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2024 Program Information 

Yes, the SURF 2024 program format is hybrid. Fellowships will occur in person and virtually.

SURF is an 11-week program, with accommodations available to address specific academic schedules (e.g., quarter systems).

You must live in the U.S. during your fellowship to have access to NIST’s network. 

Eligibility and Requirements 

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. Students with student visas (F1 visas) are not eligible. 

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


Yes, in 2023 participants received a stipend of $6600 for the 11-week program. In 2024, the expectation is that participants will receive $7810 for the 11-week program. In-person participants may also receive an allowance for lodging and travel. 

Students who completed the 11-week program in 2023 received a $6,600 stipend. There were a limited number of nine-week and custom fellowships available to accommodate school schedules. Participants whose school schedules prohibit completing the full program earn $600 per week.
We anticipate 2024 funding to provide a stipend of $710 per week, equivalent to $7810 for the 11-week program.

A tax adviser 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.

You will be paid through direct deposit. All participants must have an active account for direct deposit.


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 NIST projects available. 

Your application must include (NOTE: Items 3-7 must be uploaded through the documents selection section. PDF is the preferred format for all submitted documents.):

1. Responses to the online questions. For question #3, please refer to this link: SURF_MSI List.

2. Two (2) letters of recommendation from references, preferably professors, department heads, previous internship mentors, or academic advisers familiar with the applicant’s education, training, experience, aptitude, and promise relevant to the SURF Program. We recommend entering references' personal email addresses into the application portal to avoid firewall issues.

Note: It is the responsibility of the applicant to notify their references through the online application system. References will receive instructions on the content of their letters and they must upload their letters via the online application module no later than 3 days after the vacancy closes.

3. Resume which includes professional and research experience. Uploaded pdf is the preferred format.

4. Undergraduate transcript. You must submit college transcripts (unofficial transcripts are 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.) before uploading into the application system. 

5. Proof of U.S. citizenship or U.S. permanent residency. Acceptable forms of proof of U.S. Citizenship include 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's licenses do not meet the requirements for proof of U.S. citizenship.  Submitted proof of U.S. citizenship or U.S. permanent residency must have all Social Security numbers and/or dates of birth removed (blanked out, blackened out, made illegible, etc.) before uploading into the application system. 

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 that includes the following:

  • Commitment to participate in the program and work in a laboratory environment
  • Description of relevant coursework and/or research experience
  • Description of prioritized research interests
  • Expectation of personal benefit from participating in the program
  • Career goals

Students must submit all required documentation no later than the closing date of the vacancy announcement to be considered for review. PDF is the preferred format for all submitted documents. Incomplete applications will not be considered for review in the SURF program. It is highly recommended you preview the online questions for this announcement before you start the application process.

USAJobs provides a summary on how to apply for vacancies. 

You will answer these questions in your USAJobs application. Preview the questionnaire for the Gaithersburg vacancy announcement here. Preview the questionnaire for the Boulder vacancy announcement here. Preview the questionnaire for the Waimanalo vacancy announcement here.

Please refer to this document: SURF_MSI List

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

Yes, applicants may update their applications before the application deadline, except that applicants cannot modify the references section after submitting the application. If you need to modify the references after submitting the application, email surf [at] (surf[at]nist[dot]gov) for assistance. Please include the application location in your email. After the announcement closes, applicants cannot update their applications in any way.

No; students apply to SURF on USAJobs.

Visit the USAJobs contact page for more information.  

The personal statement is essentially an essay about you, why you are applying to the program, and why you think you deserve a fellowship. Our best advice is to take it seriously. 

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 we 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 11 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.

Your 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.

A ‘grade’ refers to the General Schedule (GS) pay scale in the federal government – it’s the pay level for the job. The higher the grade level, the higher the pay. The GS pay schedule is the most common pay scale but there are others. You can find out more here:

In the NIST SURF program, interns are brought in as guest researchers and not federal employees, which is why we use Grade 0 on the application. If you want to be considered for the SURF program, answer YES to that question. Sometimes when applying to different positions in the federal government (not NIST SURF), applicants will have a choice of grades, and then must provide evidence such as education and experience, to justify their qualifications for the grade they selected. 

Answering ‘yes’ to the Grade 0 question means you understand that if accepted you will be a guest researcher and not a federal employee. It will not exclude you from any SURF projects.

References and Recommendation Letters

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

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

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

The system-generated email may be in your reference’s spam folder. Ask your reference to search for an email from noreply [at] (noreply[at]msapps[dot]monster[dot]com) or noreply [at] (noreply[at]monstgovt[dot]com).

The reference's email server may also have a firewall blocking delivery. If this is the case, email surf [at] (surf[at]nist[dot]gov). In the email, include the location of the application and the name and email address of the reference. 

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 2024 program, they will already have an account and 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 2024 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] (noreply[at]monster[dot]com) containing a link which expires after a few minutes.
    3. Your reference should follow the link 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] (noreply[at]monster[dot]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] (mgshelp[at]Monster[dot]com)

Monster Helpdesk number: 1-866-656-6831

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

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


Applicants will receive offers by April 15, 2024. NIST strives to notify each student of their final status — whether or not the student has been offered a place in the program.


No, but NIST provides an allowance to students to assist with housing costs. The program plans to share a list of affordable housing options in the Gaithersburg and Boulder areas.

The SURF program provides a housing allowance up to $4,500 for students to arrange their housing. The program plans to share a list of affordable housing options in the Gaithersburg and Boulder areas.

Planning Your Summer 

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.

Created September 20, 2023, Updated January 17, 2024