Discovery Files

Dive into the sea: Summer research and education program in ocean sciences

2020 SURF Program for undergraduates continues this summer

Ocean scientists have ensured that a program engaging students in research is continuing this summer and offering the same meaningful experiences, networking opportunities and career prospects.

The Scripps Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) is a 10-week summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. It is designed to engage students in earth, ocean and atmospheric sciences research; each SURF fellow conducts original research under the direction of a mentor.  

The SURF program's funding comes largely from a National Science Foundation grant.

SURF's goals are to increase student diversity in geosciences, successfully prepare participants to pursue career pathways, and recruit individuals from institutions with limited undergraduate research opportunities.

The geosciences are among the least diverse of the STEM fields in the U.S. The SURF program prioritizes increasing diversity in ocean and geosciences fields.

This summer, SURF will welcome 19 students. Some 73% identify as an underrepresented minority. The program is offering a new, hybrid model; a virtual part of the program has been created to allow an additional 19 students to participate in a fully remote summer research experience.

"Virtual REU programs give us a chance to engage students in a new way and to include students who might not be able to travel away from home or do fieldwork," says Lisa Rom, a program director in NSF's Division of Ocean Sciences. "We expect to include virtual REU programs as an essential part of our REU portfolio from now on."

Rom adds that the large number of students from diverse backgrounds participating in the program "is evidence that virtual programs are an important way for us to support the development of a diverse workforce in the future."

Some 150 students have participated in SURF since it launched in 2011. In each cohort, 65% to 75% have identified as underrepresented minorities. To date, about 75% of former SURF students have gone on to graduate school or to careers in the ocean and geosciences.