Summer Undergraduate Research Award

The Office of Undergraduate Research, in partnership with academic departments at WashU, offers Summer Undergraduate Research Awards (SURA) to financially support WashU undergraduates pursuing faculty-mentored research or creative projects during the summer from all academic backgrounds, except life sciences and physics. Students from the life sciences should apply for the BioSURF award; however, students conducting biodiversity-related research may seek nomination for a Living Earth Collaborative SURA. Students conducting research in Physics should apply to the Physics Department for summer funding. The OUR expects to make about 50 awards this summer.

Program Highlights

  • SURAs range from $2,500-$5,000 based on the length and nature of the proposed project. The length of the proposed project and whether travel is involved determines the award amount:
    • A $5,000 award requires a 360-hour (~9-10 weeks full-time) commitment. These monies are to defray living expenses — no budget submission is required.
    • For research requiring less than 360 hours, the award will be prorated based on the proposed project period; however, the minimum commitment is 180 hours. No budget submission required.
    • For research requiring extensive travel and/or fieldwork, the award amount is not determined by project length. The maximum award amount is $5,000 and is based on submitting an itemized budget.
  • The SURA Program is intended to support WashU students working with a WashU faculty mentor in their field of research who will actively guide and support the research project.
  • Students may also apply for a $500 award supplement to cover consumable supplies (e.g., participant incentives, art supplies) for projects not requiring travel. Please note that due to funding restrictions, these monies are not guaranteed. 
  • Students build professional relationships with their mentor and the broader research community.
  • For Summer 2024, the proposed research should occur between May 13 and August 23. 
  • If you are considering seeking nomination for a SURA and have an interest in international journalism, consider also applying for The Pulitzer Center’s International Reporting Student Fellowship.

Application Timeline

(All dates subject to change)

March 1: Application Deadline

April 1: Award Notification Date

April 8: Award Acceptance Deadline

April 26 - May 1: Award Orientation Dates

May 13: Earliest Summer Research Start Date

Submission Guidelines


  • Open to all continuing WashU undergraduate students.
  • Recipients must be able to conduct research for the proposed project period between May 13 - August 23, 2024.
  • Students from the life sciences should apply for the BioSURF or Living Earth Collaborative SURA. Students conducting research in Physics should apply to the Physics Department for summer funding.
  • Students must be nominated by a Washington University tenure track or TRaP faculty mentor in their field of research who agrees to actively engage in guiding the research project.
  • Priority is given to students pursuing their first SURA. Past recipients may seek funding for an second summer research project but are strongly encouraged to develop alternative summer plans, because funding limitations may prevent the OUR from granting second awards.

Application Requirements

  • A basic eligibility check (e.g., are you a senior?) and a student information form (e.g., major, field of research, whether the project involves human subjects or travel)
  • Mentors will submit a nomination form comprised of several short answer questions (NOT a traditional letter of recommendation). If the project is co-mentored, a second nomination will be required.
  • A 4-5 page, double-spaced research proposal, developed in collaboration with your research mentor. Proposal components are described below.
  • A project timeline
  • An itemized budget and budget justification for research requiring travel
  • For research activities involving human subjects, nominees must seek and receive approval from the University's Human Research Protection Office prior to beginning their data collection; however, this step can take place after submitting nomination materials.
    • If a project is considered "exempt," the student should provide documentation verifying that status (e.g., IRB approval of exemption, description of conversation with HRPO's SWAT! On-Call Service). 
    • On the application, students will be asked to briefly describe their prior experience with and/or planned strategies for connecting with the target research population. This statement should demonstrate that the student has an established network, sufficient cultural fluency, recruitment tools, and/or training in community-based research to meaningfully engage with and gather data from the individuals they seek to include in their research project.

Selection Criteria

  • The importance of the research experience to the student’s development
  • Clarity of research question and methodological approach to address the question
  • Demonstrated ability to place research in the broader context
  • The feasibility of the proposed project within the project period (all proposed summer research activities should be completed by the first day of classes in August) and its contribution to the discipline
  • Mentor’s assessment of nominee’s potential for learning and contribution to the research

Award Recipient Expectations

  1. Students who receive a SURA must actively participate in the summer community of WashU undergraduate researchers, including attending a required research ethics workshop, giving a lightning talk on their project, and submitting mid- and end-of-award reports.
  2. Awardees must present their work at the Fall Undergraduate Research Symposium in the semester following receipt of the award.
  3. To faciliate an immersive research experience, students receiving awards for a summer research project should not engage in more than 3 credits of coursework or in additional full-time employment during the project period.
  4. For research activities involving human subjects, nominees must seek and receive approval (or exemption) from the University's Human Research Protection Office.
  5. All awards are considered taxable income by federal, state, and local government. Domestic students should declare their awards when filing annual taxes; the WashU Tax Department will mail a document listing the taxable award amount in late January. For international students, the tax burden can be substantial (up to 30%), and taxes are automatically withdrawn by the WashU Tax Department upfront.

Application Components

Primary WashU Faculty Mentor Nomination

Awards are made based on faculty nomination, which involves short answers (NOT a traditional letter of recommendation) regarding the following criteria:

  1. Importance: Describe the importance of the proposed research or creative activities to the student’s academic and professional development and progression.
  2. Feasibility: Address the feasibility of the scope and timeline of the project. What potential barriers or constraints could interfere with progression of the project, and how might the student circumvent them? What product(s) or milestone(s) should the student achieve by the end of the research period?
  3. Disciplinary contribution: Discuss the potential contribution of the proposed project to the relevant field of inquiry. What new knowledge, insights, tools, community impact, etc., might be generated through this project?
  4. Student potential: Describe the student's commitment and capacity to undertake the proposed project. What experiences or indicators demonstrate the student's readiness and potential to advance the work? 
  5. Mentoring: Briefly outline your role in the project and how you and/or your research group hope to support the student in reaching project objectives.

Students with a second faculty mentor (WashU or external) engaging with their research project should also request a nomination from their co-mentor.

Research Proposal

Please upload a 4-5 page double-spaced proposal. You should develop the proposal in collaboration with your mentor and receive their final approval.

Applications for SURA funds will be evaluated based on the feasibility of and necessity of the proposed activities, as well as the disciplinary and personal impact of the project. Below we outline the OUR's expectations for a successful SURA research or creative proposal, which should address ALL of the following:

  • Goal: State your research question(s) or creative objective(s)
  • Background and significance: Situate the research question(s) or creative objective(s) within the broader disciplinary context. Explain previous studies, concepts, or theoretical or critical frameworks relevant to your research or the development of your performance or creation. Given this disciplinary context, explain why this project is novel and informative. This section should highlight the disciplinary gap or community need the project addresses and what new knowledge or understanding it will contribute.
  • Methods: Explain to a non-expert, academic audience (e.g., scholars from a completely different discipline) the overarching methodological approach or creative process and your specific responsibilities. This section should outline the rationale and individual steps required to identify, examine and analyze the data/information collected or generate the performance or creation.
  • Findings and implications: Describe what research results, products, or creative output you expect to generate through the proposed activities, and discuss the anticipated consequences of those outcomes. This section could outline potential applications of the results, next steps for this line of inquiry, community impact of the project, etc.
  • Importance for the student: Identify the academic, personal, and/or professional goals the proposed project will advance. This section should specify how the faculty-mentored project will uniquely contribute to developing your specific academic, personal, and professional competencies.

Project Timeline

Provide a weekly timeline that outlines the work you will execute to achieve project outcomes and when it will be carried out. This document should help demonstrate the project's feasibility and help you track your progress over the summer. Relevant elements of this timeline include:

  • Key preparatory, training and methodological steps of the project
  • Milestones and deliverables (i.e., what you will achieve or produce, such as an annotated bibliography, interview protocol, etc.)
  • Critical communication points with your mentor (e.g., to obtain feedback)
  • Anticipated project period dates and work hours

Budgets for Travel-Based Projects

For research requiring extensive travel and/or fieldwork, the award amount is not determined by project length, but is budget based. Students can request up to $5000 and should include all applicable project related costs in a detailed budget, including:

  • Transportation (e.g., airfare, ground transportation)
  • Room and board (e.g., lodging, meals)
  • Research supply costs (e.g., archive admission, translation fees)
  • International travel expenses (e.g. visa costs; required health insurance from GeoBlue, which costs an estimated $14-15 per week depending upon travel location)
  • Stipend for project work outside of travel period (include non-travel project hours in budget document AND timeline; stipend will be prorated accordingly)

Research Supply Supplement (Non-Travel Projects)

A limited number of award supplements will be available to cover consumable research supplies (e.g., chemical reagents, participant incentives, art supplies) for projects that do not involve travel. Students may request up to $500 and must submit an itemized (e.g., specific items and quantity) budget of the resources needed to execute the project. A justification must accompany each proposed cost that discusses how the items/resources are essential to the methodology and goals of the work. Describe how each cost was estimated, addressing these additional considerations when applicable:

  • Any other funding, such as mentor matches, fellowships, etc.
  • How items/resources are otherwise unavailable through WashU (mentor, department, library, etc.) or other avenues at no/lower cost (e.g. renting equipment)
  • For projects involving compensation of research subjects, a rationale for the number of paid subjects is required

Overall, you must convey that the proposed costs are reasonable and necessary to carry out the project. Please note that generally we cannot fund the costs of non-consumable goods (i.e., reusable equipment); however, we will consider such items under $100 with strong justification. Insufficient budget justification will decrease the probability of receiving this supplemental funding significantly.

Get Inspiration and Input

I learned that research could be what you make it. It does not have to fit into the narrow box that research has always been perceived to be. Research can be a valuable way to explore your interests and the problems that have continuously existed in our lifetimes. It does not have to already be out there to be considered important.

―SURA RecipientSummer 2023 Cohort

Application Opens Soon!

Deadline: March 1