Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF)

Summer Humanities Undergraduate Research Experience (SHURE)

SURF and SHURE are opportunities for USC Dornsife students to pursue research in conjunction with Dornsife faculty members, either on or off campus, during the summer semester. The purpose of SURF/SHURE is to connect students with faculty members and their research. It allows students to be mentored one-on-one by USC Dornsife faculty, introduces students early in their academic careers to the process of serious scholarly inquiry and fosters valuable relationships between students and faculty.

Students in good standing with a USC Dornsife major may apply for research funding up to $3,000 to supplement expenses while working on a Dornsife faculty member’s research. Students participating in one of USC Dornsife’s Problems Without Passports (PWP) research courses may use these funds to offset tuition.

  • Students should apply to SURF if they are working with a faculty mentor in the Natural or Social Sciences.
  • Students should apply to SHURE if they are working with a faculty mentor in the Humanities.
  • Students are not limited by their declared major/minor (i.e., science students may work with humanities faculty, and vice versa).

Please note that we do not fund independent research projects, such as those related to 490 courses or honors theses. Students interested in pursuing independent research should apply for PURF, the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Fund instead.

Students interested in conducting research under the guidance of a professor during the academic year (fall and spring) should apply for SOAR.

To explore current faculty research projects, please visit the Dornsife Compass.

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For Students

Click on the tabs below to learn more about SURF.

    • The amount of funding is up to $3,000.
    • The funding can be used to cover personal expenses or expenses directly related to the research project or PWP program. This commonly includes housing, meals, research materials, equipment and equipment rental, travel, etc. If you receive SURF/SHURE for a PWP course, it can go directly toward offsetting tuition costs.
    • A recipient of the ExL award, Provost Fellowship (PURF), Rose Hills, etc. will not be contemporaneously considered for a SURF/SHURE grant (a student’s total summer funding sources should not exceed $3,000).
    • If you haven’t already done so, it is strongly recommended that you sign up for direct deposit to avoid lost checks. A cancel/re-issue will take time to process. Questions regarding this form should be directed to Payment Services.

    All funds will be disbursed in accordance with customary policies and procedures of the university.

  • Eligibility

    • 3.0 cumulative USC GPA or better
    • Full-time enrollment (12 units per semester) at USC for the entire academic year.
    • Seniors graduating in May or August and students with 144 units, or more, are not eligible to apply.
    • Declared major in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
    • Each student must have a USC Dornsife faculty mentor who meets one of the following criteria:

      1. Tenured or Tenure-Track
      2. Non-Tenure Track with a research profile
      3. Professional School faculty member with a joint appointment in USC Dornsife

                   PWP applicants: your faculty mentor is the PWP course professor.

                   SURF applicants: Natural or Social Sciences faculty mentor.

                   SHURE applicants: Humanities faculty mentor.

    Examples of Eligible Projects:

    • Assisting a Dornsife faculty member with summer research on or off campus, e.g. working in a professor’s lab or on a book project.
    • Team research projects as part of a Dornsife faculty member’s research, e.g. the Near Crisis Project or SPEC Lab.
    • Dornsife College’s Problems Without Passports (PWP) program, to help fund tuition and costs.

    Again, please be reminded that the purpose of SURF/SHURE funding is to encourage faculty-student collaboration, therefore, we only fund students who are working directly on a faculty member’s project. If you are seeking funding for an independent research project, please direct your attention to the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Fellowships (PURF).

  • Summer 2025 SURF Application Period

    Thurs. March 6, 2025 to Thurs. April 10, 2025

    Check the SOAR website for updates if you are interested in applying for funding during the fall and/or spring semesters.

    • Access the SURF application here during the application period.
    • In addition to general and SURF related questions, you will be asked to upload a one-page research proposal – it should detail what your faculty mentor’s project is researching, in a general sense, as well as what exactly you will be contributing to the project. For PWP students, proposals should include course number and name as well as the course research objectives. Include whether or not you have applied for other grants or fellowships, and if you will be receiving other funding (e.g., PURF, Rose Hills, BUGS, Trustee, Presidential, Mork, etc.).
    • SURF Faculty Letter of Recommendation: The application will generate an email to your faculty mentor so they can upload your recommendation letter or documentation
    • For applicants wishing to conduct research with human subjects, your faculty mentor will be asked to provide IRB approval or exemption. If you do not know if the project requires IRB approval, please consult with your faculty mentor.
  • SURF/SHURE recipients are required to submit a one-page research report with faculty mentor’s signature by August 30th, 2024 for summer 2024. The SURF/SHURE report is a one page summary of your research findings and overall experience. Failure to do so renders the student ineligible for SURF/SHURE or SOAR funding for the following year and their SURF/SHURE award could be rescinded. Students must also be willing to share research findings with Dornsife Communications.

    The report, signed by the faculty mentor of your research project, must be submitted via the link provided on your SURF agreement.  There are no specific formatting requirements.

    Report guidelines can be found here.

For Faculty

Due to the large number of applicants, we limit the number of SURF/SHURE grants to (up to) two students per faculty member, per summer. The expectation is that students will pursue other funding sources and faculty will support their research students.

These stipulations do not apply to PWP programs.

SURF supports faculty led projects. Please do not recommend independent student projects.  We encourage those students to apply for PURF, the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Fund.

If your project involves human subjects, you will be asked to provide a copy of your IRB approval or extension. Faculty with IRB approval should be able to add students to their existing approval.

FAQs about IRB reviews.

It is not required to participate in the SOAR and SURF programs, however, Dornsife faculty interested in posting their research should sign up as employers on Dornsife Compass. Please add the following sentence in the position description:

If you are a Dornsife undergraduate student, you may able to apply for SOAR, SURF, or SHURE funding from USC Dornsife if you work with an eligible Dornsife faculty mentor on their research project.  Visit or for more information.


  • Hours are based on an agreement between the faculty mentor and the student. Most students spend at least 10 hours per week for at least 10 weeks for fall and spring and 20 hours per week for at least 8 weeks during the summer to actually get a meaningful experience. SOAR and SURF are flat rate awards. We do not translate the funding into an hourly wage.

  • Please visit Direct Deposit Stipend Instructions for guidance. This is highly recommended to avoid lost checks.

    Be advised that your first installment may arrive as a check mailed to your local home address. Students should always keep all addresses current in OASIS.

  • No. For a research project to be eligible for SOAR and SURF, you must have support from a Dornsife Faculty mentor who meets one of the following criteria:

    • Tenured or Tenure-Track
    • Non-Tenure Track with a research profile
    • Professional School faculty member with a joint appointment in Dornsife
  • You will be required to list the project and faculty mentor on your application. A letter of recommendation from that mentor is also required.

  • If you are unable to acquire a signature on your report, please attach an email approval to your report and upload through the link that was provided in your agreement.

  • The one page report doesn’t require explicit details. No figures, data or references are required. We want to get a general idea about the research project and what you got out of the experience.

  • SURF reports should be uploaded through the link provided in your agreement.

  • Please try to limit the report to no more than three pages. You are only required to briefly describe the research. These reports often go to donors who are more interested in your contribution and your overall personal experience.

  • No. Recipients of SOAR/SURF cannot be contemporaneously considered for an ExL award.

  • No. SOAR and SURF do not support independent student research.

  • There are no specific format requirements for the proposal or the one-page report.

  • No. It is your responsibility to make sure the mentor follows through with your request.

  • SOAR and SURF are only offered to Dornsife majors. If you are a Dornsife major, try clearing out your cookies or try a different browser.

  • No. All projects require IRB approved first.


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