Last update: April 29, 2019

Faculty members with eligible active NSERC research grants may apply for the NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award (USRA) program. Through these awards, you can receive a wage subsidy of $4,500 to hire an eligible student to work on research and development in your lab.  Professors gain valuable help in furthering their research while supporting students in their learning.

Here is what students have to say about what they’ve learned through their NSERC USRA placements in 2018-2019!


The objectives of the USRA program are:

  • to stimulate student interest in research in the natural sciences and engineering,
  • to encourage students to undertake graduate studies and pursue a research career in these fields; and,
  • to provide research work experience that complements a student’s degree program in an academic setting

NSERC encourages qualified Indigenous students to apply for this award.


In January of each year, the Centre for Student Involvement & Careers (CSI&C) office receives UBC’s quota (for both UBC-Vancouver & UBC-Okanagan) of USRA spots for the fiscal year.  The awards are allocated to the different Faculties/Schools based on the number of eligible NSERC grand holders in each Faculty/School.  The NSERC USRA program is administered and coordinated through the Faculty/School/Department USRA Coordinator. 

Project supervisors must be faculty members who hold an eligible active NSERC research grant at the time of application or when the student holds the award, or be either the principal investigator or co-investigator of the grant. Ensure that their research project must be in natural sciences or engineering and is therefore supported by NSERC. Details and general guidelines for the eligibility of subject matter can be found at Selecting a Federal Granting Agency and has been updated to provide greater clarity in determining the eligibility of applicants’ proposed research.  As an additional reference, an Addendum to the Guidelines for the Eligibility of Applications Related to Health contains examples of eligible and ineligible research topics. 

Students must be engaged in research and development activities on a full-time basis (35 hours paid hours/week plus a 1-hour/day unpaid lunch break) during the tenure of the award (minimum of 16 consecutive weeks).  Awards can be taken up during the summer (May – August), fall (September – December) or winter (January – April) term. Under exceptional circumstances students can work less than 16 consecutive weeks (prior approval from NSERC is needed and requests are to be submitted well ahead of the deadline for applications).  The USRA program makes no provision for sick leave or other interruptions of awards.  Please inform the NSERC Liaison Officer immediately should a work term be interrupted or terminated early for any reason.

The USRA research is a full time activity. Students should not receive academic credits for the work done during the term of the USRA.  Award holders may take a maximum of one course in addition to their USRA with the agreement of their supervisor. If the course is during normal working hours, special arrangements with the supervisor must be made for the student to make up the time spent on the course.  In particular, USRA holders are not permitted to do thesis research during the term of the award.

The value of the NSERC USRA (the project supervisors’ reimbursement) is $4,500 per student.  We require that all students holding a USRA be paid at minimum $7474.25 for a 16-week period to meet BC’s minimum wage requirements.  If your project is longer than 16 weeks, the minimum pay increases to at least $484.75/week for each additional week or $96.95/day for each additional day.  NSERC encourages universities to provide larger supplements if at all possible, with many supervisors choosing to provide larger top-ups using their own funds from research grants or other sources. Visiting (non-UBC) students who work with UBC NSERC grant holders are eligible for travel allowances (see details below).

View student eligibility criteria


  • Announcement of award allocations: mid-January

  • Application period / student recruitment: January - March

  • Deadline for Faculty/School USRA Coordinators to submit A&B List of Recommended Applicants (for all terms): March 22, 2019

  • Review of NSERC on-line applications: end of March/April

  • Deadline to submit student appointments: Summer: April 10, 2019, Fall: August 14, 2019, Winter: December 11, 2019

  • USRA placements: Summer (May 1 to August 31, 2019) / Fall (September 1 to December 31, 2019) / Winter (January 1 – April 30, 2020)

  • Award notifications: Summer awards (July), Fall awards (November), Winter awards (February)

  • Deadline to submit travel claim forms: Summer: September 13, 2019, Fall: January 13, 2020, Winter: May 11, 2020

  • Transfer of award funds: Summer awards - September/October / Fall awards – January/February / Winter awards – May/June

Your involvement

Announcement of award allocations

In early January, the Workplace Learning Program office will announce the number of USRA quota spaces UBC has received for the fiscal year’s competition and the number of awards allocated to each Faculty/School.  

Faculty/School offices establish its own selection criteria within the broad guidelines that NSERC provides, and it may choose to apply stricter criteria.  Applications should be assessed on the basis of the student’s academic record and research aptitude.  

List of Eligible Grants 2019

Please contact your  2019 Faculty/School/Department Coordinator to find out how many awards are available to your faculty for the fiscal year.

2019 Resources for Faculty/School/Department Coordinators

Please find hyperlinks to important reference tools and required documents for supervisors and coordinators that will help to ensure the applicants are eligible and applications are completed correctly.  

Application period/Student recruitment

Both project supervisors and students must complete and submit an online NSERC USRA application Form 202 part I (student) and Part II (supervisor) by clicking on “System Login” or, if you are a first time user, “Register”. Instructions on how to complete the forms can be found on the NSERC USRA website.

Each faculty/school establishes procedures for identifying and ranking applicants and will set their own internal deadlines. Please contact your 2019 Faculty/School/Department Coordinator for application details. 

CareersOnline (the online job board for UBC students) is a great resource for posting your opportunity.  UBC employers can advertise positions free-of-charge.  Make sure your posting includes student eligibility criteria in the qualifications section to ensure you get applications only from eligible undergraduate students.

Visit UBC HR for information on general student hiring and practices or Work Learn for onboarding resources and evaluation templates for student staff, and UBC Risk Management for information on New Worker Safety Orientation and Training.

Review of NSERC on-line applications

The Liaison Officer will review and confirm all applications submitted via NSERC’s on-line portal.  If there are any errors/omissions or the application is incomplete, the Liaison Officer will RETURN the application to the supervisor to allow the student and/or supervisor to make changes to it. If the application is returned, the faculty supervisor will receive two e-mails:

  • a generic e-mail notification from NSERC informing them that their application has been returned
  • an e-mail from the CSI&C office with details about the error or missing information, steps on how to make edits to their application and how to re-submit on-line

Please remember that at this point your application is still subject to final NSERC approval.  It’s usually the case that students will start work on their USRA before awards are actually confirmed by NSERC.  If eligibility criteria are not met and the student starts his/her award tenure, the student would still be expected to finish their award and be paid the full amount, although a reimbursement will not be issued and the supervisor will be responsible for the students’ full wages.

Deadline to submit student appointments

As supervisors, you are responsible for your student(s) wages.  Once you’ve selected your candidate, project supervisors must appoint their student by submitting an eForm to through HRMS by the deadline date provided. It's important to have students appointed in their positions prior to starting work.  Please refer to UBC Payroll’s Appointment Notice Cut-off Schedule.

eForms will automatically be routed to our approval queue once submitted in the HRMS system.

2019-20 Info sheet for appointing students

USRA placements / Award notifications

The normal duration of the award is a minimum of 16 consecutive weeks.  Award winners are required to work full time (35 paid hours/week plus a 1-hour unpaid lunch break) during the Summer term (May – August), Fall term (September – December) or Winter term (January – April).  Under exceptional circumstances students can work less than 16 consecutive weeks (prior approval from NSERC is needed). 

Visit UBC HR for information on general student hiring and practices or Work Learn for onboarding resources and evaluation templates for student staff, and UBC Risk Management for information on New Worker Safety Orientation and Training. 

NSERC will send award letters directly to students in July for the Summer term, November for the Fall term and February for the Winter term. NSERC will notify the Liaison Officer about applications that have been rejected.  Replacements for rejected candidates will not be accepted in the same term.  If eligibility criteria are not met and the student starts his/her award tenure, the student would still be expected to finish their award and be paid the full amount, although a reimbursement will not be issued and the supervisor will be responsible for the students’ full wages.

Deadline to submit travel claim forms

Visiting students from another university completing their NSERC USRA in your Faculty/School may qualify for a travel allowance.  The maximum allowance is an amount equivalent to economy airfare between the student’s home university and UBC.  Please note the following:

  • 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 a student’s spouse or children.
  • This allowance is not designed to offset the student’s 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 the student’s residence and their point of departure (e.g., airport, train station, bus station).  Receipts must be provided.
  • NSERC will not provide an allowance for the cost of transporting excess baggage or removing household effects.
  • Frequent flyer points will not be reimbursed.
  • NSERC will not reimburse travel expenses to and from field research locations and the UBC campus. Any additional costs related to field work (eg. travel expenses) must be covered by the supervisor.

*UBC-O students holding a USRA at the UBC-Vancouver campus can claim for economy airfare, bus fare or driving costs (please refer to UBC’s travel policy). 

You will need to submit a copy of the student’s travel requisition form, travel receipts, and proof of reimbursement to the student to the CSI&C office by the deadline date provided.  We will claim these expenses from NSERC and in turn, reimburse your faculty/department (allow for a few months of processing time).  Please contact your Faculty/USRA coordinator or department’s financial administrator for information on how to submit a travel reimbursement.  

  • Centre for Student Involvement & Careers (CSI&C) – NSERC USRA
    1036 Brock Hall – 1874 East Mall, Vancouver V6T 1Z1
Transfer of award funds

The CSI&C office will reimburse department accounts in the amount of $4,500 for each USRA and for any eligible travel claims.

  • Summer term – October/November
  • Fall term – February/March
  • Winter term – May/June


Resources for Supervisors

The Hiring Process

The hiring process doesn't only happen during the interview; it begins the moment you decide to fill a need in your unit or department. Coming up with an effective hiring plan, determining the appropriate method for recruiting and selecting the best candidates, and consulting with key stakeholders are all important decisions that, if unprepared, could result in a stressful experience. The resources below are useful tools to use through recruiting, selecting, and on-boarding successful candidates. Before you do anything, it may be helpful to create a Student Hiring and Recruiting Plan.PDF to ensure you aren't missing anything important. It is also a good idea to familiarize yourself with The BC Employment Standards Act Fact Sheets.PDF.

During Interviews

(In Basket Interviews)- Designed to test a candidates ability to perform a task within a set of set requirements. In Basket Testing Tips.PDF

Competency Based Interview Questions

Competency Based Interview Questions.PDF General Interview Questions.PDF Sample Interview Rubric.PDF

After Interview

After you have completed your interviews, you will have to make your decision as to who you would like to extend an offer to and who you want to decline. It is best to extend an offer as soon as possible, as students are often applying to more than one role. Waiting to offer may mean you miss the opportunity to work with your star candidate! Sample Offer Letter.PDF

Onboarding and Orientation

A lack of a thorough on-boarding experience and expectations has been noted as one of the main reasons employees are not engaged or productive in their workplace. Thoughtful preparation for your new employee, setting clear expectations at the beginning, and ongoing integration into the new workplace plays a key role in fostering a positive working relationship and setting the student staff up to be successful in the role. The templates are a great way to get you started.

Before the student begins the position

Orientation Checklist.PDF

Work Learn On-boarding Plan.PDF

Expectations Setting Worksheet.PDF

Getting to Know You Worksheet.PDF

Sharing some of the interesting facts you learn about the student employee with other full-time staff members is a small act that goes a long way in integrating the Work Learn student(s) to the larger team. Work Learn_New Work Learn Students Template.PDF

This template can be used for positions in which a new staff manual is included in the on-boarding process. New Staff Manual Template.PDF

Having a new student set learning objectives is an excellent way of engaging them right from day one, as well a way to provide structure in following up with a student throughout their position. Learning Objectives Worksheet.PDF

This is an agreement between the employer and the student, with the aim of outlining employment expectations of both parties, to ensure an overall successful experience for the student and the employer. Work Learn Program - Supervisor and Student Work Agreement.PDF

Performance Management

Performance management is an ongoing process between you and your employee that involves creating goals, assessing progress, and proving guidance and feedback along the way. The resources below can be used to guide those conversations with your student staff, evaluate their performance, and reflect on what they are learning in their roles.

The 5-15 Check in is one way of a student keeping you up to date with their work progress, challenges, and ideas. A 5-15 is meant to take the student no longer than 15 minutes to write and to take you no more than 5 minutes to read. These can be especially helpful if the student you supervise has different hours than you. 5_15 Check In

Bi weekly status report

Biweekly Status Report - Template

Work Plan (Long Term)

Work Plan Template

360 Performance Evaluation

If you have a concern about the safety or well-being of a student employee, we encourage you to submit an Early Alert:

Performance Reviews

Performance reviews are a crucial way for students to learn and reflect on their positions. They do take time so it is a good idea to start early. We strongly encourage all Work Learn facilitators to conduct a mid-point performance review with each student they supervise.

Work Learn Program - Mid-Point Performance Evaluation (for lab setting)

Work Learn Program - Mid-Point Performance Evaluation (non-lab setting)

Work Learn Mid-point Self-reflection

Employee Recognition

Recognition is a way of showing your employees that you notice and value what they bring to the workplace. Student employees have a huge impact on the UBC workplace; bringing fresh ideas, high energy, and a willingness to learn. Taking some time to acknowledge a job well done is a great way to keep your staff engaged and motivated.

Tips for Student Recognition

Goal Setting + Professional Development

Students have identified that one of the main reasons they choose to work Work Learn jobs is to gain professional experience that will serve them after graduation. So much of what impacts a student's ability to learn on the job is their connection to you, their supervisor. The following are a series of templates you can use to help guide professional development conversations with the students you supervise.


HARD Goals Template S.M.A.R.T Goals Template

Professional Development Plan

Work Learn Professional Development Plan

Cross-training is an opportunity for students to work with colleagues of yours in other units. Cross_Training Plan

Strengths and Opportunities for Development

Considerations for Student Mentorship

Skills Self-Reflection(4)

Offboarding + Transition

The end of the Work Learn term calls for celebrating and recognizing your student staff, reflecting on what they have learned in their placement, and planning for new (or returning students). It's also a great time to solicit feedback on how the experience was for the student, and incorporate your own learning into your next cycle of student management. Below are some resources you can use as you prepare to have end-of-term conversations with your student, ensure they are off-boarded appropriately, and prepare for your new employees.

Work Learn Program - End-of-Term Reflection Questions.PDF

Skills Self-Reflection.PDF

Transition Report Checklist.PDF

Work Learn Offboarding Checklist.PDF

Contact Information

Workplace Learning

Phone: (604) 827 - 2937