What is the Mellon Initiative SURF program?

The Mellon Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship in the Arts and Humanities is is a 10-week summer program in which students work on a project directly related to their faculty mentor’s research. Students receive a $4,200 stipend, free dormitory housing for the summer research period, and a one-credit course annotation on their transcript. Faculty mentors also receive a stipend and each research group is given a travel and supplies budget. Students will present their research at the end of the summer at the Trinity Summer Research Colloquium. In order to apply for the Mellon SURF program, students must have arranged to work with a faculty mentor from an Arts or Humanities department or faculty from a related program with a humanistic research project.

How do I find a professor?

SURFs at Trinity work alongside faculty on projects designed by the faculty member; indeed, we require a joint application that is submitted by the faculty member(s). Because these projects are faculty-driven, there's no easy formula for finding a professor. Sometimes (or often) a professor will find you. Professors interested in participating in a summer research project will ask a student to work with them based on any number of factors, including the student having taken several requisite courses, having the right skills (languages, for example), or adding something to the project. If you are interested in during research over the summer, you can also initiate the process. Think of a professor whose classes you've taken or whose area of research you are interested in and go talk to them. You can also go chat with the chair of the department you are interested in and ask if she or he knows of any research opportunities.

Do I come up with the research idea or does the professor?

Although projects have to be in line with the professor's research agenda in some way, it's up to the professor and you to figure out exactly how the summer project connects to her or his research as well as to your own interests.

 What if I have other summer plans, obligations, or opportunities?

 The SURF program is a full-time commitment for 10 weeks (roughly the middle of May to the end of July). Students who participate in the program agree to not take on any additional responsibilities (such as internships, summer classes, a job, etc.) during that time.

When will I get paid?

Students receive a stipend of $4,200. This amount is typically paid out in three even installments at the end of May, June and July. On top of that, Trinity covers the cost of your dorm room for the 10-week period. The idea is for you to be able to focus on research for the summer, without worrying about other expenses.

What kind of guidance can I expect from my faculty member/mentor?

This will vary depending on your faculty mentor(s) and the nature of the project. In addition to any mentoring you'll get from the faculty member with whom you work, the Mellon Initiative organizes a number of "development" events over the summer to ensure that you receive the training and support you need to be successful. Among those events is a weekly lunch (food provided), which gives us an opportunity to touch base with you, to hear about each other’s projects and progress, and to socialize with other arts and humanities SURFs.

What does the day-to-day look like?

The daily work schedule will also vary depending on the project. Some projects require a lot of collaborative work (including travel to an archive or an archaeological site) and others might have you working mostly on your own and meeting with your professor every few days to check in. In the second case, your daily schedule may be mostly up to you, as you decide when, where, and in what order to complete the tasks you need to do. Research Fellowships allow students to work on projects that relate to their faculty mentor’s research and provide students with an example of successful scholarship in their field.

What is a Mellon Institute?

A Mellon Institute is a 10-week summer multidisciplinary research cluster that enables faculty-student research teams from different disciplines or specialties to carry out inter-related research projects pertaining to one central topic. Mellon selects one Institute proposal annually for student and faculty stipends, travel and supplies budget, free dormitory housing, and one-credit course annotation on the student’s transcript. Proposals for Mellon Institute topics are accepted from teams of at least three faculty members from at least two Arts and Humanities departments.  

How do I get more information?

There is general information on the Mellon Program on our website, including 2013-20 project descriptions which will give you a sense of what other faculty-student teams have done. You should also let us know that you are interested by contacting us at melloninitiative@trinity.edu. And you can stay informed by liking our Facebook page and follwing us on Twitter.

What are the other options for pursuing undergraduate research in the summer?

A description of all of the programs available can be found here.