NSERC Black Student and Indigenous Student Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRAs)

As part of the efforts to make research culture more inclusive and address systemic barriers to participation, the Natural Sciences and Engineering and Research Council (NSERC) of Canada is providing increased opportunities for Black and Indigenous undergraduate students to apply for Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRAs).

The goal of the USRA program is to provide research experience that complements the degree program undergraduate students are pursuing, which may lead them to consider graduate studies careers in the field of natural sciences and engineering.

While each department allocates a limited number of NSERC USRA nominations, there is no limit to the number of Black and Indigenous undergraduate student applicants a department can put forward.

Award Value

$7,500 in total value, with $6,000 from NSERC and a mandatory top-up of a minimum of $1,500 from the faculty supervisor’s research funds. Any supplement above this level may be set at the discretion of the department or the USRA supervisor.

Award Duration

The duration is 16 full consecutive weeks during the Summer Term between May and September.

Award Eligibility

  • Be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada, or a Native American student from the continental United States (in recognition of the Jay Treaty of 1794).
  • Self-identify as Black or Indigenous on the online application form.
  • Is registered full-time or part-time (at the time of application) in a bachelor's degree program in at least one of the two terms immediately before holding the award.
  • At the time of application, have completed a minimum of two academic terms/semesters. First-year students are not eligible.
  • Graduating students may apply if they have not graduated by the application deadline or started graduate school during the award tenure period. U of T students can hold a USRA in the summer immediately following their final spring term.
  • Must work on a full-time basis on research and development activities during the award tenure.

Notes to Consider

  • Award holders should not receive academic credits for research work completed during the USRA work term. Thesis research during the award term is not permitted.
  • Award holders may be enrolled in a maximum of two courses (1.0 FCE) during the summer with their supervisor’s permission.
  • A student may hold only one USRA per fiscal year (April 1 to March 31) and a maximum of three USRAs throughout their university career.
  • USRAs do not include provisions for paid vacation days.
  • Travel allowances are not permitted under the USRA program. Any costs of fieldwork and related expenses (including travel) are ineligible.
  • The award cannot be deferred.
  • Both the USRA award holder and their faculty supervisor must be located at the same university during the tenure of the award. USRAs cannot be transferred to another university.

Application Process

PDF application packages must be submitted online using this form by March 25, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. (ET). 

How to Apply 

NSERC Black Student and Indigenous Student USRA applications are completed on NSERC’s online system. First-time users will need to register.  

The application is comprised of the following three components: 

  1. Student application (Form 202 Part I) 
  2. A copy of the student’s academic history from ACORN (to be attached to the student application Form 202 Part I) 
  3. Faculty Supervisor Application (Form 202 Part II) 

Both Form 202 Part I and II and the student’s academic history print-out from ACORN must be exported into a single PDF by the faculty supervisor. The student will then submit the PDF application package online using this form by March 25, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. (ET). 

Steps for Students 

  1. Complete Form 202 Part I (student’s application) online via NSERC. You will have to log in or create a new account through their online system. Refer to the online instructions for guidance. Please adhere to NSERC’s General Presentation Guideline. Handwritten applications are not accepted. 
  2. Be sure to complete the self-identification section in Part I of Form 202. 
  3. Download your most recent academic history from ACORN as a PDF and attach it with your Form 202 Part I application. 
  4. Once Form 202 Part I has been completed, provide the faculty supervisor with your reference number, which is generated automatically in the student application. The faculty supervisor must input this reference number into their application to link the student and faculty applications together. 
  5. After your faculty supervisor completes Form 202 Part II and exports the completed application into a single PDF, they must send it to you to submit the PDF application package online using this form by March 25, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. (ET). 

Steps for Faculty Supervisors 

  1. Once the student has completed Form 202 Part I online on NSERC’s system, they must provide you with the reference number generated by the system. You will not be able to complete Part II of Form 202 online without the reference number. 
  2. Complete Form 202 Part II (faculty’s application) online via NSERC. You will have to log in or create a new account through their online system. 
  3. Once Form 202 has been completed, you must go back to the My Portfolio page and select "Verify," which will assess whether all required information has been entered. Once verification is complete, the status of the application will change to "Completed." 
  4. Export the completed application (both Form 202 Part I and II and the student’s academic history) into a single PDF. Send this application package to the student who will then submit the PDF application package online using this form by March 25, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. (ET). 

Note: No changes should be made to the form after the status of the application has been changed to “Completed.” If you need to update any information, contact the NSERC Online Services Helpdesk. Once both parts of the form have been completed and verified, any additional changes made by either party (student or faculty supervisor) will require the other party’s verification and confirmation in the online system. 

If you have any questions about the NSERC Black Student and Indigenous Student USRA, contact the Undergraduate Research and International Experiences Coordinator at URIE@engineering.utoronto.ca.