Undergraduate NSERC USRA

The NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA) enable undergraduate students to spend the summer months working with an active research group. The normal duration of the award is 16 consecutive weeks on a full-time basis. The students acquire valuable research experience while interacting with professors, postdoctoral fellows and other graduate and undergraduate students. Click here to see comments from some of the undergraduate students who did summer research at UBC in previous years.

General information on the Physics and Astronomy research being carried out at UBC can be found on the departmental Website, http://www.phas.ubc.ca/research-areas.

Providing more science students an opportunity to experience research is a goal of the Faculty of Science. There are now three programs that provide subsidies to researchers who hire students on their grants and for which the Dean’s Office has oversight. A fourth program, Work Learn is managed centrally by UBC Centre for Student Involvement and Careers. The three are:

  1. NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA) for domestic students
  2. Science Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Awards for UBCV BSc students of any nationality
  3. Work Learn International Undergraduate Research Awards (new and with very limited positions - These awards are allocated to the departments based on their current enrolment of undergraduate international students.)

All three programs require a student to work at least 16 weeks to be paid a minimum of $5,740. All wages are paid out of the project supervisor’s account and a reimbursement of a portion of the cost is made at the end of the student’s tenure. Specifics of each program follow.

  1. NSERC USRA – restricted to students who are Canadian citizens or Permanent Residents. They may be registered at UBC or another university. The subsidy is $4,500. The rest of the costs must come from an eligible NSERC grant. All information on eligibility and award conditions can be found on the following websites:NSERC USRA (for students) & NSERC USRA (for faculty & staff).
  2. Science Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Awards - open to UBC Vancouver BSc undergraduates of any nationality (including International students). The subsidy is $2,500. The rest of the costs can come from any grant source that authorizes such an expenditure.
  3. Work Learn International Undergraduate Research Awards - only for UBC Vancouver BSc students who are not Canadian citizens or Permanent Residents. The subsidy is $4,500. The rest of the costs can come from any grant source that authorizes such an expenditure.

Aboriginal USRA Positions

Aboriginal students given USRA positions do not count against the allotted number given to each department. We encourage Aboriginal students to apply for this opportunity (please indicate your Aboriginal status in your application submitted to the Department).

Students: Before submitting your formal USRA application (see below), we ask that you write a brief letter to each of the faculty members with whom you might like to work, explaining which aspects of their research interest you and what you believe you have to offer their projects. (This is excellent practice for future job searches!) If people with whom you are especially interested in working do not have any jobs posted, feel free to contact them (Email is usually best) to find out if they do have possible summer research projects.

Click here to see some of the USRA projects available in 2015.

Click here to see a list of projects available in the previous years.

Departmental Application Procedures - USRA

1. Submit application online to NSERC by filling out NSERC Form 202 Part I online at NSERC website, including uploading copies of your official transcripts (and the legend on the back). To access to the online application, please see here http://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/Students-Etudiants/UG-PC/USRA-BRPC_eng.asp.

2. Submit a copy of Form 202 Part I to UBC Physics and Astronomy Department by Fri., Jan 30, 2015. Besides this form, your application should also include:

  • official transcripts (we will accept the opened official transcripts if you are using them to upload the copies to NSERC)
  • a curriculum vitae (CV)
  • a personal statement indicating your research interests and the names of three UBC faculty you would be most interested in working with during the summer (please indicate clearly your first, second, and third choice).
  • at least one (two would be highly recommended) letter of reference from a faculty member of your home institution or supervisor in a previous job (or volunteer activity). This letter may be sent directly to us by Email, mail or fax from your referee, or in a sealed envelope accompanying the application.

Please make sure to include your NSERC reference number (obtained through the online application to NSERC) on your Form 202 Part I submitted to the department.

Eligibility: To apply you should be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident completing the 2nd or higher year of an undergraduate Physics/Astronomy/Engineering Physics program. You should have obtained a cumulative average of at least B+ over the previous years of university study.

Departmental Application Procedures - SURE Awards & International Undergraduate Research Awards

Note: The following procedures only apply to UBC Vancouver BSc International Students who can only apply for the SURE Awards or International Undergraduate Research Awards. Domestic students are required to submit a formal USRA application as described above for either USRA or SURE Awards.

1. Download a copy of NSERC Form 202 Part I here. Fill out the relavant information only and leave other fields that only apply to USRA applicants blank.

2. Submit your Form 202 Part I to UBC Physics and Astronomy Department by Fri., Jan 30, 2015. Besides this form, your application should also include:

  • official transcripts (we will accept unofficial transcript if it is a UBC transcript)
  • a curriculum vitae (CV)
  • a personal statement indicating your research interests and the names of three UBC faculty you would be most interested in working with during the summer (please indicate clearly your first, second, and third choice).
  • at least one (two would be highly recommended) letter of reference from a faculty member of your home institution or supervisor in a previous job (or volunteer activity). This letter may be sent directly to us by Email, mail or fax from your referee, or in a sealed envelope accompanying the application.

Eligibility - SURE: To apply you should be a UBC Vancouver BSc undergraduate of any nationality completing the 2nd or higher year of an undergraduate Physics/Astronomy program. You should have obtained a cumulative average of at least B+ over the previous years of university study.

Eligibility - International Undergraduate Research Awards: To apply you should be a UBC Vancouver BSc undergraduate on a study permit (ie. "international") completing the 2nd or higher year of an undergraduate Physics/Astronomy program. You should have obtained a cumulative average of at least B+ over the previous years of university study.

All applications should be sent to:

Undergraduate Office c/o Salena Li
UBC, Department of Physics and Astronomy
Rm. 329A, 6224 Agricultural Road
Vancouver, B.C. Canada V6T 1Z1
Tel: (604) 822-3026

Electronic applications will be accepted via email at (ug-coord AT phas.ubc.ca), including reference letters directly emailed from referees.

Dates: The UBC Faculty of Science usually notifies us of our USRA/Dean of Science Undergraduate Research Award allotment by early February. We will try to have all decisions made and positions offered within a week after we know how many we have to offer. Because this part of the process must be completed expeditiously, please make sure we have your correct Email address!

Selection criteria: Marks, recommendations and previous acknowledgements of distinction are important, of course; so are the aesthetics of presentation and content of the CV and personal statement. However, attention is also paid to the mutual enthusiasm of the student and the prospective supervisor for working together. Supervisors will be asked to "rank" students for this purpose. Because one of the primary benefits of USRA subsidies is to introduce new students to supervisors at a reduced financial risk, we rarely offer an award to the same student twice in this Department. It is also rare to offer two USRA subsidies to the same supervisor at any given time.

Recommended Stipends:

  • $2,200 per month upon completion of 4thor 5th year
  • $2,100 per month upon completion of 3rd year
  • $2,000 per month upon completion of 2nd year.

NSERC generally also covers travel expenses for the two-way trip to and from your home university.

A note to UBC students: The competition for these fellowships is usually very keen (we are typically able to accommodate about 20% of applicants). To increase your chances you may wish to apply to other universities as well; all major Canadian universities participate in this program.

Useful links:

NSERC Program Guide                UBC: Information for Students
Frequently Asked Questions UBC: Information for Supervisors
NSERC Policies & Guidelines List of Research Subject Codes
How to Complete Form 202 Checklist for Common Errors

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