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Stanford's Summer Undergraduate Research in Geoscience and Engineering Program

2021 Applications will open in December 2020.

View the list of projects for SURGE 2020 here.

SURGE: Bringing diverse perspectives to the Earth and Environmental Sciences. Because we all live on this planet.                

Are you interested in climate change research? Using the latest technology to monitor crop yields in Tanzania? Creating computer simulations of tsunamis? Are you an Earth sciences major or a physics major starting to explore the Earth sciences? Apply to SURGE. We welcome students from the geosciences and from other STEM majors to apply for this research opportunity. 

SURGE provides undergraduates from a U.S. institution the opportunity to gain mentored research experience at Stanford University in the geosciences and engineering during the eight-week period of June 19, 2020 to August 15, 2020.  We especially encourage students who are seeking a formal research experience for the first time to participate. The underlying philosophy of SURGE is to train students by creating a supportive and rigorous work environment. We set high expectations for our scholars: to prepare them for a potential career in the field of geoscience and engineering, and to ensure that they get the most from their stay at Stanford. Each SURGE scholar is matched with a faculty member from the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences and has the opportunity to work in a research group or laboratory. The scholar is assigned an interesting and challenging project from a broad range of Earth science and engineering topics that are accessible within the eight-week summer period. SURGE also includes workshops on preparing for the GRE, applying to graduate school, and understanding geoscience and engineering careers. The program culminates with a research symposium at Stanford, where scholars present results from their summer projects to faculty, mentors, and colleagues. Please check out the SURGE brochure for a snapshot of our program. SURGE is a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) site funded by the National Science Foundation, the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, and Stanford Earth. 

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"The opportunity to work under a mentor and make meaningful contributions to his research was one of the greatest benefits for me.  One of the most important lessons that I learned was to continue on in the face of difficult challenges.  More specifically, learning MatLab will be an invaluable asset to me in both my academic and professional career." -SURGE scholar

Logistical (updated for SURGE 2020)

  •     Receive $4,800 Stipend during the summer.
  •     Paid round trip travel expenses from home to Stanford.
  •     Paid Stanford University housing and Stanford meal plan for eight weeks, which includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner (worth $5,100).
  •     Paid health insurance for students without health insurance (worth $1,300)
  •     Paid Stanford Summer session enrollment and access to Stanford facilities (worth $717)
  •     Paid seven-week GRE Preparation course with Clear Focus Test Prep (worth $1,000)
  •     Two paid SURGE field trips to Bay Area spots (worth $400)

Total SURGE package per scholar is worth about $12,000. The amount is more if student needs insurance during summer. 

Eligibility (updated for SURGE 2020)

  • Be an undergraduate at a U.S. university or college who, by reason of their culture, class, race, ethnicity, background, and life experiences, would add diversity to our Stanford Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences research community. We especially encourage applications from traditionally underrepresented groups, including African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Native Americans, Pacific Islander Americans, and first-generation college students.
  • We especially encourage applicants who are seeking a formalized research experience for the first time. 
  • While the program is geared for undergradutes, we will also consider exceptional students who have recently graduated from college but need research experience and preperation for graduate school. Recent graduates are required to notify SURGE staff if he or she has been acceptance into graduate school during the application process. 
  • SURGE focuses on recruiting prospective graduate students, and therefore targets rising juniors and seniors--and perhaps a few exceptional sophomores--from other universities. 
  • Have completed at least two years of college and have at least one semester remaining of their undergraduate education by the start of the summer program.
  • Attend an accredited public or private college or university in the U.S. or its territories, as recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Have demonstrated interest and potential to pursue graduate study toward a Master's or PhD degree in the Earth sciences, marine sciences, and energy resource engineering. We also consider students who are majors in chemistry, biology, engineering and computer science but are specifically open to exploring the Earth and environmental sciences;
  • Be a U.S. citizen, a permanent resident, or an international student enrolled in a U.S. undergraduate institution

Application Materials (updated for 2020)

  • Two letters of recommendation (Students are strongly encouraged to ask for letters at least one month prior to the application deadline, January 27th, 2020)
  • CV or Resume
  • Official transcript
  • Application form
  • Top three research project preferences (the Potential Projects for 2020 page will be updated beginning December)
  • Write four essays in SURGE application. Questions will be provided. (10,000 characters total)
  • Phone interviews (for finalists only)

Academic and Research (updated for 2020)

  • Gain research experience as part of a Stanford University summer research group. Starting in early December, Potential Projects for 2020 page will be updated continously until January 27th, 2020.
  • See projects from 2020 SURGE.
  • Guidance/instruction by Stanford Earth faculty, post docs and graduate students.
  • Research use of state-of-the-art laboratories across the Stanford campus.
  • Take GRE course with ClearFocus Test Prep for free.
  • Graduate school application workshop.
  • Weekly lunch seminars featuring Stanford faculty presenting their latest research in Earth and environmental science to students.
  • Weekly seminars pertaining to scholars' academic and professional growth, including career panel, graduate student panel, and oral communication workshop.
  • Preparation of an abstract and power-point presentation for SURGE symposium.
  • Create your own poster for SURGE symposium and to present at national conferences.
  • Possible opportunity to co-author a scientific paper with the faculty mentor.

Departments and Programs


  • Access to Stanford facilities (library, gyms, Stanford Earth research lab, and health facilities).
  • SURGE field trips: California Academy of Sciences, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Elkorn Slough, Santa Cruz, Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, Pacheco Pass Wind Farm & San Luis Reservoir, and downtown Palo Alto.
  • Lunch with mentors and laboratory research groups.
  • Interactive web site for scholars to post their profiles, and to use as a method to keep in contact after the program has ended.
  • Membership to Stanford SURGE alumni network.

SURGE 2019 Calendar of Activities