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Is the program hosting participants on Gaithersburg or Boulder campuses for the 2021 Summer?

No; the program is occurring virtually for the 2021 Summer.

Due to the SURF Program occurring remotely, are there restrictions to where I may reside? 
As participants will need to access the NIST network, they will need to reside in the United States to have IT connectivity to the NIST network. 

Is the SURF Program a paid internship?

Yes; Participants receive a stipend of $545.45 per week or $6000 for an eleven week appointment and allowance for lodging and travel.

How do I apply to the SURF Program?

Students must apply on USAJobs.Gov to be considered for acceptance into the program. To apply to the SURF Program, a USAJOBS profile is required. If you do not have a profile, please create it here. See more details in the "How to Apply" section of the announcement.

How does the application process work?

The following link  ( provides a quick summary of how to apply to vacancies on USAJobs.Gov.

Where can I find the questionnaire (vacancy questions)?

The questionnaire can be accessible by selecting  APPLY on the left of the webpage (assuming you're using a desktop computer). After selecting  APPLY you will follow several prompts (enter personal information, upload personal documents etc.) until you reach the questionnaire.

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

No; We understand that you need time to complete the supporting documents. You can log-in and out of the USAJobs.Gov portal as frequently as you desire. As a reminder, all applicants must submit a completed application package by the announcement deadline.

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

Certainly you can update your application. After the announcement closes, you cannot update your application.

Does my university need to submit my application?

No; students apply directly to the program on USAJobs.Gov. The university component has been eliminated from the SURF application requirements.

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

For assistance with using USAJOBS.Gov, please visit

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: Reference writers have until February 20, 2021 to submit the letter 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 reference writers receive the request to provide a letter on my behalf for the program?

The application must be submitted for the reference writer to receive the notification to submit a letter of recommendation. After the application is submitted, the letter writer should receive a system generated e-mail with additional details. Note: You will have the opportunity to update your submission until the announcement is closed.

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

In some cases, the system generated e-mail was sent to the reference's spam folder.If this is the case, encourage the reference writer to search for e-mails from noreply [at] or noreply [at]

Another scenario is the reference's e-mail server may have security firewalls preventing the delivery of the message. If this is the case, send an e-mail to brandi.toliver [at] In the e-mail include the location of the application and the name of the reference. 

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

This has been a reoccurring challenge with references attempting to create an account with the 2-step verification. We suggest enabling the 2-step verification after an account is successfully created.

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

This has been a reoccurring challenge with references attempting to create an account with the 2-step verification. We suggest enabling the 2-step verification after an account is successfully created. If the reference writer continues to experience challenges with the portal, they may contact Monster at:

MGS Helpdesk email:  mgshelp [at]

MGS Helpdesk number:  1-866-656-6831

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

Regretfully, the applicant is unable to modify the references section after submitting the application. Instead, e-mail brandi.toliver [at] In the e-mail include the location of the application and the name, e-mail, and affiliation of the reference. 

My reference needs some guidance to complete the reference. Can you provide a document with instructions?

Please use this document for step-by-step procedures.

How competitive is the program? How many are accepted?

Approximately 1 of every 3 students is offered an fellowship. We expect to have about 150 students each summer in the program. The actual chance of making it into the program really depends upon the number and quality of the students applying for the program and in the number of appropriate NIST projects that we have available that summer. You can increase your chances of getting into the program by writing a good "personal statement" or essay on yourself. Try to answer the questions: Why are you interested in the program? Why you think that you should get accepted? What are your technical interests? It is also helpful for you to identify which labs that you would like to work in because the people in those labs will review your applications before anyone else does.

Where can I see past SURF student projects?

We keep abstracts of the student projects on the SURF website, under the application section Look for "Student Abstract Book" or if you want to see a quick list check for the "List of participants, research project titles, and NIST laboratories" link.

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

No, the program is only open to United States citizens  who attend 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  who are enrolled as an undergraduate student at a US College or University. 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?

We must receive your completed application electronically by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on the application deadline. No exceptions to the deadline.

The Congressional budget process has been known to cause some conflicts with the deadline, therefore, we would recommend that you check the SURF website for any possible changes in the deadline date.

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 that you should be offered a fellowship. Use the letter to describe yourself and what you would like to do with your future. Often this letter can give the reviewer the extra bit of information that he or she needs to a final decision. The SURF directors also use this letter to match you with a summer project so make sure you tell us if there is an area that you are really interested in or the opposite. Keep in mind that students are often placed in specific projects because they have the needed skills for that project. Students often complete the program with a new perspective on a research field entirely different from what they had originally expressed interest in. In a few cases, these students have continued in the new field in graduate school. You may not know the exact area that you want to work in but you probably know what kind of classes you like and what you don't - use the letter to tell the reviewers. We have nine different laboratories here at NIST and often a person with one degree (or future degree) can work in more than one lab - another reason to keep your options open.

When will I know if I've been accepted?

We try to review the students and issue offers by April 15, 2021. 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?

Keep in mind that a student resume should not just include the jobs that you have/had. The resume should also include information like 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 cost. 

What is the housing allowance? What is the stipend?

The SURF program is designed around a 11-week fellowship. There are a limited number of 9-week fellowships available to accommodate school schedules. Students who complete the full 11 week program will receive a $5,500 stipend. Students that can not make the full 11-week program will be paid at $500 per week.

The SURF program provides a housing allowance (up to $3500) for students to arrange their own housing. The program plans to share a list of affordable housing options in the area. 

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

Yes. It is a recommendation that you have health insurance. As you probably know, not having health insurance can be risky. If you get sick or have an accident while in the Washington DC area you will be responsible for paying for your own medical bills. 

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?

Unfortunately, We can't really answer that question.  A tax advisor familiar with the laws in your state would be 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?

NIST does not have an official dress code. However, staff are encouraged to dress for success and in a safe manner. 

In general,  The dress around the NIST campus is "business casual" - for example: chinos, Dockers, khaki pants, or nice jeans. No clothes with holes please!

You should pack at least one nice outfit (suit, dress, sports coat, skirt, or shirt and tie). The nice outfit will come in handy for the end-of the-summer talk (for an audience of NIST scientists, guests, and fellow students) or for days when you have a special VIP visiting your lab.

It is important to pack at least one pair of closed-toed shoes for the times that you will be working in a laboratory or machine shop. Sandals, open-toed shoes, and high-heels are not allowed in most laboratories.

Even with the casual atmosphere around NIST, it is not a college campus and we would like to encourage you to take a critical eye at your clothes. For example, suggestive clothing items and clothes that expose your midriff are not appropriate.

May I bring my Skeet gun with me?

Firearms are not allowed  on the NIST campus.

Created June 3, 2010, Updated February 12, 2021