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SURA: Science Undergraduate Research Awards

This page contains information for Summer 2020.

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 McGill students may also apply, and on the supervisor side, it is not restricted to professors who hold research grants from NSERC.

  1. Review student & supervisor eligibility, deadlines, contact persons, and other details on this webpage.

    Value and duration

    • When: The Faculty of Science offers NSERC USRAs in the Summer term (May through August).
    • Duration: 16 weeks of full-time research
    • Value: $7000 minimum
      • $4000 from donor and/or Faculty of Science
      • $3000 minimum from the supervisor (professor)

    Student eligibility

    SURAs are awarded on the basis of academic merit, in accordance with departmental selection procedures.

    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, Schull Yang International Experience 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, Gault Nature Reserve 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.

    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 below (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 to 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 2020, with a professor from any of the academic departments listed in the "Supervisor eligibility" section found below 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.
    • 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 one SURA at McGill's Gault Nature Reserve in Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Quebec.
    • The student is expected to conduct research at Gault (not, for example, conduct research on McGill's main campus that is about Gault or uses specimens previously collected by others at Gault).
    • Gault Nature Reserve SURAs are open to Science students supervised by professors from any of the eligible departments listed in the "Supervisor eligibility" section below.
    • Students and supervisors must meet all other regular SURA requirements.
    • 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.
    • Applications will be evaluated and ranked by departments along with all other SURAs. The Faculty of Science will select Gault Nature Reserve SURA recipients from departments' ranked lists of award nominees and award alternate recipients.

    Other sources of funding

    Here are a few suggestions:

    • Other similar summer undergraduate research awards:
      • NSERC USRA (Undergraduate Student Research Awards), which are restricted to Canadian students (citizens and permanent residents) for projects in the natural sciences and engineering.
      • SURE (Summer Undergraduate Research in Engineering: for research with McGill Engineering professors)
      • ARIA (Arts Undergraduate Research Internship Awards: for McGill B.A. and B.A. & Sc. students)
    • NSERC Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE): undergraduate studentships are available through some of the CREATE training programs. Find out more about the program in general and then search for existing CREATE programs at McGill or across Canada.
    • NSERC Indigenous Student Ambassadors (NISA)
    • McGill Work-Study Program (for students with demonstrated financial need)
    • Schull Yang International Experience Awards (for research abroad)
    • SUS 21st Century Ambassador Fund (SCAF) (to attend or host academic conferences or competitions)
    • Funding from your supervisor (professor)
    • Departmental funding or awards (where applicable)
    • External funding
      • Funding from your country (if you are a citizen or resident of a country other than Canada)
      • Other Canadian and international programs: MITACS Globalink (various countries), DAAD RISE (Germany), etc.
      • Some foundations (cancer, liver, wildlife, etc.) or scholarly associations (physiology, etc.) have summer studentship programs. Brainstorm with your supervisor or lab members to determine which associations might be relevant, then check if they have funding for which you are eligible.

  2. Find a supervisor! Your supervisor must be willing to provide the minimum financial contribution described in "Value and Duration" above.

    Where and with whom to apply

    • To submit a complete application, you need to identify an eligible professor (refer to "Supervisor eligibility" below) to serve as your proposed supervisor and to submit a project proposal for you. If you start at the webpages for Science departments, you can browse each unit's site to find professors' research websites. Here is some advice.
    • For Physics projects/professors, see also this page.
    • Where to apply, whom to contact, and when to apply (deadline) depends on the department of your proposed supervisor.
    • You will find the departmental contacts and deadlines further below, under "Departments, contacts, where to submit, and deadlines".

    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.
      • A SURA with an Associate Member in the list above but whose primary appointment is elsewhere requires approval from the Faculty of Science.
      • For more details, please 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?"
    • Be able to provide a minimum top-up contribution of $3000 per SURA recipient (except for Social Equity SURAs).
    • For the Pan-McGill, Gault, and Social Equity SURAs, there are also additional guidelines and requirements. For each of those awards, please refer to the corresponding section above.
    • 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.

    Please also read the "Supervisor eligibility" section above.

    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. However, check to make sure that your professor's primary department(s) is listed under "Departments, contacts, where to submit, and deadlines".
    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 "Departments, contacts, where to submit, and deadlines". 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. First ask your professor's department for approval; they must then also seek approval from the Faculty of Science.
    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

  3. Students and Supervisors (Professors): Complete your application forms.There are separate forms for each of you.

    Application forms (for students and supervisors)

    For NSERC USRA applicants

    • Please complete and submit the SURA forms, even if you have already applied for an NSERC USRA.
    • 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 we encourage you to complete the forms now so they are all done.

  4. Hand in your complete application, which generally consists of your form, your supervisor's form, and transcripts, before the relevant deadline.

    Departments, contacts, where to submit, and deadlines

    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] (Ms. Manuela Franzo-Whitnell) Tuesday, March 3, at 4:00pm
    Biology susan.gabe [at] (Ms. Susan Gabe) Tuesday, February 25, 2020
    Chemistry samuel.sewall [at] (Dr. Samuel Sewall) Friday, February 21, 2020
    (Submit applications to Dr. Sewall's mailbox in Chemistry Main Office, Otto Maass Building, Room 322)
    Computer Science adina.puica [at] (Ms. Adina Puica) Thursday, February 27, 2020
    Earth and Planetary Sciences kristy.thornton [at] (Ms. Kristy Thornton) Friday, February 21, 2020
    Geography undergrad.geog [at] (Ms. June Connolly) Thursday, February 27, 2020
    Mathematics and Statistics angela.white [at] (Ms. Angela White) Wednesday February 26, 2020
    Microbiology and Immunology
    (Please review the Student Eligibility section above.)
    carmen.paezmendoza [at] (Ms. Carmen Aimee Paez) Friday, February 28, 2020
    (The normal deadline for MIMM will be the last Friday in February each year)
    Office for Science and Society joe.schwarcz [at] (Dr. Joe Schwarcz) TBC
    Physics Prof. Walter Reisner TBC
    (Before you apply, please read these application instructions specific to Physics)
    Psychology julia.marussi [at] (Ms. Julia Marussi) Tuesday, February 25, 2020, at noon
    Redpath Museum susan.gabe [at] (Ms. Susan Gabe) Tuesday, February 25, 2020
    (Apply through Biology)
    Pan-McGill SURAs Anatomy and Cell Biology victor.chisholm [at] (Mr. Victor Chisholm) Friday, February 28, 2020
    (Bring completed applications to Dawson Hall, Room 408.)
    Pharmacology & Therapeutics
    Social Equity SURAs Any of the departments above For the Social Equity SURA, provide one copy:
    victor.chisholm [at] (Mr. Victor Chisholm)
    Preferably by Friday, February 28, 2020; review of applications will begin on this date.
    (Bring completed applications to Dawson Hall, Room 408.)
    To also be considered for a "regular" SURA, provide a second copy:
    Per your supervisor's department
    Per your supervisor's department
    Gault Nature Reserve SURAs Any of the departments above Per your supervisor's department. Per your supervisor's department.

  5. In late February or early March, departmental selection committees will rank applications.
  6. Watch your McGill email for results. Most offers will be made to students by mid-March; however some offers may come later.
  7. If you are offered an award: Keep your offer letter, read it carefully, and follow the procedures to accept your award.
  8. Your supervisor's department will process your award payment.

    More about award payments

    • If you are offered an award, departmental staff will ask supervisors (professors) to confirm the source of funds for the professor's share of your award.
    • Watch for email messages or requests: they may contact you to sign a form or provide further information.
    • Most award payments will be processed by your supervisor's department in two parts.
      • The first part of your award will be processed in April. It is usually disbursed in one lump-sum at the end of April; this portion typically covers your award for May/June.
      • The second part will be processed by the end of June. It is usually disbursed in July/August.
    • You will be able to see your award payments in MINERVA > Financial Aid & Awards > My Financial Aid and Awards.
    • Awards are paid by direct deposit to your bank account.
    • Please note that there can be a delay of 2-3 business days between the date you see on MINERVA and when it gets to your bank account.
    • Report payment concerns to the contact person indicated in your offer letter.

  9. In May, start your research project. Watch for an email from the Faculty of Science Advancement Office, for instructions for your letter to the donors who made your SURA possible.
  10. Questions? Clarification of eligibility? Special circumstances?

    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.
    • Please reach out before you apply, or as soon as the issue arises. Depending on the question, they may have to consult the Faculty of Science.
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