SURE Program

The Sustainability Undergraduate Research Experience Program at Arizona State University

ASU’s Sustainability Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program provides students with research opportunities to help build career skills and enhance competitiveness for jobs and graduate school. Through the program, students will enhance their knowledge, skills, and experiences in exploration and discovery to generate knowledge and develop evidence-based solutions for sustainability.

The research positions in the SURE program cover a wide variety of sustainability challenges, such as:

• sustainable governance and collective action

• urban and environmental planning

• food, water, and energy systems management

• human health and wellbeing

• environmental justice and just transitions

• ecosystem dynamics and management

Projects address societal and biological dynamics, as well as the innovations and solutions that address complex sustainability problems. Diverse faculty will be involved as supervisors, including natural scientists, engineers, social scientists and scholars in the humanities.

Preparation and instruction

SOS 246: Exploring Sustainability Research is an A Session course in the fall term. The one-credit course is primarily composed of faculty guest presentations, and the assignments are designed to support your application to projects.

Once committed to a project with a sustainability scientist or scholar in the spring, you can enroll in SOS 346: Developing Research Skills. In this course, students will develop practical research questions, receive training in graphic and visual communication, and create poster presentations in collaboration with their research supervisor and the class.

Research-based course credits may apply to a student’s upper-division electives or electives in your chosen track or related discipline. Your academic advisors can help you decide which coursework is best suited to your studies. The academic department of your faculty supervisor is where you should find and submit any independent research forms.

ASU faculty and Ph.D. students interested in supervising SURE students can email program director, Kelli Larson, at [email protected].

Application process

July – early August: A call for projects is sent to faculty and Ph.D. students to gather SURE opportunities for the academic year.

August September: Students learn about project opportunities for spring term; students in SOS 246 view videos and descriptions for SURE projects offered by participating faculty and their research teams. View Projects for Spring 2024.

Late September – early October: The application form opens to students who wish to apply for projects. The form asks for student resumes and other information to help with placement in SURE projects.

The application is open from Wednesday, September 20, 2023 – Sunday, October 15, 2023.

You need to sign into Google with your ASURITE login to view the projects and submit the application.

Note: We have created a guide to submitting a strong application that you can view and download. While only a resume is required to apply for projects, we have seen more success for students who submit cover letters too.

November: Project supervisors review application materials. Some supervisors will interview students and will contact students directly to schedule them. Once supervisors select students, both the student and faculty should confirm their selections with each other and the SURE coordinator.

Note: Students who applied to multiple projects may hear back from multiple supervisors. These students need to clearly communicate to all who reached out and the SURE coordinator which project(s) they will join in the spring.

November – December: The scholarship application opens to students continuing with SURE in the spring. Be sure to enroll in course credit with your faculty supervisor, as appropriate.

Highlights from past years

Here’s what past SURE participants had to say about the program and Exploring Sustainability Research course:

The class taught me a lot more about grad school and applications [for varied] purposes. All of my immediate family members dropped out of college besides my grandparents, so I don’t really have anyone to help answer these questions or help me through it.

The most surprising thing I learned was how approachable and flexible most of the researchers are which turned the thought of research from one of stress to one of excitement. At the beginning of the semester, I was worried that the research faculty would be very intimidating but I found instead a very welcoming community.

Something I learned about sustainability research is that it’s accessible to undergraduate students. I’m not sure why, but even before I started pursuing higher education at community college, I assumed research was something only graduate students, or students who were well-connected, could participate in.

Student of the Year Awards

Sydney Lewis & Emmalyn Meyer, Uranium Mining in the Grand Canyon Region: Ineffective Governance of Mining Trade-Offs (supervised by Dr. Elke Kellner)

Kim Nguyen, “FEWS for Change: A Resource Conservation Role-Playing Game for Youth” (supervised by Dr. Datu Buyung Agusdinata)

Best Research Poster Award

Karli Barrett, Michelle Refuerzo, Daanish Tung, & Kyleigh Brown, Don’t Mess with Sedona. Measuring Human Behavior Change Towards the Environment: A Study of Oak Creek Canyon (supervised by Dr. Marco Janssen)