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SURFing the Material Measurement Laboratory and the NIST Center for Neutron Research
Application Deadline - February 13, 2015

The Material Measurement Laboratory and the NIST Center for Neutron Research encourage undergraduate science and engineering majors to participate in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program at NIST in Gaithersburg, MD. MML/NCNR SURF activities offer students the opportunity to spend 11 weeks during the summer performing hands-on research in chemistry, chemical engineering, biochemistry, materials science, and condensed-matter physics.

Material Measurement Laboratory
The MML serves as the national reference laboratory for measurement research, standards, and data in the chemical, biological and material sciences. MML research supports areas of national importance such as

  • Advanced Materials (from nanomaterials to structural steels to complex fluids)
  • Electronics (from semiconductors to organic electronics)
  • Energy (from characterization and performance of fossil and alternative fuels to next-generation renewable sources of energy)
  • The Environment (from the measurement of automotive exhaust emissions and other pollutants to assessment of climate change and the health and safety aspects of man-made nanomaterials)
  • Food Safety and Nutrition (from contaminant monitoring to ensuring the accuracy of nutritional labels)
  • Health Care (from clinical diagnostics to tissue engineering and more efficient manufacturing of biologic drugs)
  • Physical Infrastructure (from assessing the country's aging bridges and pipelines to the quality of our drinking water)
  • Manufacturing (from lightweight alloys for fuel-efficient automobiles to biomanufacturing and data for chemical manufacturing)
  • Safety, Security and Forensics (from gunshot and explosive residue detection, to ensuring the performance of body armor materials, to DNA-based human identity testing)

The MML conducts research in analytical chemistry, biochemical science, ceramics, chemical and biochemical reference data, materials reliability, metallurgy, polymers, surface and microanalysis science, and thermophysical properties of materials.

NIST Center for Neutron Research
The NCNR is a major national user facility and resource for industry, universities, and government agencies with merit-based access made available to the entire U.S. technological community. Neutrons are powerful probes of the structure and dynamics of materials ranging from molecules inserted into membranes mimicking cell walls to protons migrating through fuel cells. The unique properties of neutrons can be exploited by a variety of measurement techniques to provide information not available by other means. They are particularly well suited to investigate all forms of magnetic materials such as those used in computer memory storage and retrieval. Atomic motion, especially that of hydrogen, can be measured and monitored, like that of water during the setting of cement. Residual stresses such as those inside stamped steel automobile parts can be mapped. Neutron-based research covers a broad spectrum of disciplines, including engineering, biology, materials science, chemistry, physics, and computer science. Current experimental and theoretical research is focused on materials such as polymers, metals, ceramics, magnetic materials, porous media, fluids and gels, and biological molecules.

Students applying to the MML/NCNR SURF activity are offered two programmatic choices, Chemical/Biochemical Sciences, or Materials Science (which includes projects at the NCNR). Click here to see examples of SURF student project titles from recent years – note that projects change every year according to MML/NCNR research needs and activities.

2014 SURF MatSci
MML/NCNR SURF Students and Program Directors

SURF Fellowships include a stipend, travel, and housing allowance. Application packages must be submitted by the student’s academic institution; e.g., by a faculty member or other appropriate administrative staff. Complete information about the program and application process is available on the NIST/SURF home page. When applying, students should indicate their first- and second-choice programs from among the six possible choices. Applications may be considered by any of the programs, with preference given to the student’s indicated choices.

The other NIST laboratories also participate in the SURF program so be sure to check out their web pages. MML also offers SURF opportunities at the Boulder NIST campus, so check out the NIST SURF Program at the Boulder campus as well.

Student Eligibility Criteria

  • GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) or better (recommended)
  • Must be U. S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Two letters of recommendation into the program by physics, chemistry or engineering professors/department chairs, student transcript, and letter of intent/personal statement

SURF Plan of Operation

  • SURFers work directly with NIST Research Advisors in ongoing research activities
  • SURFers participate in weekly seminar program; SURFers also participate in extramural group activities intended to enrich the fellowship experience
  • Fellows are encouraged to present their research results at national meetings
  • Research advisors will be encouraged to visit the host colleges to discuss NIST research 

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Brandi Toliver
100 Bureau Drive, M/S 1090
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-1090

Chemical/Biochemical Sciences

Rebecca Zangmeister (MML)
Biomolecular Measurement Division
100 Bureau Drive, MS 8315
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8315

Sam Forry (MML)
Biosystems & Biomaterials Division
100 Bureau Drive, M/S 8312
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8312

Russell Johnson, III (MML)
Chemical Sciences Division
100 Bureau Drive, M/S 8320
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8320

Materials Science

Julie Borchers (NCNR)
100 Bureau Drive, M/S 6102
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-6102

Amanda Forster (MML)
Materials Measurement Science Division
100 Bureau Drive, M/S 8102
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8102

Edwin Chan (MML)
Materials Science and Engineering Division
100 Bureau Drive, M/S
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8542