Last update: February 7, 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 $7571.20 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


Contact Information

Workplace Learning

Phone: (604) 827 - 2937