Why should I do research in the summer?
Summer is a great time to gain practical experience in a mentored environment where you can focus on defining problems and identifying solutions. You can work with a professor and work on complex problems.
This is a great opportunity to help you figure out if research is for you (or not for you!). Working with your professors and classmates in the summer is also a good way to network and make contacts. Summer research can also be used towards your Professional Experience Requirement for your degree. It may also qualify for PEY Co-Op – contact the Engineering Career Centre to learn more.
How do I find research opportunities?
You can look up professors and researchers and the projects they are working on. Start by reviewing a department's website to learn about the research they are conducting. You can search beyond U of T and look for research opportunities outside of Toronto or Canada as well.
Read up on the projects and the work done by the professor to see if you are interested in gaining experience in that area. Various departments may post summer research opportunities on their website. Select research projects that you are interested in and contact the professor or research team.
There are also some specific programs at U of T that involve research which you can consider:
- APS299Y - Summer Research Abroad: This is a unique for-credit research-based summer course. Depending on the nature of the research project, this course may count toward your engineering program or an engineering minor. Check with your department for details. This program is not open to EngSci students.
- The Engineering Science Research Opportunities Program (ESROP): Through ESROP, EngSci students will join established research groups, gain a deeper understanding of the research process, and take part in intellectually vibrant research activities. EngSci Students will have the opportunity to work with faculty members on research-based collaborations over the summer.
- Summer Research Abroad: Administered by the Centre for International Experience, this is an exciting opportunity for upper-year undergraduate students in science, engineering, and other fields to acquire hands-on lab and research experience. Summer research projects are available at partner institutions for 8 to 12 weeks over the summer term.
- Work Study Program: The Work-Study program at U of T is an excellent way for students to develop knowledge, skills and experience that complement their academic studies through paid work on campus. The positions generally require about 12 hours of work per week. The Work-Study program now has a research-stream that can help you more easily faculty-led research opportunities.
How do I contact professors and researchers?
The best way to contact researchers/professors is by email in late December or early January. It is advised to include your CV or resume, unofficial transcripts, and especially any connections that you may have (professor of your class).
Write a professional email that introduces you, indicates your intentions and asks if you can meet to talk about working with them in the summer. Contact multiple professors/researchers; you don’t need to limit yourself to emailing just one. However, tailor your email and make it specific to the researcher and/or project. The email doesn’t need to be very long but should provide enough details for them to understand your interest.
How do I improve my resume?
You can review Career Exploration & Education’s Résumé and Cover Letter Toolkit (PDF) to get started, or book a Résumé Ready appointment with one of their career peer advisors. The Career Learning Network is also a great place to sign up for resume workshops and for additional resources and support.
How do I prepare for the interview or meeting?
YNCN and Career Exploration & Education are great resources that can help you to learn how to interview well. To learn more about general interview tips, consider reviewing Career Exploration & Education’s get help with interviewing. That said, remember: this is not a typical job interview. It is primarily about being interested in a professor/researcher’s work and how you would like to have the chance to work with them. Before your interview or meeting, be sure to review projects that they have worked on in the past or are currently working on.
Are grades important?
Grades may have an impact, and some professors may request a copy of your transcript. However, there are additional factors professors and researchers consider when hiring students for summer research opportunities.
What do I do if I do not get a summer research opportunity?
Do not worry if you do not secure a summer research position. Throughout your time at U of T, there will be multiple opportunities for you to get hands-on experience.
If you’re looking to take advantage of the four-month summer period to be productive and get involved, there are many options you can pursue, including getting a summer job, volunteering, participating in a design team, designing your own project, and finding additional opportunities to gain skills and knowledge.
Are there important deadlines I need to know?
There is no set deadline for when to contact professors, but the best time is in late December or early January. Other deadlines include applying for research scholarships and awards (generally in January/February).
Are scholarships available?
Scholarships and awards for research are a way of compensating you for the work and time you have spent on the summer research opportunity. The deadlines to apply range from January to March.
Some examples of awards include:
- First-year Summer Research Fellowship
- Dean’s Undergraduate Student Summer Research Pivot Fellowship
- NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award (USRA)
- University of Toronto Excellence Award (UTEA)
- ESROP (Engineering Science)
- IBBME awards
- Exchange programs
- Professor’s Grant Funding
- Department-specific summer research awards
How do I maximize the value of summer research?
- Make learning objectives for yourself, and keep a weekly list of what you achieved and what you will achieve next week.
- Take advantage of the opportunity to work closely with professors and researchers by remaining curious, asking lots of questions, and asking for specific feedback to help you improve your research skills.
- Participate in the Undergraduate Summer Research Program. Weekly sessions are held for participants to learn success skills that enhance their research experience and form a community of student researchers.
- Present your research work at the Undergraduate Engineering Research Day (UnERD). This event gives undergraduates the opportunity to share their achievements from their summer research in an academic showcase