Office of Undergraduate Research

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Application & Program Guidelines


Saturday, February 1, 2014
Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 5:00 p.m.

The application is now closed.


The USD SURE program is designed to support student-based research projects under supervision of a USD faculty mentor. Eligible students are USD continuing undergraduates in good standing who will not have graduated before the award period begins. Eligible faculty mentors must be employed at USD or hold formal affiliated status with USD (e.g., Research Associate). Faculty mentors can oversee projects conducted by students outside of their own department or program.

Currently, previous recipients of a SURE award are eligible to receive SURE funding for a second summer. However, a new application for the current cycle must be submitted by the deadline. Students who receive funding for summer research through other sources (Hayes scholarship, McNair program) may not also receive SURE funding. SURE recipients are expected to spend 40 hours per week conducting their project; therefore students should not have other major schedule obligations such as concurrent summer classes or working at a job or internship.

Appropriate Projects

The SURE program is open to all undergraduate majors, therefore the types of projects that may be funded with SURE awards vary widely. Projects must have a clear research or scholarship focus, and should be conducted in line with disciplinary standards of inquiry. SURE projects are coordinated in collaboration with a USD faculty mentor.  The SURE program is a maximum of $3,500 for 10 weeks, research beyond 10 weeks is voluntary.

Policy on IRB and IACUC Project Approvals

Any awarded SURE project that involves human (IRB) or animal (IACUC) subjects must receive formal approval from the appropriate USD research ethics committee before the project begins. When the SURE award notification is received, the student should immediately work to submit the required materials to the appropriate committee. A copy of the ethics approval form (showing all necessary signatures) must be received by the Office of Undergraduate Research before any awarded project funds will be approved for distribution.

Research Integrity Training

All students and faculty mentors who are awarded a SURE grant must attend the Office of Undergraduate Research's one hour Research Integrity Training before any money can be awarded. Research Integrity Training is valid for 3 years. Faculty and students who have previously taken the training do not have take it again.

Overview of the SURE Application (3) Parts

I. The proposal must be 1,000 words (~2 pages) or less and include the following:

  1. Introduction (What is the “big picture”or the current state of the field?)
  2. Specific Aims or Goals (What do you propose to accomplish? What is the question you are going to answer? What is your hypothesis?)
  3. Methods, Procedures, Experimental Design (How do you plan to accomplish your goals? Answer the research question? Address the Hypothesis? Which part will you do? Which part will your mentor do?
  4. Results, discuss expected results and/or preliminary results.
  5. Discussion, how will the expected results from your research impact/fit into the field? How will the results from the project be disseminated?
  6. References
  7. Motivation, address how the SURE project is in line with your career goals, current academic activities and how the experience will benefit you professionally.

II. Timetable (What do you plan to accomplish each week or month?)

III. A letter of recommendation from the faculty member to be submitted by faculty member separately


The project proposal should list the title of the project, your name, faculty mentor's name and department. These items are not calculated in the word count. Relevant figures may be included in the project proposal document. Please use a legible font.

Proposal Integrity

The SURE program is a student-oriented program, meaning that you, the student, is expected to write your own project proposal. It is assumed that the faculty mentor will help shape the conceptual aspects of the project and will provide feedback to you on the feasibility and impact of the proposed work. However, the project proposal must be written by you.

Submitting Letters of Recommendation

The online submission system allows faculty recommenders to submit their letters of recommendation directly to the selection committee. The online system will send an email reminder to the your letter writer once the final application has been submitted, but it is your responsibility to talk to the recommenders in advance of the deadline to ensure that they are willing to write the letters of recommendation and that they are aware of the submission deadline.

Supply Budget

Should your project be funded through the SURE program, a limited amount of money is available for supplies and project-related costs. Supply funds cannot generally pay for books or similar personal expenses. SURE funds also do not generally pay for permanent equipment. Travel expenses for field projects may be requested, including converting stipend to cover travel costs (this is advantageous, because the stipend is taxable, whereas reimbursed travel expenses are not).


SURE does not fund travel to professional meetings, or other expenses associated with such meetings. SURE may fund travel expenses when travel is required to perform research (see above). If you plan to present your research at a scientific meeting in the future, please apply for conference travel funds through the office of Undergraduate Research (


All SURE Summer Scholars are eligible for discounted on-campus housing rate.  If you are planning to stay on-campus, please check the housing box on the application.

Review Procedures

The review committee is composed of one faculty member from each department/program. Due to the considerable work of evaluating proposals, no feedback regarding rejected proposals will be provided by the review committee. All decisions are final.

Some successful proposals may be found here:

Distribution of Awards

The philosophy of the SURE program review committee will be to fund as many viable student projects as possible. The number of proposals has been rising every year, while available funds for awards have generally remained at the same level. Past funding rates have been around 50%.

Post-Award Changes

SURE project awards cannot be changed once awarded. Only the student who submitted an approved proposal is allowed to receive SURE grant funds. Substitution of a different student or students onto an already-awarded grant project is not allowed. If the student is unable to carry out the project, the award is to be declined.

The faculty mentor and the student are jointly responsible for beginning and continuing work as described in the approved project, including the agreed upon start date and length of work. Any significant changes in student or faculty participation should be reported to the Office of Undergraduate Research (for example, changes of more than one week for a 10 week project and start/stop date). If either faculty mentor or student or both do not begin the project, or stop working during the project, this must be reported immediately.


Faculty and student stipends are taxable and subject to withholding. The USD Payroll office can provide students information about possible exemption from withholding.

Progress Reports and Evaluation Surveys

Each SURE student awardee is required to submit a brief written report that summarizes their activities and accomplishments and complete weekly and end-of-program evaluation surveys.  Faculty mentors are required to complete a 15-minute online evaluation about the programming and the undergraduate research experience (this is in lieu of the summary).

USD Undergraduate Research Conference Presentation

SURE awardees are expected to present their research at Creative Collaborations, USD's Undergraduate Research Conference, in the spring following their summer research. Students should acknowledge the SURE program as a funding source and include a SURE logo on their posters.

SURE logo (dark) / SURE logo (light)


Standard Timeline of SURE Activities and Deadlines

Call for proposals: End of Fall semester
Submission deadline: Thursday, February 13, 2014
Funding decision: Mid-March
Implementation: Summer session
Progress report: Before Fall classes begin
Project presentation: Creative Collaborations 2015


History of the SURE Program and Funding Sources

The SURE program is partially funded annually by the Office of the Provost. SURE may also be funded partly by external grants which may have restrictions on the types of projects funded.

The SURE program originally supported only science-based research primarily from the six founding departments of the program (Biology, Chemistry, Marine Sciences, Mathematics/Computer Science, Physics, and Psychology). Beginning in 2009, SURE funding was opened to students in all disciplines. SURE funding is not intended to fund assistants for faculty, but intellectually-engaged partnerships between students and faculty.

SURE Program Contact Information

If you have questions regarding the SURE program, please contact the Office of Undergraduate Research or 619-260-7840.