear "business casual" clothes such as chinos, Dockers, and khaki pants. No clothes with holes, please! Participants should have at least one professional outfit (suit, dress, sports coat, skirt, or shirt and tie). This outfit is used for the SURF Colloquium presentation to an audience of NIST scientists, guests, and fellow participants and for days when a special VIP visits the lab. Participants need at least one pair of closed-toed shoes for working in a laboratory or machine shop. In most laboratories, wearing sandals, open-toed shoes, or high heels is not allowed. Even with the casual dress atmosphere at NIST, it is not a college campus; participants are encouraged to look critically at their clothes. For example, suggestive clothing items and clothes that expose your midriff are inappropriate.

May I bring my Skeet gun with me?

Firearms are not allowed on the NIST campuses.

Created June 3, 2010, Updated November 30, 2022