Undergraduate Research Awards

Research awards allow undergraduate students to spend the summer working on a project with one of our research groups. These awards are given for 16 consecutive weeks (4 months), and students usually start work at the beginning of May. Students gain valuable experience in a research setting, and interact with professors, postdoctoral fellows, graduate and other undergraduate students in the department.


NSERC USRA eligibility is determined by NSERC and their guidance supersedes this document where it differs.  However, the current requirements are that students must:

  • be a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident of Canada or a Protected Person under subsection 95(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (Canada), as of the deadline date for applications at the institution
  • be registered, as of the deadline date for applications at the institution, in a bachelor’s degree program at an eligible institution (usually a Canadian University)
  • have obtained, over the previous years of study, a cumulative B- (GPA ≥ 2.7) average.
  • propose to work with a member of the Department of Physics with active grant funding through NSERC.  If the USRA program is undersubscribed, the Dept. will consider supporting students earning degrees in Physics and related fields working with U. Alberta faculty outside the Department.
  • Have held fewer than three NSERC USRA awards.

To be eligible for the SUPRE, a student must:

  • be registered, as of the deadline date for applications in the Department, at the University of Alberta in a degree program administered by the Department of Physics (Astrophysics, Geophysics, Physics, Mathematical Physics, Biophysics).
  • have obtained, over the previous years of study, a cumulative B- (GPA ≥ 2.7) average.
  • propose to work with a member of the Department of Physics with an active research program.
  • Be already legally able to work in Canada during the period of the award.

To be eligible to supervise a student in a Department of Physics research award, a researcher must be appointed in the University of Alberta Department of Physics and have at least one active sponsored research grant administered by the Department.  

Research Projects

Before submitting your formal application (see below), we ask that you arrange for a project by either (1) checking out the list of possible USRA summer projects (updated for Summer 2024) contacting the faculty member(s) with whom you might like to work and asking if they would be willing to have you as a summer student, or (2) checking out the research in the department and who is working in those areas. If people with whom you are especially interested in working do not have any projects posted, please contact them directly (email is usually best) to find out if they do have possible summer research projects.

How to Apply

Applications are made via this Google form by the close of business day on Tuesday, February 6, 2024.   University of Alberta students need to be logged into their ualberta accounts, external applicants can use a valid gmail account or contact me to make alternate arrangements.  Completion of this form requires the upload of the following three PDFs:

  • NSERC Form 202 Part I (for both NSERC USRA and SUPRE applicants).   You may access the NSERC application portal here and find information on the NSERC USRA program itself here. Please note that NSERC will not accept paper copies of the form.   NSERC USRA applicants also submit Form 202 Part I to NSERC itself, whereas SUPRE applicants do not.  
  • transcripts which include your Fall 2023 grades.  Internal applicants may submit an unofficial University of Alberta transcript.  Applicants external to the University of Alberta must submit an official transcript.  Note: When they become available, NSERC USRA applicants must eventually upload their official transcripts to NSERC itself as well.
  • A Curriculum Vitae summarizing past academic, research, and professional experience.  Applicants can submit a Canadian Common CV (https://ccv-cvc.ca) or use a free form document.  Good resources for developing a CV for undergraduates are available:
    • U. Alberta Career Centre: link
    • Columbia University Career Center: link
    • McGill University Career Planning Services: link

As part of the CV, applicants should enclose a written personal statement.  The statement should have a nominal length of 300 to 500 words, and should answer the following questions:

    • How will obtaining a summer research award benefit your course of study and future career plans?  Answering this question should be concrete about your future plans, ideally being specific about why this research project is aligned with them.
    • Why is the proposed research project interesting to you? Your answer to this question should be specific to the proposed project and field of research.
    • What background do you have that makes you well suited for carrying out this specific research project under a summer research award?  Here is a good place to talk about your previous interests but also experiences that make you well suited for research work.  This can include previous research experience, other work experiences, or other character traits and background that make you well suited for research.
    • Are there any additional circumstances that the selection committee should consider while evaluating your application?  This can include explanations for periods of poor academic performance, leaves of absence, changes to program or course load, or personal circumstances that have made your “on paper” application an incomplete representation of your research potential. 

Applicants should arrange for their proposed supervising researcher to upload the following two PDFs via this Google Form while logged into their ualberta accounts:

  • NSERC Form 202 Part II.  Important:  For NSERC USRA applicants, the supervisor must also submit NSERC Form 202 Part II to NSERC itself.  (Internally, we need Form 202 Part II to connect the student with the researcher.)
  • A written statement supplementing the NSERC Form 202 Part II outlining the supervision plan for the research student and the supervising researcher motivation for supporting this particular student’s application.  The statement should demonstrate that the proposed project for the student is well suited to their skills and interests. The statement should also show that there is a clear framework for research supervision and professional skills development. 

SUPRE Applicants Note:

The application procedure is nearly identical to the NSERC USRA awards above, including the completion of NSERC Form 202 Parts I (by the student) and II (by the supervisor).  However, neither the student nor the supervisor actually submit the application to NSERC electronically.  Instead, merely use the website to produce the Form 202 Parts I and II for your submission to the physics department.


Early applications are encouraged.  Unofficial nominations are typically made by the end of February, and final offers are made by the University's Awards Office in April.


Submit all applications via the Google Form above by the close of business day on Tuesday, February 6, 2024.  (Inquiries?  Contact: Kirk Kaminsky)