SURA: Science Undergraduate Research Awards

This page contains information for Summer 2018.

Science Undergraduate Research Awards (SURAs) are for both Canadian and international McGill students registered in a science undergraduate program. SURA recipients will engage in 16 weeks of full-time research and development activity under the supervision of a McGill science professor, and will gain research experience in an exciting academic setting, while receiving financial support. First offered in Summer 2007, SURAs are made possible by funding from generous donors, participating research supervisors, and the Faculty of Science.

SURAs are broadly similar to the NSERC USRA; two differences are, on the student side, that international students may also apply, and on the supervisor side, it is not restricted to professors who hold research grants from NSERC.

  • Value for 2018: $6500 minimum (source: donor and/or Faculty of Science, $3500; supervisor, minimum $3000);
    • The minimum value has increased from $5600 in 2017;
  • 16 weeks of full-time research;
  • Awarded on the basis of academic merit, in accordance with departmental selection procedures;
  • Open to both Canadian and international students from McGill.

Student eligibility

SURA applicants must:

  • Be registered in an undergraduate B.Sc. or B.A. & Sc. science program;
    • B.A. students are not eligible to apply for a SURA, but should look into the Arts Undergraduate Research Internship Awards (ARIA).
    • B.A. & Sc. students with an undeclared major, or who have declared an Arts major concentration but not a Science major concentration, are not eligible to hold an award. They should declare their second major concentration in Science, or a B.A. & Sc. interfaculty/ B.A. & Sc. honours / B.A. & Sc. joint honours program.
    • Students from outside the Faculty of Science are not eligible for this award (some examples: B.Sc. Agr. & Env. Sc.; B.Sc. Kinesiology; B.Sc. Rehabilitation Science). 
    • B.Sc. MED-P and B.Sc. DENT-P students are also not eligible.
  • Be registered at McGill (both Canadian and international students);
  • Not concurrently hold an NSERC USRA, Arts ARIA, McGill International Experience Award (formerly Schull Yang Award), or similar award;
  • Agree to provide thank you letters to the relevant donors, if they are accepted for a SURA, following Faculty of Science guidelines and timelines.
  • For the 'Pan-McGill' SURAs and Social Equity SURAs, there are also additional guidelines and requirements below.

Supervisor eligibility

A supervisor must:

  • Be a professor from one of the following units:
    • Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences
    • Department of Biology
    • Department of Chemistry
    • School of Computer Science
    • Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
    • Department of Geography
    • Department of Mathematics and Statistics
    • Department of Physics
    • Department of Psychology
    • Redpath Museum
    • Office for Science and Society
    • Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology (Pan-McGill category)
    • Department of Biochemistry (Pan-McGill category)
    • Department of Microbiology and Immunology
    • Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics (Pan-McGill category)
    • Department of Physiology (Pan-McGill category)
  • Hold his or her primary appointment in one of the units above. That is to say, a SURA with an Adjunct Professor is not normally eligible, and a SURA with an Associate Member in the list above but whose primary appointment is elsewhere requires approval (please contact the Office for Undergraduate Research in Science).
  • Be able to provide a minimum top-up contribution of $3000 per SURA recipient (except for Social Equity SURAs).
  • For the 'Pan-McGill' SURAs and Social Equity SURAs, there are also additional guidelines and requirements below.

Pan-McGill SURAs, for research outside the Faculty of Science

Special funding allows the Faculty of Science to offer a very limited number of SURAs to Faculty of Science students (B.Sc., B.A. & Sc.) with McGill professors from outside the Faculty of Science. Given the small number of available Pan-McGill SURAs available:

  • Pan-McGill SURAs are unusually competitive, so there are additional requirements for students, and
  • Applications are submitted to the Office for Undergraduate Research in Science, instead of to the supervisor's department.

For supervisors:

  • You must meet all the regular SURA student eligibility requirements described above;
  • New for 2018, you must be a McGill professor from one of the following departments:
    • Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology
    • Department of Biochemistry
    • Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics
    • Department of Physiology
    • (Professors from a Faculty of Science department or from Microbiology & Immunology can apply for a "regular" SURA as described above, instead of a Pan-McGill SURA; professors from other departments are not eligible.)
  • You must conduct research in the field of science.

For students:

  • You must meet all the regular SURA student eligibility requirements described above;
  • It is recommended that applicants have a minimum CGPA of 3.60, and
  • Preference may be given to students who are in U2 and U3 at the time of application, over students in U0 and U1.

Social Equity SURAs, for research in Social Equity, Diversity and Social Justice research

Two undergraduate Science students from any discipline will receive a Social Equity Science Undergraduate Research Award from SEDE (Social Equity and Diversity Education Office) and the Faculty of Science to conduct a 16-week full-time social equity research project during summer 2018, with a professor from any of the academic departments listed in the eligibility section elsewhere on this page.

This initiative aims to provide research opportunities for undergraduate students to conduct research pertaining to equity, diversity, and social justice (see definition below), full-time, during summer. It also aims to connect the social equity research community at McGill through a yearly day-long symposium, which could also stimulate reflection, discussion, and partnership, on key issues pertaining to equity and diversity.

Social Equity SURAs are offered in addition to “regular” SURAs. Of course, students and supervisors may pursue social equity projects, or other research projects, through the “regular” awards too.

Eligibility for a Social Equity SURA is the same as for "regular" SURAs, except for the following differences or additional requirements:

  • Supervisors must demonstrate the proposed project's connection with social justice, equity, or diversity (on their SURA application form).
  • Supervisors are not required to contribute $3000 as for other SURAs due to special funding for Social Equity SURAs.
  • Students must plan to return to the Faculty of Science for undergraduate studies in the following Fall term.
  • Students must demonstrate a commitment to an equity, a diversity, or a social justice issue (short essay, 250-400 words).
  • Students must attend required SEDE equity training prior to the start of the project.
  • Students must attend the SEDE Community Engagement Day.

To apply: Updated; see next paragraph. [The student and the professor complete the same forms, submit them to one of the departments listed above, and follow the same deadlines, but both the student and the professor must check off a box on their respective forms to apply for this award. The webforms will then provide additional fields to address the bullet items above. Students and supervisors must meet all other regular SURA requirements described elsewhere on this webpage. Applications will be evaluated and ranked by departments along with all other SURAs. The Faculty of Science will select the two Social Equity SURA recipients from departments' ranked lists of award nominees and award alternate recipients.]

To apply: Use the same forms (student and professor) but both the student and the professor must check off a box on their respective forms to apply for this award. The webforms will then provide additional fields to address the bullet items above. Students and supervisors must meet all other regular SURA requirements described elsewhere on this webpage. Submit applications to OURS, the Office for Undergraduate Research in Science, (unless already submitted to one of the participating departments). Review of applications will begin on March 20, 2018, and will continue until the Social Equity SURAs have been granted. The Faculty of Science will select the two Social Equity SURA recipients from departments' ranked lists of award nominees and award alternate recipients, and any additional applications submitted directly to OURS. All Social Equity SURAs have now been granted.

Definition of Social Equity, Diversity, and Social Justice research, from SEDE

Social Equity, Diversity, and Social Justice related research notably attempts to:

  • deepen the understanding of the experiences specific to people with diverse backgrounds or identities (e.g. racial, class, ethnic, sexual, gender, or ability diversity), including how these experiences impact marginalization and oppression;
  • examine the barriers that prevent all individuals in society to equally access opportunities to grow, to fulfill their fundamental needs, and to fully contribute to organizations, with the understanding that equal access and opportunity does not mean equal treatment for everyone (e.g. bias, power, status, microaggressions, prejudice, poverty, discrimination, colonialism, slavery, patriarchy, stereotypes, representations in the public sphere or lack thereof); and finally,
  • develop and assess strategies that can contribute to remove the aforementioned barriers, whether in society or in organizations (e.g. interventions to increase awareness, identification of best practices to facilitate equity, development of tools to increase accessibility for people with disabilities).

[Here are four possible projects. Students and supervisors are also encouraged to apply for Social Equity SURAs for other projects.]

Networks of support for underrepresented students in STEM: Identifying spaces for persistence and success
As women and minority students progress towards graduate degrees and faculty positions, the number of enrolled and graduating students declines significantly, accounting for what some have called the “leaky pipeline”, the loss of qualified women at transition points. This has been conceptualized as due in part to a “glass obstacle course”, representing barriers that are often unseen even by the individual experiencing them (De Welde & Lauren, 2011). To develop a complex picture of how women and other under-represented minorities navigate the “glass obstacle courses” of STEM undergraduate studies (science, technology, engineering and math), it is necessary to understand the formal and informal structures and relationships at the university and beyond which support them and enable them to support others. We know that under-represented students tend to persist in STEM if they become involved in initiatives such as diversity in STEM campus or national groups (e.g., Chang et al., 2014; Garcia & Hurtado, 2011). Despite evidence that participation in these initiatives can contribute to persistence, we know relatively little about what how students access and participate in these initiatives (e.g., Smith, 2016), or how these spaces can facilitate undergraduate students’ identity work in STEM. We also know relatively little about how networks of initiatives may provide resources to students (e.g., research opportunities, mentoring from outside of the department, public speaking/research presentation opportunities) that they may not access in departmental units alone.
The SURA student will engage in an initial mapping of the relevant social connections underrepresented undergraduate students develop through participation in equity and inclusion in STEM (E&I STEM) initiatives at McGill University. This mapping will give us a sense of how these spaces provide resources for the development of STEM identities and sense of belonging, which may influence undergraduate students’ persistence into graduate programs and careers in STEM. For this analysis, we define our unit of analysis as E&I STEM initiatives (committees, meetings, seminars, informal gatherings), open to undergraduate students, in STEM-related departments and university-wide. A social network is a structure made of individuals or organizations called "nodes" along with a set of ties that connect the nodes (Daly, 2010). The nodes on our network map will be formal (faculty or department-supported) and informal STEM equity and inclusion initiatives, open to undergraduate students. The SURA student will characterize the settings and practices of these initiatives to determine the resources (interpersonal, instructional, financial) they provide to students who participate in them. We will also characterize the ties between nodes, such as alliances between initiatives, which may entail resource sharing, and may demonstrate support of students’ identity work across spaces. Over the course of the 16-week work period, the SURA student will help to define the scope of the study, prepare a research ethics board (REB) application, perform a literature review, engage in data collection (from websites and other publicly available materials; from emails to participants), perform all relevant data entry, and will maintain a database about E&I initiatives required to generate a social network map. This work will be supervised by Prof. Allison Gonsalves.
[If you are interested in this project, please contact Prof. Allison Gonsalves]

Title: Assessing family care givers’ need and orienting policy making on pregnant or breastfeeding lab students.
Currently McGill does not have any guideline or policy on pregnant or breastfeeding students who are working in research laboratories. The subcommittee on family care is currently working on elaborating such a policy, but needs support to 1) review existing policies in other academic institutions, 2) help consult the various concerned bodies across campus, 3) help draft a proposal of policy. On the other end, we also want to create a survey on primary family care givers on campus. We will need help with identifying the scope, draft the questions and implement the survey using online tools. For both these projects, we are looking for a motivated science undergraduate student, passionate about family care and social equity questions to work with the committee for 16 weeks in the summer 2018 and apply for a Social Equity SURA award. This work will be supervised by Prof. Audrey Moores.
[If you are interested in this project, please contact Prof. Audrey Moores.]

Title: Investigating the status of women cognitive neuroscientists in Canada using publicly available funding data.
A crucial question within science and academia, and cognitive neuroscience specifically, is whether there is gender disparity in opportunity and advancement over the professional lifespan (Geraci, Balsis, & Busch, 2015; Valian, 1998). We recently investigated this issue by analyzing gender distributions in publicly available federal funding data from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada that are specific to cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience (Titone, Tiv, & Pexman, under review). There were three key results. First, the proportion of women cognitive scientists progressively diminished at each career stage, particularly at the transition between graduate and postdoctoral studies. Second, at the PI stage, women scientists received smaller average Discovery Grant amounts, and were less likely to receive Discovery Accelerator Supplements as a proportion of all Discovery Grants funded. Finally, gender differences disadvantaging women scientists were relatively smaller for institution-initiated grants (i.e., Canada Research Chairs) vs. investigator-initiated grants (i.e., Discovery Grants), suggesting that institutional practices that attend to gender equity may be instrumental in reducing gender differences. In this new SURA project, we seek a student to help us apply the same investigative approach to understanding gender differences for other Canadian funding sources relevant to cognitive neuroscience, specifically, CIHR, SSHRC, and Quebec Provincial agencies. It is our hope that collection of such data, in concert with other recent reports for our field (e.g., Klatzky, Holt, & Behrmann, 2015; Peelle, 2016; Vaid & Geraci, 2016), will continue to raise awareness that gender parity issues remain a concern that deserves ongoing attention within the field of cognitive neuroscience in Canada. This work will be supervised by Prof. Debra Titone.
[If you are interested in this project, please contact Prof. Debra Titone]

Title: Who gets the job and why? Using eye tracking to investigate how people’s viewing behaviors of women and men’s application materials relate to their hiring decisions in a lab-based task.
A crucial question within science and academia is whether there is gender disparity in opportunity and advancement over the professional lifespan (Geraci, Balsis, & Busch, 2015; Valian, 1998). One way this question has been addressed previously is by investigating how people differentially evaluate application materials (e.g., CVs) as a function of whether they are randomly assigned to a female or male name. For example, in a recent high-profile study, Moss-Racusin, Dovidio, Brescoll, Graham, and Handelsman (2012, published in PNAS) found that female compared to male applicants for a hypothetical lab manager position were judged by university faculty as less competent, hireable, and were offerred less salary or career mentoring, despite the fact that applicant gender was randomly assigned to individual sets of application materials. Of note, both female and male faculty raters exhibited a bias against female applicants, which was also related to pre-existing attitudes/biases about women. In this SURA project, we seek a student to help to replicate this important study, and to extend it crucially by assessing where people look when they read application materials using eye tracking. Thus, the question of interest is, are female vs. male applicants evaluated more poorly because people read female application materials more superficially (i.e., showing fewer eye fixations to content-relevant portions of a CV), more intensively (i.e., showing more eye fixations to content-relevant portions of a CV), or are female applicants evaluated more poorly even when their application materials are read to the same degree. To the extent that reading behavior systematically links to evaluative outcomes, it would provide important information about how and why gender biases occur in the context of a real-world task. This understanding may, in turn, make it possible to devise or test targeted ways of remediating gender bias in academic hiring situations. This work will be supervised by Prof. Debra Titone.
[If you are interested in this project, please contact Prof. Debra Titone]

NEW! Gault Nature Reserve SURAs

New for Summer 2018, the Faculty of Science and our donors will provide funding for at least two SURAs at McGill's Gault Nature Reserve in Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Quebec. Gault Nature Reserve SURAs are open to Science students supervised by professors from any of the eligible departments listed above.

To apply, the student and the professor complete the same forms, submit them to one of the departments listed above, and follow the same deadlines, but the professor must check off a box on the SURA application form to indicate the research takes place at the Gault Nature Reserve. Students and supervisors must meet all other regular SURA requirements described above. Applications will be evaluated and ranked by departments along with all other SURAs. The Faculty of Science will select the two Gault Nature Reserve SURA recipients from departments' ranked lists of award nominees and award alternate recipients.

How to apply; Deadlines; Contacts

The first step is to find a supervisor (a professor) who meets the supervisor eligibility criteria listed above, with whom you want to work, and who will have to submit a project proposal for you. (For SURAs in Physics, please see the note below.) To help find a supervisor, see the webpages for Science departments and schools; then, you can browse each unit's staff listing to find professors' research websites.

You and your supervisor should apply using the forms given in the next section, even if you have already applied for an NSERC USRA.

Where to apply depends on the department of the student's proposed supervisor. Each unit has its own selection process. Here are contacts and deadlines:

  Supervisor's Department or School Contact person Deadline
'Regular' SURAs Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences graduateinfo.aos [at] mcgill.ca (Ms. Manuela Franzo-Whitnell) Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Biology susan.gabe [at] mcgill.ca (Ms. Susan Gabe) Wednesday, March 7, 2018
Chemistry samuel.sewall [at] mcgill.ca (Dr. Samuel Sewall) Friday, March 2, 2018
(Submit applications to Dr. Sewall's mailbox in Chemistry Main Office, Otto Maass Building, Room 322)
Computer Science ann.jack [at] mcgill.ca (Ms. Ann Jack) Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Earth and Planetary Sciences kristy.thornton [at] mcgill.ca (Ms. Kristy Thornton) Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Geography undergrad.geog [at] mcgill.ca (Ms. June Connolly) Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Mathematics and Statistics angela.white [at] mcgill.ca (Ms. Angela White) Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Microbiology and Immunology jennifer.dimassimo [at] mcgill.ca (Ms. Jennifer DiMassimo) Friday, February 23, 2018
(The normal deadline for MIMM will be the last Friday in February each year)
Office for Science and Society joe.schwarcz [at] mcgill.ca (Dr. Joe Schwarcz) TBC
Physics Prof. Walter Reisner Friday, February 23, 2018
(Before you apply, please read these application instructions specific to Physics)
Psychology julia.marussi [at] mcgill.ca (Ms. Julia Marussi) Wednesday, February 28, 2018, 12:00 noon
Redpath Museum susan.gabe [at] mcgill.ca (Ms. Susan Gabe) Wednesday, March 7, 2018
(Apply through Biology)
Pan-McGill SURAs Anatomy and Cell Biology victor.chisholm [at] mcgill.ca (Mr. Victor Chisholm) Wednesday, February 28, 2018
(Submit applications to the Office for Undergraduate Research in Science, Burnside Hall #720.)
Biochemistry
Pharmacology & Therapeutics
Physiology
Social Equity SURAs Supervisor's department:
Any of the above, including "Pan-McGill" departments.
Either: victor.chisholm [at] mcgill.ca (Mr. Victor Chisholm (for new applications))

Preferably by Monday, March 19, 2018.
(Review of applications will begin on March 20, and will continue until the Social Equity SURAs have been granted.)
(Submit applications to the Office for Undergraduate Research in Science, Burnside Hall #720.)

Or: Per your supervisor's department (for applications already submitted) Per your supervisor's department.
Gault Nature Reserve SURAs Supervisor's department:
Any of the above, including "Pan-McGill" departments.
Per your supervisor's department. Per your supervisor's department.

Application forms (for students and supervisors)

For NSERC USRA applicants

Have you already applied for an NSERC USRA? Would you like to be considered for a SURA?

Some departments, though not all, may consider your NSERC USRA dossier for the SURA competition, and ask you and your supervisor to complete the SURA forms later. However, you cannot receive a SURA if you do not submit the SURA forms, because the fine print on the two forms is different. Therefore please complete and submit the SURA forms.

Other sources of funding

This list is not exhaustive; however here are some other options to look into.

  • NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award
  • Work-study funding, if you meet the financial need criteria of that program
  • Possible departmental programs or "in-house" funding. Ask your proposed supervisor; check the relevant departmental website; ask departmental staff.
  • External funding from a scholarly association to which your supervisor might belong. For example, the American Physiological Society, the Endocrine Society, and the Canadian Hemophilia Society offer summer funding.
  • External funding from a foundation. Often these are health- or disease-related (cystic fibrosis, MS, kidney, lung, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, etc) but perhaps you might find a foundation supporting environmental research or some other element relevant to your and your supervisor's research.
  • If you are a citizen of another country, that country may offer funding, and you may be eligible! For example, the Research Experience for Undergraduates program of the (American) National Science Foundation (NSF REU) is restricted to American citizens or permanent residents, although an REU Site need not be located within the US.
  • Other opportunities (generally outside McGill University)

More information

Please contact the department where you wish to hold the awards; you can find the departmental contacts above, in the "How to apply; Deadline" section.

For general questions you may also contact the Office for Undergraduate Research in Science.