SURA: Science Undergraduate Research Awards

This page contains information for Summer 2019.

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 2019: $7000 minimum (source: donor and/or Faculty of Science, $4000; supervisor, minimum $3000);
    • The minimum value has increased from $5600 in 2017, and $6500 in 2018;
  • 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 (please refer to Student eligibility section).

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);
    • International students need a work authorization.
    • There are many ways for international students to meet the work authorization requirement: through a study permit authorizing them to work, a work permit, or a work permit exemption.
    • International Student Services can provide more information about this. Please consult them if you have questions about the work authorization that may apply to you.
  • 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.
  • For SURAs with professors in Microbiology & Immunology, preference will be given to students in Microbiology & Immunology. This is due to the terms of the endowment that supports these specific awards.

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). Students may wish to refer to the following section, "Does it matter if my proposed supervisor is an Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Full Professor, jointly appointed, Associate Member, or Adjunct Professor? What do these terms mean?", for more details.
  • 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.
  • For SURAs with professors in Microbiology & Immunology, preference will be given to students in Microbiology & Immunology. This is due to the terms of the endowment that supports these specific awards.

Does it matter if my proposed supervisor is an Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Full Professor, jointly appointed, Associate Member, or Adjunct Professor? What do these terms mean?

Please note that the following is specific to SURAs. Professor eligibility for NSERC USRAs in Faculty of Science departments is slightly different.

Title Explanation or definition Relevance for your SURA application
Assistant Professor Professors typically start their academic career as Assistant Professor. It does not matter whether your proposed supervisor is an Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, or (Full) Professor. Check whether your professor's department(s) is listed under "How to apply; Deadlines; Contacts".
Associate Professor Associate Professor is a promotion from Assistant Professor.
Professor (or Full Professor) (Full) Professor is a promotion from Associate Professor.
Joint appointments Some McGill professors (whether assistant, associate or full) hold an academic appointment of substantial weight in more than one academic unit. Check that at least one of the professor's departments is listed under "How to apply; Deadlines; Contacts". Also ask the contact for that department if they expect you to apply through the supervisor's other department.
Associate Member status Some McGill professors hold this affiliation with a secondary unit, where a joint appointment is not appropriate. Associate Member status is in addition to their primary appointment. Special approval is required for a SURA with a professor whose primary appointment is not in one of the eligible departments (please contact the Office for Undergraduate Research in Science for more details)
Adjunct Professor Some individuals are primarily employed outside McGill - for example, by government, in industry, as a professional, or at another university or institution - but participate in the academic activities of the McGill unit where they are appointed as Adjunct Professors. Not normally eligible (please contact the Office for Undergraduate Research in Science for more details)

Pan-McGill SURAs, for research in certain Faculty of Medicine departments

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 certain Faculty of Medicine departments.

For supervisors:

  • You must meet all the regular requirements in the "Supervisor eligibility" section above (please see in particular the note about Adjunct Professors and Associate Members);
  • 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 other departments are not eligible for Pan-McGill SURAs.
    • 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
    • You may apply for a Pan-McGill SURA with only one student. Submitting multiple Pan-McGill SURA applications will lead to disqualification.
  • 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.
  • We encourage applications from all candidates who meet the eligibility criteria, including recommended CGPA and year status (U2 or U3). Students do not need to have a top-ranked CGPA. These awards aim to support strong students who might not otherwise have funded research opportunities.
  • You may apply for a Pan-McGill SURA with only one professor (or one project that is co-supervised). Submitting multiple Pan-McGill SURA applications will lead to disqualification.

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 the Faculty of Science to conduct a 16-week full-time social equity research project during summer 2019, 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.

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:

  • 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.

To apply:

  • Use the same forms but note the following.
  • Professors must check off the “social equity” box on their forms to apply for this award and they must demonstrate the proposed project's connection with social justice, equity, or diversity in the Project Description.
  • Students must submit applications to OURS, the Office for Undergraduate Research in Science. See the “How to apply” section below for the deadline.

Definition of Social Equity, Diversity, and Social Justice research

The following definition from SEDE (McGill’s Social Equity and Diversity Education Office) should be considered as illustrative and inclusive, not restrictive; if you have a project that relates to social equity, diversity, or social justice, but if it does not correspond to the following definition, we still want to hear from you. 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).

Gault Nature Reserve SURAs

First offered in 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; Where to submit; 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, whom to contact, and when to apply (deadline) depends on the department of the student's proposed supervisor:

  Supervisor's Department or School Contact person Deadline
'Regular' SURAs Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences graduateinfo.aos [at] mcgill.ca (Ms. Manuela Franzo-Whitnell) TBC
Biology susan.gabe [at] mcgill.ca (Ms. Susan Gabe) Thursday, February 28, 2019
Chemistry samuel.sewall [at] mcgill.ca (Dr. Samuel Sewall) Friday, February 22, 2019
(Submit applications to Dr. Sewall's mailbox in Chemistry Main Office, Otto Maass Building, Room 322)
Computer Science adina.puica [at] mcgill.ca (Ms. Adina Puica) Friday, March 1, 2019
Earth and Planetary Sciences kristy.thornton [at] mcgill.ca (Ms. Kristy Thornton) Thursday, February 28, 2019
Geography undergrad.geog [at] mcgill.ca (Ms. June Connolly) Thursday, February 28, 2019, at noon
Mathematics and Statistics angela.white [at] mcgill.ca (Ms. Angela White) Thursday, February 28, 2019
Microbiology and Immunology
(Please review the Student Eligibility section above.)
jennifer.dimassimo [at] mcgill.ca (Ms. Jennifer DiMassimo) Thursday, February 28, 2019
(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 TBC
(Before you apply, please read these application instructions specific to Physics)
Psychology julia.marussi [at] mcgill.ca (Ms. Julia Marussi) Tuesday, February 26, 2019, at noon
Redpath Museum susan.gabe [at] mcgill.ca (Ms. Susan Gabe) Thursday, February 28, 2019
(Apply through Biology)
Pan-McGill SURAs Anatomy and Cell Biology victor.chisholm [at] mcgill.ca (Mr. Victor Chisholm) Thursday, February 28, 2019
(Submit applications to the Office for Undergraduate Research in Science, Burnside Hall #720.)
Biochemistry
Pharmacology & Therapeutics
Physiology
Social Equity SURAs Any of the above victor.chisholm [at] mcgill.ca (Mr. Victor Chisholm) Preferably by Thursday, February 28, 2019; review of applications will begin on this date
(Submit applications to the Office for Undergraduate Research in Science, Burnside Hall #720.)
Gault Nature Reserve SURAs Any of the above 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

Try our new Finding Funding tool!

More information

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

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