The NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award (USRA) is a financial award that allows outstanding undergraduate students to work with a faculty member in an academic research environment for a semester.

USRA recipients take part in a research project in an area of Computer Science, under the direction and guidance of a supervisor. The type of work will vary depending on the supervisor, the project, and the student's background. 

If you are interested in exploring the research side of academic life or if your goal is graduate studies in a field related to Computer Science, the experience of an NSERC USRA could be very helpful.

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Meet Victor

Image of USRA winner Victor LiaoVictor spent his Winter 2022 work term with Professor Yaoliang Yu, working on the convergence analysis of the expectation-maximization algorithm. Victor’s role was to review the relevant literature for prior techniques and work on mathematics to generalize or improve existing convergence analysis. 

“One important aspect of research that I learned with Prof. Yaoliang Yu is the fact that it is important to go back and refocus on the bigger picture. Often when I am working on a specific topic, many ideas come to mind to explore, but not all of them are fruitful. It may so happen that I go on some tangents, but I learned that it is important always to remind myself of the final goal.  

I recommend other undergraduate students to pursue a co-op term in research because there are many opportunities to do industry co-ops, but it may happen that research is their calling. However, they would not know unless they tried it!” Victor Liao, BCS candidate  


Application deadlines

Competitions for NSERC USRA's are held three times each year. Deadlines for computer science students are as follows:

Term Deadline
Spring 2024 Monday, March 4, 2024*
Fall 2024 TBD (likely set for early May)
Winter 2024 Closed

*Due to a limited number of awards, we will only consider applications meeting one or more of the following criteria for the secondary deadline:

  • research projects that meet the new Interdisciplinary USRA Criteria,
  • student applicants who are self-identifying Black or Indigenous, or
  • student applicants with exceptionally outstanding academic performance/research experience.

Check with Daniel Huab for specific dates. Please note: No applications will be accepted past the deadline; the application process is on a tight schedule and we cannot accommodate late applications.

Length of project

  • Full-time (35 hours per week) for 16 consecutive weeks (80 working days).
  • Can be counted as a co-op work term but you do not need to be a co-op student to be eligible for this award.

Note: A student is not allowed to be taking courses full-time or working on another project/job while doing the USRA as it is considered a full-time job.

Compensation for 2024/2025

  • For Spring 2021 onwards, $6,000 from the award portion plus the supervisor's contribution. As of Winter 2024, the recommended minimum amount for the supervisor’s contribution is $3,640 per term (or $910 per month), giving a total minimum payment for the term of $9,640.
  • Does not include benefits or vacation pay.
  • The student and/or the supervisor can apply for President's Scholarships to supplement the supervisor's contribution.

Eligibility

Student eligibility
  • Must have completed one full year of school before starting the USRA, i.e. 2A or higher (students can be in 1B when they apply, and students can do a USRA in the term immediately after degree completion, but not later than this).
  • Must have a 75% cumulative average or higher (for Fall 2021 and Winter 2022, students must have a cumulative average of 80% or higher).
  • Must be a Canadian citizen or permanent Canadian resident.
  • Must find a faculty supervisor before applying.
  • Must have only one USRA per NSERC fiscal year (April 1 - March 31).
  • Maximum of three USRAs during undergraduate degree.
  • Cannot have started a graduate degree or be involved in full-time research and development in natural sciences or engineering.

For more information, see Undergraduate Student Research Award.

Special note for Black and Indigenous students:

As noted on the NSERC USRA webpage, there is currently a special program in place to support students who self-identify as Black or Indigenous who are guaranteed an award provided they meet eligibility requirements.

Supervisor eligibility

Supervisors must meet one of the following criteria:

  • As of Spring 2024, a faculty member authorized by the University to supervise students is considered eligible to supervise a USRA student. Holding an active tri-agency research grant is no longer required.
  • Potential supervisors must have access to funds to provide the minimum compensation for the term.

Interdisciplinary Criteria

  • There are additional awards available for research projects that involve interaction among two or more different disciplines, draws on knowledge from different disciplines, or trains students on disciplines outside of their background. To be considered for an Interdisciplinary USRA, please review the Interdisciplinary USRA Criteria (PDF), effective as of Spring 2024.

How to apply

  1. Ensure that you meet the eligibility requirements outlined above. 

  2. Find a supervisor with whom you would like to work. Contact Daniel Huab for advice or if you are open to the field of study. 
  3. Decide on a research project and clearly define your role and responsibilities with the supervisor.
  4. Complete the following on the NSERC online system
    1. Complete and submit Form 202 - Part I.
    2. Upload your unofficial transcript if you are a UW student. Otherwise, non-UW students must upload an official transcript (with a legend attached, if applicable).
    3. Send your reference number to your supervisor (the supervisor will use the student’s reference number to create and link form 202 Part II).
  5. Ensure that your supervisor completes the online application (Form 202 - Part II).
  6. Email Daniel Huab when Form 202 (Part I and II) is completed by the student and supervisor before the deadline (see above).