BU NSERC USRA Submission Requirements & General Information

What is an NSERC USRA?

A Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Undergraduate Student Research Award (USRA) is meant to stimulate a student’s interest in research in the natural sciences and engineering.  It is also meant to encourage graduate studies education and the pursuit of a research career in these fields.  The NSERC USRA allows a student to gain research work experience that complements their studies in an academic setting; it can provide a student with financial support through Brandon University.  NSERC encourages qualified Aboriginal students to apply for this award.

Please note that the complete NSERC USRA program description, along with the application and instructions can be found on the NSERC website.


To Apply for an Award an Applicant Must:
1. Be a Canadian Citizen, permanent resident of Canada, or Protected Person under subsection 95(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (Canada);
2. Be registered, at time of application, in a bachelor’s degree program at an eligible university; and
3. Have obtained, over the previous years of study, a cumulative grade point average (CGPA) of at least second class (2.7).

To Hold an Award an Applicant Must:
4. Have completed all the course requirements of at least the first year of university study (or two academic terms) of bachelor’s degree (30 credit hours).  First year students are eligible to apply for this award and must fulfill the aforementioned course requirements prior to award uptake;
5. Have been registered in at least one of the two terms immediately before holding the award in a bachelor’s degree program at an eligible university;
6. Not have started a graduate program in the natural sciences or engineering at any time; and
7. Be engaged on a full-time basis in research and development activities in the natural sciences or engineering during the tenure of the USRA.

Value & Duration

The NSERC portion of the award is $6,000 and the University is required to contribute an additional 25% of the NSERC award.

An NSERC USRA is to be held for 14 to 16 consecutive weeks on a full-time basis.  The start date is to be decided on between student and supervisor.

NSERC Grant Holders at Brandon University

In order for a student to undertake an Undergraduate Student Research Award, they must work under the full-time supervision of a faculty member who holds an active NSERC research grant.  The supervisor must agree to work with the student and, therefore, students are encouraged to contact potential supervisors as early as possible with their request.

NOTE ON SUPERVISOR ELIGIBILITY:  Eligible NSERC supervisors are faculty members who have an active grant at the time of USRA application (February 1) and faculty members whose grant will start after USRA application but by the time the student starts the award in the spring/summer.  A supervisor who has an active and eligible NSERC grant as of March 31 of any given calendar year is eligible to supervise USRA students for that entire competition year.  For example, a faculty member who has an active grant as of March 31, 2018 will be eligible to supervise USRA students for the entire 2018 competition year.  For supervisors who do not hold an active NSERC grant at the time of USRA application and who are waiting for the current year’s Discretionary Grant application (or other eligible NSERC grant) results, their grant must be active when the student starts the award in order to host the USRA student.  Supervisors who do not hold an active NSERC grant at the time of USRA application are responsible for identifying an alternate supervisor who agrees to take on the role should their NSERC grant application not be successful.

Current Brandon University NSERC Grant Holders

Note for Supervisors:  Any or all applicants that you agree to supervise could potentially receive an award and therefore it is important that you are aware of this possibility and prepared to support them all.

A Complete Application

A complete NSERC USRA application package includes the following:
1. Form 202 Part I – to be completed by student;
2. Form 202 Part II – to be completed by supervisor;
3. University Transcripts;
4. Letter of Support Form from Supervisor; and
5. Letter from the Student.

Submission Process

1. Form 202 Part I and Part II
NSERC USRA applications are completed and submitted via the NSERC On-line System Users.  Please see the NSERC Instructions for Completing an Application – Form 202 for complete details.

2. University Transcripts
An electronic version of your transcripts may be requested from the Registrar’s Office (Val Rodgers, McKenzie Building, Room 119).  Requests for official BU transcripts can be made through Financial & Registration Services.

3. Supervisor Letter of Support Form
The Supervisor Letter of Support Form must be provided by the intended supervisor.  The Form should speak to the student’s research aptitude and other abilities. Supervisors who have more than one student applying for a USRA are required to rank the students clearly within the letter.  Specifically, the Form includes:

  • Why the supervisor wants to work with the student;
  • Fit of the student with the supervisor’s research program;
  • Fit of the student with the proposed research project;
  • Student’s preparation and skill to conduct research, their theoretical and applied skills;
  • Student’s written, oral , and interpersonal skills;
  • What the student will learn and how they will benefit from the research experience; and
  • Where a student has received a USRA in the past, address how the student’s research will progress and build on their previous research and the anticipated outcomes.

Supervisors should submit the Form to the NSERC USRA Liaison Officer via email by the internal deadline.

Where an applicant is external to Brandon University, the Form should come from someone at their home institution who can speak to their research aptitude and other abilities.

4. Letter from the Student (one page maximum)
A letter must be provided by the student that addresses how the NSERC USRA will benefit the student’s career/future and provide an idea of their plans.

For a student who has previously held an NSERC USRA(s) must also clearly describe their role in the previous project(s), the theory or concepts and skills they have learned, and any progress they have made, if applicable, towards formal research contributions, for example, presentations, publications or other research contributions.

The Office of Research Services must receive the letter from the student by the internal deadline.


The internal deadline for NSERC USRA application submission is February 1.  Where the 1st falls on a weekend, the deadline is the following business day.  Students are encouraged to consult with their supervisors, as supervisors may set an earlier deadline for the student portion of the submission.

BU NSERC USRA Committee, Procedures, and Award Notification

USRA applications are reviewed internally by the BU NSERC USRA Committee and results are normally sent out by the end of February via formal written notification from the Committee Chair, the Associate Vice-President (Research).

BU NSERC USRA Committee Members

  • Dr. Heather Duncan, Associate Vice-President (Research), Chair
  • Dr. Tammy McKenzie, Psychology
  • Dr. Neal Melvin, Biology
  • Dr. Bryan Hill, Chemistry
  • Dr. Rong-Yu Li, Geology
  • Dr. Ashraf Abdelbar, Mathematics and Computer Science
  • Ms. Kerry Murkin, NSERC USRA Liaison Officer
  • Mrs. Susan Baker, Administrative Support

NSERC USRA Committee Procedures

Payment of Award

Payments are made by Brandon University on a bi-weekly basis over the 14 to 16 week term of the award.


The student and supervisor are required to submit a BU NSERC USRA Report Form upon completion of the USRA.


If you have any questions, please contact Ruth Knechtel, Research Officer and NSERC USRA Liaison Officer.