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Undergraduate Student Research Awards

Applications for Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA) must be completed and submitted to the Canadian university where you wish to hold an award through NSERC's On-line System. Selected applications are submitted to NSERC by universities. No applications for university awards may be submitted directly to NSERC.

Value $4,500 plus organization contribution
Application deadline

Set by university

How to apply See below
Application forms
  • Form 202, Part I – Application for an Undergraduate Student Research Award
  • Form 202, Part II – Application for an Undergraduate Student Research Award in University
To create or access an application, select On-line System Login. To view the instructions, select PDF Forms and Instructions.
For more information See below

Important information

Who should read this section?

Although this section is intended for potential applicants, it also provides important information for faculty members who wish to supervise undergraduate students for Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA).

What are these awards for?

USRA are meant to nurture your interest and fully develop your potential for a research career in the natural sciences and engineering. They are also meant to encourage you to undertake graduate studies in these fields. If you would like to gain research work experience that complements your studies in an academic setting, these awards can provide you with financial support through your host university. NSERC encourages qualified Indigenous students to apply for this award.

NSERC is acting on the evidence that equity, diversity and inclusion strengthen the scientific and engineering communities and the quality, social relevance and impact of research. Increasing diversity and gender equity in the research enterprise are key priorities in our current strategic plan, NSERC 2020, and are highlighted in the strategic goal of “Building a Diversified and Competitive Research Base”.

NSERC is in the process of integrating sex, gender and diversity considerations into its evaluation criteria. Our community will be informed of changes and effective dates in advance of application deadlines. Applicants should refer to pages 5 to 7 in the Guide for Applicants: Considering equity, diversity and inclusion in your application for more information.

Note: USRAs may be held during co-op placements. Your university co-op office or USRA Liaison Officer (LO) may be able to assist you in finding a placement.

Are you eligible for an award?

To be eligible to apply for an award, you must:

  • be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada as of the deadline date for applications at the university;
  • be registered, as of the deadline date for applications at the university, in a bachelor's degree program at an eligible university;
  • have obtained, over the previous years of study, a cumulative average of at least second class (a grade of "B" or "B-," if applicable) as defined by your university.

In addition...

  • If you already hold a bachelor's degree and are studying toward a second bachelor's degree, you may still apply for this award.
  • You may hold only one university USRA per fiscal year (April 1 to March 31).
  • You may hold a maximum of three university USRAs throughout your undergraduate university career.

To hold an award, you must:

  • have completed all the course requirements of at least the first year of university study (or two academic terms) of your bachelor's degree;
  • have been registered in at least one of the two terms immediately before holding the award in a bachelor's degree program at an eligible university;
  • not have started a program of graduate studies in the natural sciences or engineering at any time;
  • be engaged on a full-time basis in research and development activities in the natural sciences or engineering during the tenure of the award.

Who is not eligible?

You are not eligible for a USRA if:

  • you are currently enrolled in an undergraduate professional degree program in the health sciences (e.g., MD, DDS, BScN); or
  • you hold higher degrees in the natural sciences or engineering.

Value of awards

  • These awards have a value of $4,500 for a full 16-week period.
  • Universities are required to supplement the amount of the award by at least 25% of its value using other sources, such as university funds, NSERC grants, or any other research funds. Universities may also provide fringe benefits.
  • NSERC’s contribution is paid directly to the host university.
  • A travel allowance may also be granted if you take up the award at a university other than the one at which you are currently registered (see Travel allowances for more information).

NSERC will not reimburse the university for any period during which you worked part time. No payment will be approved for any vacation leave you take during tenure of the award.

Duration of awards

  • The duration of the award is 16 consecutive weeks on a full-time basis.
  • You may hold an award at any time during the year as permitted by your academic program.
  • Tenure may start on a date acceptable to both you and your host institution.

Where can you hold your award?

Once NSERC has approved your USRA for tenure at one particular institution, you may not transfer it to another institution. Consult the USRA LO at the university where you would like to hold the award to find out about eligible supervisors.

Supervision of the student at the university

You must work under the supervision of a faculty member who holds an active research grant from NSERC or an eligible tri-agency research grant administered jointly by NSERC, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), either at the time you submit the application or when you hold the award. Consult the USRA LO at the university where you would like to hold the award for a list of eligible research grants.

The Discovery Grants Program and some other NSERC research funding programs receive an automatic extension of one year from the funding expiry date to allow the grantees to use funds remaining in the account. Other programs may allow extensions if a request is submitted before the funding expiry date of the grant. Faculty members who are in doubt about the current funding expiry date of their grant should contact the university USRA LO or NSERC program staff at

Faculty members who have received a grant extension from April 1 of the year their grant terminates to March 31 of the following year are eligible to supervise a USRA student during any session of the extension year and may still be eligible for the year following the extension, if the university’s application deadline is before the end of the extension period.

Note: In the case of small universities that are having difficulty allocating all of their USRAs to a limited number of NSERC grant holders, supervision of the remaining USRAs by natural sciences and engineering faculty members without NSERC funding may be considered. The USRA LO at the university must obtain prior approval from NSERC by submitting an email request (maximum of two pages) to the USRA Program Officer that includes:

  • a brief c.v. of the proposed supervisor, his/her research interests and a brief history of applying for/receiving NSERC support;
  • a description of the lab environment, including equipment, other team members in the lab, access to NSERC grant holders, etc.;
  • a brief description of the student’s proposed research project.

Requests for these exceptions must demonstrate clearly that the proposed supervisor is pursuing a research program with the intention of obtaining NSERC research funding in the near future. Ongoing collaborations, particularly with NSERC-funded faculty at the same institution or elsewhere, recent refereed publications, a consistent supervisory record, and recent applications for funding from sources other than NSERC are all evidence of this intention. Exceptions apply to one fiscal year only.

A faculty member at a small institution who does not hold NSERC research funding may be approved as a USRA supervisor up to three times until they secure NSERC research funding. Exceptions are counted whether or not the supervisor actually hosts a USRA award holder that year.

For this purpose, small universities denote Canadian universities that received $3.7 million or less in NSERC scholarships and grants during the most recent fiscal year for which data is available. For further information, consult the table entitled Grants & Scholarships Expenditures by University/College.

How do you apply?

To apply for these awards, you must complete and submit your application using NSERC’s On-line System. Refer to the instructions for completing Form 202.

You can apply to more than one university. You must apply directly to the university where you would like to hold the award. However, please note that it is the university's choice whether to accept candidates from other institutions.

How are students selected for awards?

NSERC allocates a quota of awards to each eligible university and the selection process is done by the university. All application and review processes are internal to the institution. It is the university's responsibility to establish its own selection criteria within the broad guidelines that NSERC provides, and it may choose to apply stricter criteria. When selecting students for awards, the university will assess the merit of each application on the basis of the student's academic record and research aptitude. In doing this, it will take into account the objectives of the USRA. Applications from eligible Indigenous applicants are submitted over and above the quota.

For university selection procedures and criteria, refer to the USRA LO at the university where you would like to hold the award.

Application deadlines

Each eligible university sets its own deadline dates for receiving applications. For information about these dates, contact the USRA LO at the university where you intend to apply for an award.

Although awards may be held in either the summer, fall or winter term, each university will determine the number of selection processes it holds each year.

Award decisions

Each university will inform applicants of its award decisions after it has completed its selection process. To find out if you have received an award, contact the USRA LO at your university. Candidates approved by NSERC will receive an award letter by email from NSERC midway through their award. Award letters should be read carefully and kept for future reference.

Payment of awards

You will receive your payment from the university. The university will issue payments to you for the total value of the award in accordance with its pay procedures. It will also issue a T4 or T4A slip (Statement of Income) to you at the end of the calendar year.

NSERC will pay its contribution directly to the university.

Travel allowances

You may qualify for a travel allowance for the actual costs you incur to get to your host university and back, if it is different from the one you are attending at the time of the award. The allowance is based on the economy airfare between the cities where the universities are located. Please note that travel allowances are taxable.

To request a travel allowance, apply to your host university upon arrival. If approved, the university will reimburse your costs, then obtain the funds from NSERC.

In addition...

  • NSERC will pay the return travel costs only if the actual period of tenure is 12 weeks or more.
  • NSERC will not provide a travel allowance for your spouse or children.
  • This allowance is not intended to offset your daily commuting costs to and from the host university.
  • NSERC will provide an allowance (as deemed reasonable by NSERC’s Finance Division) for ground transportation costs to and from your residence and your point of departure (e.g., airport, train station, bus station). Original receipts must be provided to the university.
  • NSERC will not provide an allowance for the cost of transporting excess baggage or removing household effects.
  • Travel claims must be submitted to NSERC by the host university staff no more than one month after the completion of the USRA work term.

Note: Frequent flyer points will not be reimbursed.

For more information

The first point of contact regarding the USRA Program should be the USRA LO at the university where you intend to apply for an award, or where you are currently registered in an eligible program of study.

For general information about this program, consult the Contact List.