Graduate School of Oceanography

URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography is one of the world’s premier academic institutions of oceanography and ocean exploration. GSO’s research, education, and outreach activities advance our knowledge of the world’s ocean.

SURFO Program

Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship in Oceanography (SURFO) Program

The Summer 2017 SURFO Cohort
The Summer 2017 SURFO Cohort

Contents

Click the links to jump to each section.

Overview

The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship in Oceanography (SURFO) is a 10-week program designed primarily for science, math and engineering students who will have just completed their junior year of undergraduate coursework.

The program can include laboratory work, data analysis, instrumentation development, dynamical modeling, even a research cruise.

For more information about the program, requirements and deadlines, visit the various SURFO pages. To apply, go to Applications.

Funding for this REU site is provided by the National Science Foundation’s Division of Ocean Sciences located in Arlington, VA, under Grant Number OCE-1460819.  The NSF contact for this program is Elizabeth Rom. NSF does not handle REU applications; please contact each REU site directly for application information.


Program Description

About SURFO

2016 SURFO interns in action.
2016 SURFO interns in action.

The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships in Oceanography (SURFO) program is a 10-week research experience designed primarily for science, math and engineering students who will have just completed their junior year. The program can include laboratory work, data analysis, instrumentation development, dynamical modeling, even a research cruise.

Summer Fellows may be involved in projects related to:

  • Physical, Biological, Chemical, or Geological Oceanography
  • Geophysics / Geodynamics
  • Population Genetics / Biodiversity
  • Geobiology
  • Atmospheric Chemistry / Meteorology
  • Remote Sensing / Ocean Engineering

Our program emphasizes the quantitative aspects of Oceanography, so many student projects involve fluid dynamics, marine geophysics, or numerical/physical modeling. We also encourage process-oriented interdisciplinary research projects that take full advantage of the expertise at the Graduate School of Oceanography.

Participant Selection

Citizenship. The SURFO program is limited to U.S. citizens or foreign students who are permanent residents of the U.S. or U.S. possessions.

Academic Standing. All undergraduate students are welcome to apply, but the SURFO program primarily targets students completing their junior year. In the past, SURFO has also accepted talented students completing their sophomore year or seniors who will be graduating after the fall semester.

Criteria. The selection of SURFO participants is based upon:
– academic achievement in the basic sciences, math, or engineering
– possible career interest in oceanography or ocean engineering
– recommendations from undergraduate professors or research advisors
– research potential
– ability to articulate, in writing, reasons for applicant’s interest in the SURFO program.

Student Expectations

2015 SURFO interns in action.
2015 SURFO interns in action.

Over the course of the 10-week program, SURFO participants will evolve from a “rookie” in oceanography to a full-fledged member of a research team.

Participants will be expected to:

  • review assigned scientific literature in preparation for research,
  • seek out additional literature while conducting research,
  • conduct an independent research project under the guidance of a research advisor and a graduate student mentor,
  • present research results in a 15-minute professional talk,
  • summarize research project in a written scientific report.

Mission Statement

We believe that exposure to basic research is a valuable component of an undergraduate education in science. We offer a select number of students the experience of working as part of a research group in developing problem-solving skills which may be applied in any career. More specifically, we want to share our enthusiasm for Oceanography with undergraduate students and make them aware that training in the basic sciences or engineering is both applicable and necessary for the complex challenges facing oceanographic research.

The three basic goals of the SURFO program are to provide participants with:
– an appreciation for the interdisciplinary character of Oceanography,
– an authentic research experience in a cutting-edge field of Oceanography,
– an introduction to the graduate student lifestyle in Oceanography.

History of SURFO

SURFO 2014 expedition on R/V Endeavor.
SURFO 2014 expedition on R/V Endeavor.

The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships in Oceanography (SURFO) Program began in 1984 with initial funding from the Office of Naval Research (ONR). In 1994, primary support for the program switched to the National Science Foundation (NSF) when SURFO was designated a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) site program. SURFO has grown to be an important part of GSO’s research and educational endeavors. Whereas GSO’s primary mission has been graduate education and research, the faculty, graduate students and staff have developed an enthusiasm for the multiple interactions with the undergraduate fellows and the fresh perspective and energy they bring to campus.


Program Components

Orientation

SURFO fellows on R/V Endeavor in June 2016.
SURFO fellows on R/V Endeavor in June 2016.

The first week and a half of the SURFO program involves acclimating the participants to the research environment at the Graduate School of Oceanography. This involves a series of social events, background lectures, and introductory sessions with selected research advisors. The range of activities include:

  • A welcoming breakfast and tour to introduce the students to the Narragansett Bay Campus.
  • A series of interactive Oceanography lectures by graduate students to provide an overview of the field.
  • Meetings with research advisors to discuss background, expectations, and goals of research projects.

Research Projects

Testing an underwater holographic camera system.
Testing an underwater holographic camera system.

At the heart of the SURFO program is the research project. Once students demonstrate they understand the scope and goals of their project, they proceed with their research. Frequent meetings with their research advisor and graduate student mentor help guide the student through the phases of the project.

Abstracts of 2017 final presentations: click BinderFinalAbstracts2017

The final products of the research are:

  • a 15-minute professional oral presentation of results
  • a scientific report summarizing the research project

Examples of previous talks and research papers are available on the “Successes” page.

Seminar Series

A series of bi-weekly “Hot-Topic” lectures/seminars specifically designed for the SURFO participants is provided by various GSO researchers. At least one lecture from each of the main sub-disciplines of Oceanography (Biological, Chemical, Geological and Physical) is presented, but these talks also highlight the interdisciplinary nature of Oceanography. Here are some examples:

  • Role of DNA-fingerprinting in biological oceanography
    by Tatiana Rynearson
  • Global distribution of microbes in the deep biosphere
    by Steve D’Hondt
  • The global fate of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)
    by Rainer Lohmann
  • Advancements in hurricane forecasting
    by Isaac Ginis
  • What do Narragansett Bay and Yellowstone mantle plume have in common?
    by Chris Kincaid
  • Global climate impacts of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation
    by Jaime Palter
  • Dazzling plankton diversity
    by Jan Rines

In addition, seminars covering various topics by guest speakers or visiting scientists are available throughout the summer.

Instructional Workshops

SURFO workshop photo.
SURFO workshop photo.

Bi-weekly instructional workshops designed for the SURFO program are provided to supplement the research experience of the students. Subjects covered during these workshops include:

  • Safety in the laboratory and at sea.
  • Ethical conduct of research.
  • Methods of presenting data.
  • How to give a professional presentation.
  • How to write a scientific paper.
  • Roundtable discussion about graduate school and science careers.

Social/Recreational Events

SURFO 2015 interns get a first-hand view of water circulation in RI coastal ponds.
SURFO 2015 interns get a first-hand view of water circulation in RI coastal ponds.

Numerous planned and spontaneous social and recreational events are available to the SURFOs to help them assimilate into the GSO community:

  • A lunchtime BBQ on the first Friday.
  • A kayak trip in a local salt pond.
  • Weekly ultimate frisbee games.
  • Weekly pick-up softball or soccer games.
  • Beach volleyball.
  • “Cultural” trips to Providence, Newport or Boston.

Program Logistics

Important Dates

SURFOs in action.
SURFOs in action.

Application Deadline. To receive full consideration for the SURFO program, all application materials should be received by February 21st. We may continue to process and review application materials received after the deadline, but your best chance of being accepted into the program is to apply early.

Acceptance Notification. Most applicants are notified of their acceptance into the program by April 1st. Final official notification of acceptance or rejection will occur by April 15th.

Program Dates. The SURFO program has a 10-week duration that begins the first full week of June and finishes at the end of the second week in August. In some special circumstances, some degree of flexibility may be allowed for the start and end dates, up to one week, as long as the 10-week program is completed.

– June 4th – August 10th in 2018
– June 3rd – August 9th in 2019

Student Stipend

Students receive a stipend of $5500 for the 10-week program. Additional funds are provided for housing. Partial to full reimbursement for travel is provided.

Housing

SURFO houses in relation to GSO Narragansett Bay Campus.
SURFO houses in relation to GSO Narragansett Bay Campus.

Housing is available for the participants in two large houses (a duplex at 17 Clara Lane, each with four bedrooms) and a raised ranch at 36 Clara (with six bedrooms) in a residential setting of Narragansett within 1.4 mile of the Narragansett Bay Campus (GSO). Students are welcome to seek alternate housing options at their own expenses, but most participants feel the housing we offer is preferred to dorm rooms six miles away on main campus or other options.

Travel

Travel to GSO. The Graduate School of Oceanography is easily accessible via plane, train, and automobile.

  • By Plane – T. F. Green Airport (PVD) in Providence (actually Warwick) is located about 20 minutes from the Bay Campus by car.
  • By Train – The Kingston, RI station (KIN) for AMTRAK is located only 15 minutes from the Bay Campus by car.
  • By Automobile – Interstate 95 runs right through the middle of Rhode Island and the Bay Campus is a quick 20-30 minutes east of the interstate.

Travel while at GSO. The Graduate School of Oceanography is located in a residential setting. Therefore, most travel in the region is accomplished by car.

Public Transportation (RIPTA) is available, but on a limited basis.

Travel to/from the Bay Campus from the SURFO houses is easily done by walking, biking, or driving (there is ample free parking).

A few small markets, several restaurants and other services are within walking/biking distance from the SURFO houses. Although not necessary, a car does facilitate activities and major grocery shopping.


Successes

Program Outcomes

The primary goal of the SURFO Program is aimed at attracting and retaining undergraduates into professional careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.
The secondary goal is to expose students to the field of Oceanography as a potential career opportunity.
The tertiary goal is to pair students with faculty in graduate scho

3D flow visualization.
3D flow visualization.

ol at oceanographic institutions, especially GSO/URI.

Over the years, the SURFO Program has been very successful at achieving these goals, as indicated by the brief list of summary statistics presented below:

  • Over 317 SURFO participants since 1984 (~9-12 each year).
  • 59% of past SURFOs attended graduate school in a MS program and 38 % obtained a PhD degree.
  • 1-2 of the SURFOs from each year attend graduate school at GSO.
  • 60% of the SURFO participants are female.

Publications

Blake Cross working with Meng Wei on tremors and slips.
Blake Cross working with Meng Wei on tremors and slips.

SURFO participants and their advisors are encouraged to publish the results of their summer research in peer-reviewed journals:

Peer-reviewed Papers

All SURFO papers generated at the end of each summer session are published in a GSO Technical Report. Digital copies are available from 2000 to 2006, and from 2011 to present:

Technical Reports

Presentations at Meetings

Adena Schonfeld at the Flat Fish Biology Conference, December 2016.
Adena Schonfeld at the Flat Fish Biology Conference, December 2016.

SURFO participants are heartily encouraged to present their summer research at regional or national meetings:

Meeting Presentations

Past Participants

SURFO BBQ on the GSO quad.
SURFO BBQ on the GSO quad.

A listing of all the past SURFO participants, project titles, and advisors since 1986 has been compiled:

List of Participants


Applications

Application Deadline

Review of applications begins February 21st, so we strongly urge having all materials in by that date. Participant selection begins in early March.

We may continue to accept applications past the target date, until all 12 positions have been filled.

Eligibility

Citizenship. The SURFO program is limited to U.S. citizens or foreign students who are permanent residents of the U.S. or U.S. possessions.

Academic Standing. All undergraduate students are welcome to apply, but the SURFO program is primarily targeted for students completing their junior year. The SURFO program may also accept talented students completing their sophomore year or seniors who will be graduating after the fall semester.

Selection Criteria

Analyzing zooplankton samples with a video plankton recorder.
Analyzing zooplankton samples with a video plankton recorder.

The selection of SURFO participants is based upon:

  • academic achievement in the basic sciences, math or engineering
  • possible career interest in oceanography or ocean engineering
  • recommendations from undergraduate professors or research advisors
  • research potential
  • ability to articulate, in writing, reasons for applicant’s interest in the program.

NSF mandates that all REU sites in oceanography do not demand a response (acceptance or rejection) from the students before March 15, to give them an opportunity to choose among potential offerings. We try to match students’ interest(s) with advisors’ areas of research by April 1st, juggling acceptance / rejection, students / advisors. Most applicants are notified of their acceptance into the program by April 1st. Our goal is to complete the whole process by April 15th. Any student who is asked to accept or reject an offer prior to March 15th should contact the Division of Ocean Science’s REU Program Director, Lisa Rom at elrom@NSF.gov or 703-292-7709.

Application Materials

On Narragansett Bay.
On Narragansett Bay.

(available from Thanksgiving day every year)
(you will need Acrobat Reader, free download)
(do not in any way modify the form)

We offer two application methods, including:

In addition to the above form, there are five basic components to a SURFO application:

  1. Statement of Interest (to include)
    • Career Interests
    • Research Experience (if any)
    • Reasons for Interest in this Program
  2. Letters of Reference (2 required)
    • from people who are familiar with your academic capabilities and know of your interest in research
  3. Resume (to include)
    • Education
    • Relevant Coursework
    • Honors
    • Work Experience
    • Other Activities
  4. Computer Experience (to include)
    • Systems, Platforms and/or Languages used
    • Code writing experience
    • Hardware & Software familiarity
  5. College Transcripts
    • for each college attended
    • we accept unofficial transcripts

Contact Information

SURFO Central

For additional information about the SURFO program, please contact us.

Kim Carey – Program Coordinator
(401) 874-6627 Telephone
(401) 874-6811 Fax
kcarey@uri.edu

Marine Research Scientist Lucie Maranda – Director 
(401) 874-6216 Telephone
lmaranda@uri.edu

Professor David Smith – co-Director
(401) 874-6172 Telephone
dcsmith@uri.edu

GSO Researchers

A list of Faculty and Marine Research Scientists at the Graduate School of Oceanography and the Department of Ocean Engineering is provided with links to their professional profiles.

GSO Academic Affairs

Students interested in information about graduate school at GSO can go to the Academic Affairs homepage or contact the office directly at the telephone and e-mail address below.

Meredith Clark – Admissions Advisor
(401) 874-6926 Telephone
mclark@uri.edu

NSF REU Website

For information on additional REU programs, go to the list of opportunities at NSF website.


About GSO

What is GSO?

Interest in the marine sciences and oceanography at the University of Rhode Island dates back to the mid-1930s when the Narragansett Marine Laboratory was established. With significant reorganization and considerable expansion, the initial marine program became the University’s Graduate School of Oceanography in 1961.

In 1971, the University was designated one of the original group of national Sea Grant Colleges. The Sea Grant College Program, which emphasizes applied marine studies and public service, involves departments and faculty members throughout the University.

In 1989, the Graduate School of Oceanography was named a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Center of Excellence in coastal marine studies. Recently, the National Research Council ranked the Graduate School of Oceanography’s Ph.D. program one of the best in the country and fifth among oceanographic institutions.

More information at https://web.uri.edu/gso/

Narragansett Bay Campus

The Graduate School of Oceanography is located on the Narragansett Bay Campus, six miles east of the URI’s main campus in Kingston. As a center for marine studies, the Bay Campus is ideally situated on the shore of the West Passage of Narragansett Bay. The R/V Endeavor uses the Bay Campus as its home port and base of operations.

In addition to the Graduate School of Oceanography, the Narragansett Bay Campus is also home to:

Rhode Island Weather

Seagulls.
Seagulls.

Rhode Island’s proximity to Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic Ocean plays an important part in determining the climate. During the period from early June to late August, when the SURFO program occurs, the weather is very pleasant and comfortable. In the winter, the temperatures are modified considerably and many major snowfalls change to rain before reaching the area. Late summer and early fall occasionally bring hurricane watches to the area.

For June and July:

  • Temperature range: 55 – 100 F during the SURFO Program; average ~75 F.
  • Rainfall: ~3″ of rain each month throughout the year.
  • Winds: generally less than 10 kts, but often with stronger, cooler sea breezes in the afternoon.
  • Water temperature range: ~65 F in June to ~80 F in mid-August.

Local Points of Interest

Swimmers at the beach.
Swimmers at the beach.

Rhode Island and Narragansett Bay are very popular destinations for summer tourists. Numerous beaches, Newport, Providence, and Block Island are just a few of the attractions that draw people to the region. Other information about points of interest can be found at:

GSO is also conveniently located to many other points of interest (estimated travel time by car):

  • Newport, RI (15 minutes)
  • Providence, RI (30 minutes)
  • Cape Cod (1.5 hours)
  • Boston (1.5 hours)
  • New York City (3-4 hours)

Transportation Centers from GSO:

  • Amtrak Train Station (15 minutes)
  • Wickford Junction MBTA Station (15 minutes)
  • Providence, T.F. Green Airport (20 minutes)
  • Providence Bus Station (30 minutes)
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