Undergraduate NSERC USRA

The Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA) enable undergraduate students to spend the summer months working with an active research group. The normal duration of these awards is 16 consecutive weeks on a full-time basis. 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.

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*COVID information: due to the onset of Covid-19 restrictions at UBC, all undergraduate awards granted for 2020 Summer positions were limited to remote projects only, for students currently living in Canada. For 2022 Summer, we do not know at this time about developments related to 2022 Summer projects, travel restrictions and safety guidelines. We will update this webpage as we have more information over the coming months.

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THE AWARDS

Providing Science students more opportunities to experience research is a goal of the Faculty of Science. We run three award competitions every year, over which the Dean’s Office has oversight. These awards provide subsidies to researchers who hire students on their grants. The three awards are:

  1. NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA) for domestic students across Canada
  2. Science Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Awards for UBC-V (Vancouver Campus) BSc students of any nationality.
  3. Work Learn International Undergraduate Research Awards (WLIURA) (with very limited positions - These awards are allocated to the departments based on their current enrolment of undergraduate international students). Work Learn is managed centrally by UBC Centre for Student Involvement and Careers. Students who have not secured an award with a researcher will be able to apply for Work/Learn jobs as they will be posted at UBC CareersOnline in March, 2022 (exact dates: TBD).

All three programs require a student to work at least 16 weeks to be paid a minimum rate to meet the BC's minimum wage standard. All wages are paid out of the project supervisor’s account and the award reimbursement of a portion of the cost is made to the researcher at the end of the student’s tenure. Applications for NSERC/SURE/WLIURA 2022 are open late November/early December; the application deadline for Summer 2022 will be in January, 2022 (exact application & deadline dates: TBD).

Specifics of each program follow:

  1. NSERC USRA – this award is restricted to students who are Canadian citizens or Permanent Residents. They may be registered at UBC or another university. The subsidy is $6000. 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). Application deadline: January 2022 (exact application & deadline dates: TBD).
  2. Science Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Awards - open to UBC Vancouver BSc undergraduates of any nationality (including International students). The subsidy is $3,000 this year. The rest of the costs can come from any grant source that authorizes such an expenditure. Application deadline: January 2022 (exact application & deadline dates: TBD).
  3. Work Learn International Undergraduate Research (WLIURA) Awards - only for UBC Vancouver BSc students who are not Canadian citizens or Permanent Residents. The subsidy is $6000. The rest of the costs can come from any grant source that authorizes such an expenditure. Students are appointed for a minimum of 16 weeks between early May and the end of August. We run this competition with NSERC/SURE to match students with faculty research opportunities. Application deadline: January 2022 (exact application & deadline dates: TBD). Please also keep an eye on the UBC CareersOnline website in March 2022 (exact dates: TBD) to see more available postings for Summer 2022.

 

ADDITIONAL FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES:

Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute Award (SBQMI): open to undergraduate students of any nationality with legal status to work in Canada, this award offers students the opportunity to work with researchers in SBQMI in the exciting area of quantum materials. This includes gaining small scale control of atomic materials and their physical properties, identifying, developing and understanding new materials, and exploring their limits and opportunities for applications in areas such as information processing, and energy conversion and storage. SBQMI is a highly collaborative, interdisciplinary environment with researchers tackling problems by theoretical modelling, experimentation, characterization and device development.  

Summer stipends are subsidized by SBQMI through the Canada First Research Excellence Fund. To apply for this exciting program:

  • Visit the SBQMI website (http://qmi.ubc.ca/) to identify the Principal Investigators whose work is of most interest to you;
  • Write each of them a brief letter explaining which aspects of their research are of interest and what you have to offer in this area;
  • Submit a formal application through UBC’s USRA program at http://www.phas.ubc.ca/undergraduate-nserc-usra

Erich Vogt First Year Summer Research Experience (FYSRE) Award: open to any UBC-V (Vancouver Campus) first year Science or Engineering students intending to pursue a degree in PHAS or ENPH. FYSRE is a program offering summer research experiences to budding academic stars after their First Year Physics courses. Last year we successfully placed a FYSRE student with outstanding published results: see here for more information: https://phas.ubc.ca/fysre-student-tiffany-matthe-shares-unique-summer-r…. See more information about the FYSRE program and how to apply here: http://www.phas.ubc.ca/erich-vogt-first-year-summer-research-experience-fysre

Aboriginal USRA Positions: When Aboriginal students are given USRA positions, this does not count against the allotted number given to each department. We strongly encourage Aboriginal students to apply for this opportunity (please indicate your Aboriginal status in your application submitted to the Department).

*Exchange Opportunity: Imperial College London (ICL) Summer Research Exchange Opportunity for UBC-V (Vancouver Campus) students only: Over the last few summers, with support from Faculty of Science, we successfully participated in an undergraduate summer research exchange with Imperial College London. Two selected students spend half the summer here at UBC and half in London working on projects jointly supervised by UBC and ICL faculty (these could be joint or separate individual projects).

The students in this exchange program apply to Go Global for the Go Global Research Abroad Award (about $1500 after deducting Go Global application fees) to cover travel costs. However living costs abroad will be covered by the student (some additional subsidies from the Faculty of Science to support a portion of living costs may be possible but may not be guaranteed every year). Students, if you are interested in this exchange program and are willing to travel during the summer (July-August), please submit your USRA application and indicate your interest in exchange as additional information in your Personal Statement (the Personal Statement is required as part of the USRA/SURE application procedures described below), and express which of the exchange projects listed below you would be most interested in working on. 

Click here to see some possible projects hosted at ICL for UBC-V (Vancouver Campus) students going to exchange. *Note: exchange students spend two months (May-June) at UBC on a possibly related project before going to ICL for exchange (potential dates July - Aug. Please note not all projects available for summer hosted at UBC (posted below) are possible for exchange as many projects require students to work full 16 weeks term at UBC.

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*COVID information: 2021 Summer Update: Due to Covid-19 developments, UBC did not promote the ICL Research Exchange for academic year 2020/2021. Summer 2022 opportunities will be updated on this website.

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WRITING YOUR APPLICATION LETTERS

Students: Before submitting your formal USRA application (see Departmental Application Procedures below), we encourage you to 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.

Whether or not you secure a faculty member willing to supervise a summer work project, please submit your application with your three choices, and note in your application if you have a faculty member already interested in working with you. Securing a faculty member does not guarantee an award! The Awards Committee will assess all applications together, and if there is an award recommended to a student who has a supervisor already in place, we will then contact that supervisor to confirm.  

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.

 

PREPARING ALL APPLICATION DOCUMENTS

A. Domestic Students: Departmental Application Procedures - USRA

The following procedures only apply to UBC Students with Domestic status (Canadian Citizens or Permanent Residents) who can apply for NSERC USRA Awards at all major Canadian Universities.

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 the online application, please see here http://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/Students-Etudiants/UG-PC/USRA-BRPC_eng.asp.

2. Submit an e-copy of Form 202 Part I to UBC Physics and Astronomy Department by 11.59pm PST in January 2022 (exact deadline date: TBD). Besides this form, please send the following documents via email to ugcoord@phas.ubc.ca:

  • Official transcripts- e-copy (we will accept the opened official transcripts if you are using them to upload the copies to NSERC)
  • Curriculum vitae (CV)
  • Personal statement indicating your research interests and the names of three UBC faculty members you would be most interested in working with during the summer (please indicate clearly your first, second, and third choice). Consider your personal statement to be like a cover letter: you want to include your interests, experience and what you would bring to a research project, as well as some information about your future career goals.
  • 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). Please request this letter be sent directly to us via email from your referee(s).

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.

 

B. International Students: Departmental Application Procedures - SURE/SBQMI Awards & Work Learn International Undergraduate Research Awards for International Students (WLIURA)

The following procedures only apply to UBC Students with International status (with a study permit) who can only apply for one of the SURE Awards, SBQMI Awards or WLIURA International Undergraduate Research Awards. Domestic students (including Permanent Residents) are required to submit a formal USRA application as described above.

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

2. Submit a copy of your Form 202 Part I to UBC Physics and Astronomy Department via email at ugcoord@phas.ubc.ca by 11.59pm PST in January 2022 (exact deadline date: TBD). Besides this form, your online application should also include:

  • Official transcripts e-copy (we will accept unofficial transcript if it is a UBC transcript)
  • Curriculum vitae (CV)
  • Personal statement indicating your research interests and the names of three UBC faculty members you would be most interested in working with during the summer (please indicate clearly your first, second, and third choice). Consider your personal statement to be like a cover letter: you want to include your interests, experience and what you would bring to a research project, as well as some information about your future career goals.
  • 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). Please request this letter be sent directly to us via email from your referee(s).

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 - WLIURA: 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.

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SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION

All applications should be sent via email to:

PHAS Undergraduate Office c/o Kirsty Dickson at ugcoord@phas.ubc.ca
UBC, Department of Physics and Astronomy
Rm. 329A, 6224 Agricultural Road
Vancouver, B.C. Canada V6T 1Z1

Reference letters will be accepted via email at (ugcoord@phas.ubc.ca), directly emailed from referees, with applicant's full name indicated in the email subject line (ie. USRA Reference Letter for John Smith).

Dates: The UBC Faculty of Science notifies us of our USRA/Dean of Science Undergraduate Research Award allotment by February. We will try to have all decisions made and positions offered as soon as possible 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 with the same supervisor in this Department. It is also rare to offer two USRA subsidies to the same supervisor at any given time.

Recommended Stipends (*Note that these amounts change each year - Summer 2022 stipend amounts will be updated on this site as soon as they are confirmed).

  • $2,300 per month upon completion of 4thor 5th year
  • $2,200 per month upon completion of 3rd year
  • $2,100 per month upon completion of 2nd year.

*NSERC no longer covers travel expenses for the two-way trip to and from your home university.

Note to UBC students: The competition for these fellowships is usually very keen (we are typically able to accommodate about 30% of applicants). To increase your chances you may wish to apply to other universities as well; all major Canadian universities participate in this program.

 

USRA PROJECTS

Click here to see the Summer 2021 USRA projects hosted at UBC.

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

 

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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