BU USRA Submission Requirements & General Information

What is a USRA?

An NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award (USRA) is meant to stimulate a student’s interest in research in the natural sciences and engineering (NSERC).  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 Indigenous students and Black students to apply for this award.  Institutions are able to submit meritorious applications from both groups above our quota (Black student researchers submitting above quota is new this year).  Students will self-identify through the application.

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

NEW FUNDING ANNOUNCEMENT: The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) have announced 95 CIHR USRA awards and 95 SSHRC USRA awards for students of Black heritage for the 2023-2024 USRA cycle. These awards will be allocated to universities across Canada. It is expected that BU will be able to put forward 1 SSHRC USRA and 1 CIHR USRA. These applications must be put forward using the NSERC USRA portal and follow all eligibility and application guidelines below.  These applications will be evaluated by a special committee convened by the Office of Research Services.

At the present time, CIHR and SSHRC USRAs are exclusively for Black student researchers.  NSERC USRAs are open to all students.

*Please note that the NSERC online portal will be updated in January to reflect these changes/additions.  If a student begins an application before these changes are made to the system, they will not lose that application, but will be able to make any required changes once the system is updated.


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 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 (NSERC), social sciences or humanities (SSHRC), or health studies (CIHR).

Value & Duration

The NSERC/SSHRC/CIHR portion of the award is $6,000 and the University is required to contribute an additional 25% of the award.  Supervisors may also top up these awards.

A 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.

USRA 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 (or SSHRC or CIHR grant as applicable).  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 supervisors are faculty members who have an active NSERC, SSHRC or CIHR grant (as applicable) 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, SSHRC, or CIHR grant (as applicable) 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, 2023 will be eligible to supervise USRA students for the entire 2023 competition year.  For supervisors who do not hold an active grant at the time of USRA application and who are waiting for the current year’s Discovery Grant application (or other eligible Tri-Agency 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 grant at the time of USRA application are responsible for identifying an alternate supervisor who agrees to take on the role should their grant application not be successful.

Current Brandon University NSERC Grant Holders

Current Brandon University SSHRC Grant Holders

Current Brandon University CIHR 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 USRA application package includes the following:
1. Form 202 Part I – to be completed by student (uploaded to NSERC online system);
2. Form 202 Part II – to be completed by supervisor (uploaded to NSERC online system);
3. University Transcripts – (uploaded to NSERC online system);
4. Letter of Support Form from Supervisor – emailed to the NSERC USRA Liaison Officer; and
5. Letter from the Student – emailed to the NSERC USRA Liaison Officer

Submission Process

1. Form 202 Part I and Part II
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 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.

Students should submit the letter to the NSERC USRA Liaison Officer via email by the internal deadline.


The deadline for 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

NSERC USRA Committee Procedures

SSHRC and CIHR USRA applications will be reviewed internally by a special committee convened by the Office of Research Services with specialization in relevant fields.

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 USRA Report Form upon completion of the USRA.


If you have any questions, please contact Kerry Murkin, Manager, Research Services and BU NSERC USRA Liaison Officer.