What is SURF L&S?

SURF L&S supports undergraduates in the College of Letters and Science to spend the summer doing concentrated research in preparation for a senior thesis or other major capstone research project. Fellows receive a summer stipend of $5,000 to support participation in the program. 

In addition to funding, each SURF L&S fellow is assigned to a small peer group which communicates regularly throughout the summer. In the peer group you will find a community of undergraduate researchers with similar interests. Each peer group is led by a SURF Graduate Student Advisor – an experienced researcher to help guide fellows’ efforts. Primary guidance in research will come from individual faculty mentors, but most students have found it very valuable to meet with other students who are grappling with related research issues. The SURF program culminates with a research presentation at the SURF Conference in August 2021. SURF L&S fellows will present via oral presentation with slides at the Conference.

All SURF L&S fellows are encouraged to pursue publishing their research. See this resource page for campus options. 


The application deadline for SURF 2021 is 11:59 pm, February 18th, 2021. If you are interested in applying for summer 2021, please take a look at the eligibility requirements below:

You may apply for “SURF L&S” if you meet all of the following:

  • are a student currently enrolled in the UC Berkeley College of Letters and Science (L&S)-visiting or UC Berkeley extension students are not eligible
  • have a minimum 3.0 GPA at UC Berkeley
  • Spring 2021 is at least your fifth semester at Cal (for transfer students- at least your second) AND you are on track to graduate Fall ’21 or Spring ’22. Sophomores planning to graduate in three years, please contact the Director, Sean Burns ( for instructions
  • have a well-written and reasoned proposal for an independent research project to complete in the summer of 2021, which will culminate in a senior thesis or other capstone research project that will be evaluated, preferably for a letter grade rather than P/NP, in a course during the 2021-22 school year
  • are able to devote yourself to research full-time for a minimum of eight weeks during the summer
  • have the full support and guidance of a regular UC Berkeley faculty member (professor or lecturer appointed through Fall 2021) who can guide you for the duration of your project. Students carrying out independent research in UCSF, CHORI, or LBNL labs may apply if they have sponsorship of a UC Berkeley faculty member who will sponsor their senior thesis or its equivalent following their summer with SURF
  • International and AB540 students are eligible and encouraged to apply to SURF L&S. 


SURF L&S awards will go to students who have an interesting research question, a well-conceived research plan, and clear faculty support. Successful applicants will show promise of a quick start and the potential to complete their project within the proposed timeline, though projects should be a subset of a larger project, such as the data-gathering part of a senior thesis or independent study to be completed in the fellow’s final year of study. SURF L&S must be entering their final year or final semester and have no other research funding. There are a limited number of SURF fellowships. Students who win other substantial summer awards will be expected to decline the SURF award so that additional students may benefit from summer research.

Please note that this fellowship is for student-initiated research only. Therefore, it is not for students who are supporting the research of faculty members. Ask yourself this question: Are you free to publish results from this research? If not, it may not qualify as student-initiated. Talk to your faculty sponsor if you have doubts.


Fellows are expected to work full-time on their research project for two months during the summer (specifically 8 weeks out of the 14 week full timeline of SURF). We require that you forego employment and summer session enrollment for that period. Eight weeks is the minimum requirement. We have found that most summer fellows get the most out of the experience by going beyond this minimum requirement. 

All research fellows are required to: attend one orientation that will be held during the Spring term RRR week (usually first week in May), four workshops in mid-summer, two meetings to prepare for the conference presentation (these preparation meetings usually happen in the week before or the week of the Conference), multiple small peer group meetings, and multiple research updates during the summer via bCourse. Please note that ALL SURF events and meetings will be held online via Zoom. Fellows are urged to attend as many workshops as possible. These workshops address a range of topics including, but not limited to core research skills, discipline-specific research practices, career pathways, and student wellness. Students are expected to regularly discuss progress with their SURF advisor and to present results at the end of the summer.

Early in the program, all research fellows must submit a photo, a project description, and a brief statement on the personal meaning of this opportunity, to be posted on the SURF website.

All SURF L&S fellows will be required to make a work-in-progress oral presentation at the SURF conference in August 2021. 

After the Conference, there are also a few requirements including: an online evaluation and a thank you statement to the fellow’s donor. You must be enrolled in a senior thesis or other capstone research project that will be evaluated, preferably for a letter grade rather than P/NP, in a course during the 2021-22 school year. Lastly, a copy of your final, completed research project (thesis) must be received by the Office of Undergraduate Research before the end of the term in which you graduate. An online exit survey is the final step in the SURF program.