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NSERC USRA Competition

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 NSERC USRA competition are advised to read all of the information presented below, and Concordia staff, professors, and research supervisors are strongly encouraged to do so as well.

 

The Summer 2024 competition will open as of January 23, 2024 and the application deadline is February 29, 2024.

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 (Please submit the completed and signed USRA Compliance Checklist via email to fundingyoureducation@concordia.ca)

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.

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 2024
  • 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
  • Proposed research that is in an area of natural science or engineering supported by NSERC

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 2023 and/or Winter 2024 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.

Furthermore:

  • You may hold only one USRA per fiscal year (May 1, 2024 to April 30, 2025);
  • You may hold a maximum of three NSERC USRAs throughout your university career;
  • You are permitted to take a maximum of 2 (two) courses 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.

 

https://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/OnlineServices-ServicesEnLigne/Index_eng.aspThe USRA has a value of $6,000.00 from NSERC as well as an additional $2,270 contribution from the Office of the Vice-President, Research and Graduate Studies. 

The Quebec Government program from FQRNT is also available to students who hold an NSERC USRA. Please follow the link below:

https://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/OnlineServices-ServicesEnLigne/Index_eng.asp

The FQRNT is not automatic. You will have to apply for this during your NSERC USRA term.

You must be able to hold the award position on a full-time basis for 15-consecutive weeks without interruption during this period of tenure. This is a full-time research award (35 hour work week, normally Monday to Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM).

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, who 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.

http://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/OnlineServices-ServicesEnLigne/Index_eng.asp

  1. Student Application (Form 202 Part I)
    1. 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.
    2. 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).
    1. 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.

*Please note that exceptionally this year, the departments will not be making a top up.

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. 

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 students be enrolled in courses during the tenure of the USRA?

USRA recipients are not generally permitted to take courses during working hours throughout the term of their award. Award recipients may take a maximum of two courses during the tenure of the award if special arrangements to make up the time have been made with the supervisor.

Students wishing to take more than two courses must first discuss the matter with their supervisor and obtain their approval. The supervisor then makes a formal request to the Financial Aid and Awards Office, outlining the reasons they require an exception, and including links to the courses if possible. The Financial Aid and Awards Office will then forward the request, along with any comments they have, to NSERC.

Are students allowed to take sick leave or vacation?

The program makes no provisions for sick or vacation leave, or for other type of interruptions. Should a USRA be interrupted or terminated early for any reason, NSERC must be informed immediately and the Confirmation of Payments form should be completed. Awards may not be deferred.

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, 2024. 

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 2024 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 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 supervisor must ensure that the student is properly supervised at all times (especially during field work) and appropriately trained and mentored in research techniques and safety methods. The supervisor also has the right to set working hours and assign tasks.

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, 2024. One NSERC grantee has to be designated as the student’s official supervisor and only one person can complete Form 202, Part II. Co-supervision of a student can be mentioned in the Research proposal section of the application. 

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.

Can I apply to more than one institution?

You can apply to more than one institution. You must apply directly to the institution where you would like to hold the award. However, please note that it is the institution’s choice whether to accept candidates from other institutions.

 

PLEASE NOTE that dates may be subject to change without notice.

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