NSERC USRA Competition - Summer 2020
The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) is a federal agency responsible for promoting and supporting research in the natural sciences and engineering, other than the health sciences.
The objective of the Undergraduate Student Research Award (USRA) program is to provide research work experience for students to complement their degree program and encourage them to consider graduate studies and/or a research career.
Students wishing to enter the Summer 2020 NSERC USRA competition are advised to read the all of the information presented below, and Concordia staff, professors, and research supervisors are strongly encouraged to do so as well.
The deadline is February 17, 2020.
Application packages consist of:
- Student Application Form 202 Part I, Supervisors Application Form 202 Part II, (both to be submitted through the NSERC Online System),
- USRA Compliance Checklist (due at Financial Aid and Award Office – GM230)
Applications submitted after the deadline cannot be considered.
Please make sure that you read all of the other information panels below. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the Financial Aid and Awards Office.
February 17, 2020
- USRA application deadline for students and supervisors
February 21, 2020
- The Financial Aid and Awards Office (FAAO) will email the eligible applications to the Faculty Research Officer/Advisor, Research Development for the Dean’s final candidate selection and ranking. If your faculty decides to include the departmental Chairs in the USRA adjudication process it will be the faculty's responsibility to coordinate this involvement.
March 13, 2020
- Deadline for the Research Officer/Advisor, Research Development to submit the faculty’s list of selected candidates and their rankings to FAAO.
Week of March 16th 2020
- Applicants notified of the competition results by the Financial Aid and Awards Office.
Week of March 23rd 2020
- Deadline for students to accept USRA offers.
May 1st, 2020
- FAAO submits the recommendations to NSERC (accepted offers and wait-list).
May 4th 2020
- USRA Summer 2020 term begins. Please note that the first available pay date for Summer 2020 USRA participants will be May 22, providing the candidate's USRA was finalised by mid-April.
To be eligible to apply for and hold a USRA, you must:
- Be a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident of Canada as of February 1st 2020,
- Be registered in a Bachelor’s degree,
- Have a Cumulative GPA of at least 3.00 (“B” average),
- Have in place a faculty member who will supervise your research. The faculty member must hold an active NSERC research grant (e.g., Discovery, CREATE, Strategic, Research Partnerships, etc.), either at the time you submit the application or when you hold the award.
In addition, you must:
- Have completed all of the course requirements of at least the first year of University study towards your Bachelor’s degree (or two academic terms),
- Have been registered in the Fall 2019 and/or Winter 2020 semesters,
- Not have started a program of graduate studies in the natural sciences or engineering at any time,
- Be engaged in full-time research and development activities in the natural sciences or engineering on university premises during the tenure of the USRA.
- You may hold only one USRA per fiscal year (May 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021);
- You may hold a maximum of three NSERC USRAs throughout your university career;
- You are permitted to take a maximum of 1 (one) course during the USRA period, only if your supervisor approves. Enrollment in more than one course during the USRA period risks rejection of the candidate's eligibility by NSERC.
The USRA has a basic value of $5,625.00 ($4,500.00 from NSERC plus a contribution of $1,125.00 from Concordia/your department).
Individual departments may also provide an additional top-up beyond the standard NSERC and Concordia University contributions.
Additional top-ups are coordinated by the Financial Aid and Awards Office at the time of offer with the department where the student is holding their USRA.
The deadline for participating departments to inform the Financial Aid and Awards Office of an additional top-up is June 1 2020.
The Quebec Government program from FQRNT that is also available to students who hold an NSERC USRA – follow the link below:
This is not automatic, you will have to apply for this during your NSERC USRA term.
The Summer 2020 USRA period of tenure runs between May 4, 2020 and August 21, 2020.
You must be able to hold the award position on a full-time basis for 16-consecutive weeks without interruption during this period of tenure.
Failure to comply with the 16 consecutive week criterion will result in cancellation of the USRA.
Occasionally, NSERC may grant permission for a shortened USRA period on exceptional grounds. Students seeking permission for a shortened USRA period must contact the Financial Aid and Awards Office, which will contact NSERC and then notify the student of the decision.
If a request for a shortened USRA period is granted, the overall value of the USRA will be reduced (pro-rated downwards) according to the start and end dates of the shortened USRA.
To enter the USRA competition, students must submit the online NSERC USRA application, Form 202 Part I. The USRA supervisor must then complete Form 202 Part II.
The online NSERC USRA application is available through NSERC’s Online Services at the following address.
1. Student Application (Form 202 Part I)
a. Complete all of the modules of your USRA application (Form 202 Part 1). All CEGEP, College and university-level studies should be recorded with the list of your Post-Secondary education.
b. Once your application is completed you must provide your research supervisor with your Reference Number so that s/he can complete her/his section of the application (Form 202 Part II). The reference number is provided in the “My Portfolio” tab of your NSERC online file.
2. Supervisor application (Form 202 Part II, NSERC USRA Compliance Certification Checklist).
a. Your supervisor will require your reference number and student name in order to complete and submit Form 202 Part II.
After Form 202 parts I and II have been submitted on the NSERC online system, you must then submit your NSERC USRA Compliance Certification Checklist directly to the Financial Aid and Awards Office (see below).
At Concordia University, ethics and compliance approval is a mandatory component of research on campus.
All USRA projects require completion and submission of the Compliance Certification Checklist which is available for download here.
This checklist deals with questions regarding USRA projects that involve the use of animals or humans, as well as the use of hazardous materials, biological materials, controlled goods, or radioactive material and required eligibility requirements a outlined by NSERC.
Failure to complete and submit this checklist by the general application deadline will risk cancellation of the USRA application, or delay the award payments.
Once the USRA application deadline has passed, the Undergraduate Awards Office will verify that submitted applications are eligible for the program.
Eligible applications will then be forwarded to the Concordia USRA Selection Committee within the appropriate Faculty. This committee will rank the candidates on the basis of the student’s academic record and research aptitude.
The Financial Aid and Awards Office will offer USRA positions to candidates at the recommendation of the appropriate Faculty. Candidates will be notified of the Faculty decision during the week of March 16th, 2020. Second round (wait-list) offers will be made during the week of March 30th, 2020.
The Financial Aid and Awards Office will coordinate the completion of the USRA payments for the award recipients, as well as our institution's offiicial submission to NSERC.
On occasion, NSERC may request that a research proposal be re-written or augmented. In this event the Financial Aid and Awards Office will notify the supervisor, who must provide the updated proposal without delay.
Can the USRA be held on a part‐time basis or a full‐time basis?
The USRA covers a 16‐week work period, which must be completed on a full‐time basis (35 hours per week, normally Mondays to Fridays from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM). It is not possible to hold a USRA on a part-time basis.
Are international students eligible to apply for the USRA?
No – to be eligible the student has to be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada as of February 1st 2020.
Are students registered in programs from JMSB and Fine Arts also eligible to apply for the NSERC USRA?
Yes, students from JMSB and Fine Arts can apply for the USRA - however, the research project must be in a Natural Sciences or Engineering area in either the Faculty of Arts and Science or the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science.
Do I need to have the minimum credits required by the time of application, or can the minimum credits be completed by the end of the Summer 2020 term (just preceding the next USRA awards)?
Students completing the minimum credit requirement by the end of the Summer term (immediately preceding the next USRA session) will be eligible to apply. However, if awarded an USRA, the award will be conditional upon the successful completion of the minimum required credits.
If a student is enrolled in a 108‐credit program, what is the equivalent minimum number of credits that s/he must complete to be eligible to apply?
If a student is in a 108‐credit program, the minimum credit requirement is 45.
Can a student (whose cumulative GPA is slightly under the 3.0 requirement) submit an application just in case the GPA reaches 3.0 before the start of the Summer term?
No – the GPA that will be considered will be the one that appears on the student record at the time of application.
Can I do my thesis research in the same term as the USRA?
Students should not receive academic credits for the work done during the term of a USRA. Students may take one course if special arrangements to make up the time under supervision have been made with the supervisor. In particular, USRA holders are not permitted to do thesis research during the term of the award.
For the purposes of the USRA program, the credits assigned to co-op placements are not considered academic credits; therefore, your USRA project can count as a co-op term if approved by your co-op Advisor.
Can students be enrolled in courses during the tenure of the USRA?
Students may take a maximum of one (1) course during the tenure of the award, if they receive written permission from their supervisor to do so and they arrange to make up the time (under supervision). The research supervisor must notify the Financial Aid and Awards Office in advance of the USRA period.
Can a student carry out research work that is not directly related to a supervisor’s research work?
Yes – with the agreement of the supervisor, students may propose to complete research in a topic of interest to them.
Can an USRA be held by a team?
No - each USRA can only be held by one student researcher.
Can one professor supervise more than one student holding an USRA?
Yes – but the supervisor must ensure that he/she is able to provide the necessary supervision, and any material support students may need.
Do supervisors need to be on site while their students hold an USRA award?
The supervising faculty member must be available on-campus for the 16 consecutive-week period beginning May 4, 2020 and not away from Concordia University on any type of leave of absence or sabbatical leave.
Please note that NSERC expects the supervisor to be physically in the lab and/or building/field site most of the time during the award tenure. However, it is acceptable for the supervisor to delegate the supervision to responsible persons (other professors, experienced technicians, postdoctoral fellows, or doctoral students) for short periods while s/he takes vacation or attends conferences etc.
NSERC does not accept a situation where the supervisor is only available by virtual means for long periods. If the supervisory arrangements change during the tenure of the award you must inform the Financial Aid and Awards Office as soon as it becomes apparent that a change is needed, since all supervisor changes must be formally approved by NSERC.
Is co-supervision allowed?
Yes, NSERC allows USRA students to work under the supervision of two NSERC grantees as long as they work on a “genuine” research project allowing them to be exposed to all aspects of the research process. However, the co-supervision arrangement has to be disclosed to the FInancial Aid and Awards Office prior to May 1, 2020 One NSERC grantee has to be designated as the student’s official supervisor.
Can a research project be completed off campus?
A minimum of 75% of the participant’s time must be spent on University premises either on the Sir George Williams or Loyola Campuses, while a maximum of 25% of the USRA time can be spent off-premises. A lab, computer terminal, desk, or any work area that is not physically located on either the SGW or LOY campuses does NOT qualify as “University premises.” Additionally, USRA participants may not “work from home”.
Are USRA projects subject to compliance certification?
Yes. All research projects must receive compliance and ethics approval. All projects involving the use of animals or humans, as well as the use of hazardous materials, biological materials, controlled goods, or radioactive material, require ethical certification. Even if your research project does not involve any of the aforementioned, your supervisor is still required to complete and sign the NSERC USRA Compliance Certification Checklist, which is available for download from this information page.
Can an USRA be terminated if a student is not carrying out the proposed research, or has been absent?
Yes – should the student’s performance not match expectations, the supervisor is expected to take appropriate steps to explain matters and retrain the student. IF, after a reasonable time period, the student’s performance has not improved, the supervisor may, in consultation with other university administrators and the Financial Aid and Awards Office, decide to terminate the work term. In this case, your Faculty will assume responsibility for the funds.
What happens if I withdraw from my USRA?
If you withdraw from your USRA you must advise both your research supervisor and the Financial Aid and Awards Office without delay. If you have received USRA funds up to the date of your withdrawal, your Faculty will assume responsibility for the funds.
How are USRA Faculty quotas determined?
The number of awards allotted to each Faculty (Arts & Science or ENCS) is based on the proportion of external undergraduate research funding that Faculty received compared to the total of all faculties within the university.
Do I need to upload an official transcript with my USRA application?
The official transcript is not necessary for studies done at Concordia. The NSERC online application requires that you upload your Concordia record however it can be an unofficial student copy as long as it bears our institution's name and logo.
If you studied at another University previously, it is your responsibility to upload your official transcript from that school to the NSERC online applications website when you complete your Form 202.
At Concordia University, the NSERC USRA is considered as an "award", not employment.
For the purpose of government student aid (e.g. loans and bursaries) from Quebec or any other province, your NSERC USRA must be declared on your government aid application as "award" or "scholarship" income, and not as employment.
PLEASE NOTE that dates may be subject to change without notice.