Last update: January 16, 2024

START HERE: 

  1. Faculty Supervisor Infosheet: the process for the application and how to submit your research proposal. Please ensure the research proposals submitted are written according to the guidelines of the agency you are applying to. Note: CIHR and SSHRC USRA are currently exclusive for Black Students. All domestic students can apply to NSERC USRA.
  2. Student Eligibility Criteria
  3. USRA supervisor guide
  4. Frequently Asked Questions (updated January 15, 2024)
  5. If you face any technical issues regarding the NSERC online portal, please contact NSERC helpdesk

Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA) are opportunities for undergraduate students to consider graduate studies and/or a research career by providing research work experience that complements their studies in an academic setting. Through these awards, professors can receive a wage subsidy of $6,000 to hire an eligible student to work on research and development in your lab. You gain valuable help in furthering students' research while supporting them in their learning. No USRA applications may be submitted directly to the agencies. Selected applications are submitted to NSERC by institutions through NSERC’s online system.

These awards are administered by Canada’s 3 research granting agencies:

  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)*

                   *All undergraduate students who are Canadian Citizens or Permanent Residents can apply to this award.

  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)**
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)**

                  **CIHR and SSHRC USRA are exclusively offered to Canadian Black students only. 

Please ensure the research proposals submitted are written according to the guidelines of the agency you are applying to. 

If you have any questions about the USRA, please email nserc.usra@ubc.ca or phone 604-827-2937, from 9 AM - 4 PM Monday through Friday.

The information on this page applies to both UBC Okanagan and UBC Vancouver students and faculty members.

Goals

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

Scope

In January of each year, the UBC Career Centre receives UBC’s quota (for both UBC-Vancouver & UBC-Okanagan) of USRA spots for the fiscal year. The USRA program is administered and coordinated through the Faculty/School/Department USRA Coordinators.

Supervisors must be faculty members who are authorized to independently supervise students deemed by their home institution.  As part of UBC’s requirement, eligible faculty will need to continue holding an active NSERC grant from the Research Grant list. Faculties/Schools have the ability to endorse non-NSERC grant holders to apply for the award, on the approval of the Associate Dean or appropriate designate. Additionally, they must ensure that their research project be in the area of research supported by the respective agency they are applying to. 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. 

Note: CIHR and SSHRC USRAs are only available for Black student researchers.

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 14-16 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 14 consecutive weeks (prior approval from NSERC is needed). Exceptions will be made for shortened work terms only in exceptional cases where the situation is beyond the control of the award recipient, and where the appropriately justified request is received before the beginning of the work term. 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 two courses 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. Award holders are permitted to take only one course in each summer term.  Students wishing to take more than two courses must first discuss the matter with their supervisor and obtain approval. The supervisor then makes a formal request to nserc.usra@ubc.ca, outlining the reasons they require an exception, and including links to the courses, if possible. UBC Career Centre will then forward the request to NSERC for approval. In particular, USRA holders are not permitted to do thesis research during the term of the award.

The value of the NSERC USRA (the faculty supervisors’ reimbursement) is $6,000 per student.  

For the student’s salary, BC’s minimum wage requirements must be met. As of December 13, 2023, the minimum wage in BC is currently $16.75 per hour. Note: BC minimum wage may increase in 2024.

Based on the current BC’s minimum wage requirements, the minimum pay for the tenure of the award of 16 weeks (May 1, 2024 - Aug 20, 2024) is $9,755.20, inclusive of 4% vacation pay; The minimum top-up from the supervisor will be $3,755.20.

For more information on student’s salary calculations, please refer to:

In addition, supervisors are required to fund benefits (CPP, EI, WCB) amounting to approximately 7.48% of the monthly wage. Please note that $9,755.20 for the work term from May 1 – Aug 20, 2024 is the minimum pay and many supervisors choose to provide a larger top-up using their own funds from research grants or other sources.

View student eligibility criteria

Program Comparison

Program

NSERC USRA

WL IURA

WORK LEARN

TYPE OF STUDENT

     

Undergraduate

Y Y Y

Graduate/Professional

    Y

International Students

  Y Y

Domestic Students

Y   Y

Visiting Students

Y    

TYPE OF WORK

     

Research Related

Y Y Y

Non-Research Related

    Y

Full-time

Y Y  

Part-time

    Y

Year Round

Y Summer Only Y

Timelines

  • Announcement of award allocations: end of 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, 2024
  • Review of NSERC on-line applications: April 2024
  • Deadline to submit student appointments: Summer: May 10, 2024, Fall: September 13, 2024, Winter: December 6, 2024
  • USRA placements: Summer (May 1 to August 31, 2024) / Fall (September 1 to December 31, 2024) / Winter (January 1 – April 30, 2025)
  • Award notifications: Summer awards (July), Fall awards (November), Winter awards (February)
  • Reimbursement of award funds: Summer awards - September/October / Fall awards – January/February / Winter awards – May/June

Your involvement

Announcement of Award Allocations

In January, the UBC Career Centre 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 their own selection criteria within the broad guidelines that NSERC provides, and they may choose to apply stricter criteria. The following Selection criteria and indicators for USRA applications contains suggestions for evaluating the three selection criteria when reviewing supervisor/student applicants:

•  Academic excellence

•  Research potential

•  Expected quality of the training and mentorship to be received

As per NSERC’s recommendations, institutions are encouraged to consider the above evaluation methods when determining A-List/B-List candidates.

Please contact your 2024-25 Faculty/School/Department USRA Coordinators to find out how many awards are available to your Faculty/School for the fiscal year.

2024-25 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 faculty 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. Additional resources can be found here:

Each Faculty/School establishes procedures for identifying and ranking applicants and will set their own internal deadlines. Please contact your 2024-25 Faculty/School/Department USRA Coordinators 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.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI):

UBC believes that sustained excellence in research, education and engagement depends on the integration of diverse perspectives and approaches and the inclusion of those who have been historically, persistently or systemically marginalized. UBC wants to ensure equitable access to these opportunities with NSERC, both for faculty members and students. Please ensure a thorough review of your recruitment and application processes to ensure equitable consideration is given to all applicants.

Here are some UBC-specific guidelines and resources you may want to review:  

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 Safety and Risk Services for information on New Worker Safety Orientation and Training.

Review of NSERC USRA Online Applications

The UBC Liaison Officer will review and confirm all applications submitted via NSERC’s online portal.  If there are any errors/omissions or the application is incomplete, the UBC 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 UBC Career Centre 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 have selected your candidate, faculty supervisors must appoint their student by submitting a Hire Business Process (BP) through Workday by the deadline date provided. It is important to have students appointed in their positions prior to starting work. Hire BPs will be automatically routed to our approval queue once submitted in Workday. If you have specific questions about Workday, please contact the UBC IRP team for further support. 

Deadline to submit student appointments: Summer: May 10, 2024, Fall: September 13, 2024, Winter: December 6, 2024

2024-25 Info sheet for appointing students 

USRA Placements / Award Notifications

The normal duration of the award is a minimum of 14 to 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 14 consecutive weeks (prior approval from NSERC is needed). Exceptions will be made for shortened work terms only in exceptional cases where the situation is beyond the control of the award recipient, and where the appropriately justified request is received before the beginning of the work term.

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 Safety and Risk Services for information on New Worker Safety Orientation and Training. 

NSERC award letters will be available to students in July for the Summer term, November for the Fall term and February for the Winter term. For NSERC and SSHRC award holders, the award letters will be available on NSERC’s SharePoint whereas CIHR award holders will receive their award letters by email. NSERC will notify the UBC Liaison Officer regarding 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 their 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.

Transfer of Award Funds

The UBC Career Centre will reimburse department accounts in the amount of $6,000 for each USRA.

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

Resources for Supervisors

The Hiring Process

During Interviews

After Interview

Onboarding and Orientation

Performance Management

Goal Setting + Professional Development

Offboarding + Transition

Contact Information

Workplace Learning

Phone: (604) 827 - 2937

Email: nserc.usra@ubc.ca