SURA: Science Undergraduate Research Awards (2023)

The information below pertains to Summer 2023. Minor changes: the guidelines for remote projects (backup plans) are more flexible than 2022; some deadlines are earlier. For more details, please read on.

Science Undergraduate Research Awards (SURAs) are for both Canadian and international McGill students registered in a science undergraduate program. SURA recipients will engage in 15 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 similar to the USRA program; however international McGill students may also apply.

The Faculty of Science invites applications from all eligible candidates, and especially those who are members of underrepresented groups, including Women, Persons with Disabilities, Indigenous People, Racialized people/Visible Minorities, and LGBTT2SQ* People (sexual orientation and/or gender identity minorities).

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

    Why should you apply for a SURA?

    Each summer, dozens of students receive funding for a full-time research project through this program. Students develop new skills, learn a lot about how science works, get a better sense of whether they want to pursue research at the graduate level, meet new friends and mentors... and receive financial support. Many undergraduates say that their summer research award allowed them to understand their courses better, changed their academic and professional direction, or was the best part of their undergraduate degree. The SURA program is possible because of very generous support from our donors, many of whom personally benefited from research experiences.

    Value and duration of a SURA

    • When: The Faculty of Science offers NSERC USRAs in the Summer term (May through August).
    • Duration: 15 weeks of full-time research
    • Value in 2023: $7000 minimum
      • $4000 from Faculty of Science donors (and/or Faculty of Science)
      • $3000 minimum from the supervisor (professor)

    Student eligibility for a SURA

    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 require the proper immigration authorization to engage in work in Canada.
      • There are several ways for international students to meet the work authorization requirement: through a study permit authorizing them to work, a separate work permit, or a work permit exemption.
      • To ensure that you meet the requirements to work in Canada, please contact International Student Services, especially if Winter will be your final term and you wish to hold a SURA in the Summer.
      • For further information on working in Canada as an international student, please consult the ISS Work & Permits webpage.
      • Please watch this webpage for possible further clarifications for international students.
    • Not concurrently hold more than one of the following: NSERC USRA, CIHR USRA, SSHRC USRA, SURA, Arts ARIA, Schull Yang International Experience Award, McGill International Experience Award, McGill Biomedical Research Accelerator award, FRQS or FRQSC Undergraduate Introduction to Research Award, or similar award.
    • Agree to provide thank you letters to the relevant donors, if accepted for a SURA, following Faculty of Science guidelines and timelines.
    • For the 'Pan-McGill' 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 departments in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences

    Due to special funding, there is a very limited number of SURAs for Faculty of Science students (B.Sc., B.A. & Sc.) with McGill professors from certain departments in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

    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 with your primary appointment or joint appointment in one of the following departments:
      • Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology: Faculty or Joint Professors. (Emeritus Professors are also eligible.)
      • Department of Biochemistry: Faculty members.
      • Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics: Core Professors. (Emeritus Professors are also eligible.)
      • Department of Physiology: Core Faculty (excluding Faculty Lecturers).
      • 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.
    • You do not need to have a top-ranked CGPA, but it is recommended to have a minimum CGPA of 3.60. These awards aim to support strong students who might not otherwise have funded research opportunities.
    • 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).
    • 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.

    Selection criteria

    NSERC has stipulated that institutions should select USRA recipients based on the following three criteria, which the Faculty of Science expects for SURA as well:

    • Academic excellence;
    • Research potential;
    • Expected quality of the training and mentorship to be received.

    Unsure if your application will be competitive?

    Applying for the award does not guarantee that you will receive it. The only guarantee is that if you do not apply for an award, you will not receive it. However, even if your application seems unsuccessful, many good things can still happen!

    • First, read the eligibility information on this page, for both you (student) and your supervisor. Consult your supervisor's department if you have questions about eligibility; refer to "Departmental contacts and deadlines" further below.
    • A department may be able to give you information such as the number of applicants and awards last year, or the average or minimum CGPA; however applicant pools and the number of awards vary from year to year. A comparable dossier may be uncompetitive one year, but successful the next. If you are clearly ineligible, that is one thing; but if you are unsure how competitive you might be, consider applying.
    • If your award application is unsuccessful, sometimes supervisors can provide other sources of funding, or find other ways to involve you in research, for the summer itself.
    • An unsuccessful summer award application may open other doors later: a research course for credit next fall, or a successful award application next summer, for example.
    • Please also consult "Other sources of funding" below.

    Are you thinking of taking summer courses?

    For all projects: Whether the project is remote or ‘in-person’, students are expected to pursue their projects on a full-time basis, for 15 weeks.

    Students may take one course during the USRA period, but permission cannot be presumed. This requires a written plan that estimates lost time and a strategy to make it up; and approval from the Supervisor, Department/School, and Faculty. (The Faculty of Science expects the same for NSERC/SSHRC/CIHR USRA.) Additional flexibility may apply in exceptional cases, such as required courses that are only offered in the summer. Ask your supervisor's department to contact the Faculty of Science for more details.

    Other sources of funding

    Here are a few suggestions:

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

    How to apply for a SURA: where and with whom

    • 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 SURAs in the Department of Physics, however, it works differently; please consult 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.

    Supervisor eligibility for a SURA: Participating departments

    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
      • Office of Science Education
      • Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology (Pan-McGill category; additional requirements below)
      • Department of Biochemistry (Pan-McGill category; additional requirements below)
      • Department of Microbiology and Immunology (additional requirements below)
      • Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics (Pan-McGill category; additional requirements below)
      • Department of Physiology (Pan-McGill category; additional requirements below)
    • Hold his or her primary appointment in one of the units above. That is to say:
      • For Pan-McGill SURAs, the proposed supervisor must hold her/his primary appointment or joint appointment in one of the four "Pan-McGill" departments listed above; Associate Member or Adjunct Professor status in those departments is insufficient.
      • For other SURAs:
        • A SURA with an Adjunct Professor is not normally eligible.
        • A SURA with an Associate Member may be eligible in some cases.
        • 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.
    • 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.

    My proposed supervisor is an Assistant Professor /Associate Professor / Full Professor / Jointly Appointed professor / Associate Member / Adjunct Professor. Does it matter? What do these terms mean?

    The following is specific to SURAs. Professor eligibility for USRAs in Faculty of Science departments is slightly different.

    Refer also to the "Supervisor eligibility" section above, especially for Pan-McGill SURAs.

    Title Explanation or definition Relevance for your SURA application
    Assistant Professor Professors typically start their academic career as Assistant Professor. Ask your proposed supervisor where he/she is primarily appointed, and check that this department is eligible, i.e., is listed under "Departmental contacts and deadlines". As long as they meet all other eligibility requirements, it does not matter whether proposed supervisors are an Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, or (Full) Professor.
    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. As above, except that at least one of the professor's departments should be 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.

    Exception: for Pan-McGill SURAs, please refer to "Supervisor eligibility" above.

    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 professors, about ‘in-person’ projects and remotely supervised projects: We encourage proposals for ‘in-person’ projects. We expect in-person project proposals to include a remote backup; 2-3 sentences will often suffice, especially since a remote phase is unlikely to last the whole summer. Hybrid projects and wholly-remote projects are still permitted. Students and supervisors should discuss expectations and constraints before applying and before accepting awards.

    Further considerations for in-person and remote projects

    The Faculty of Science invites supervisors to consider safety, feasibility, adaptability, equity, and quality of training when planning projects.

    Projects with an in-person component may best support the scientific development of students who are in, or able to come to, Montreal, provided the projects seem feasible and permissible at the time of application, and become or remain so.

    Remote projects may be the best or only option for students who are not in or cannot come to Montreal, or if COVID restrictions tighten.

    For remotely-supervised projects, students and supervisors must be respectful of time zone differences, but students can be required to participate virtually/electronically in meetings or activities at specified times.

    Wording suggestions for supervisors to write project proposals

    “If circumstances require a remote project, we plan to…” PLUS brief explanation (2-3 sentences?)

    “The preceding project can be pursued and supervised wholly remotely. However, if circumstances permit, we plan to…” PLUS Description of in-person activities

    “This project can be pursued and supervised wholly remotely.”

  4. Students and Supervisors (Professors): Complete your application forms. There are separate forms for each of you. Clarify any questions. Take note of how to name your files as well as deadlines and how to submit..

    Questions about eligibility, forms, etc.?

    Clarify these questions before you apply or as soon as an issue arises. Generally this means to consult the supervisor's department (except for Pan-McGill SURAs). You will find contacts further below. Departmental staff will consult the Faculty of Science if or when needed.

    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.

    SURA Application forms and required documents (for students and supervisors)

    1. SURA Application Form, Part 1, Student: personal data. Completing the webform will send an email confirmation to the student.
    2. Unofficial transcripts: Access these on Minerva. (Unlike NSERC USRA, the SURA program does NOT require official transcripts.)
    3. SURA Application Form, Part 2, Supervisor: project proposal. Completing the webform will send an email confirmation to the professor.

    For Chemistry: You may optionally add your C.V. and/or personal statement to your application.

    For Physics: Consult these application instructions specific to Physics.

    For all departments: You must submit SURA applications electronically, not hardcopy (paper). Convert each email confirmation to PDF, and name them as follows.

    Recommended start and end dates

    Note that Fall classes start on Wednesday, August 30, 2023, therefore we suggest:
    Start End (Default 15 weeks) End (If 16 weeks)

    Mon., May 1, 2023

    Fri., August 11, 2023

    Fri., August 18, 2023

    Mon., May 8, 2023

    Fri., August 18, 2023

    Fri., August 25, 2023

    Mon., May 15, 2023

    Fri., August 25, 2023

    N/A (Would overlap with start of term)

    How to name your files / electronic application documents

    Convert each document to PDF and name according to the following format:
    ...where YYY-MMM-DD is the date you prepared this document, italic text (mixed case) represents variables, and roman text (all-capitals) represents constants.

    Procedure For supervisors from: Sample file name: Description:
    If you can, combine all application documents into one PDF. Atmos. & Ocean. Sci., Geography, Mathematics & Statistics. Doe-Jane-SURA-Complete-ProfMacdonald-2023-Feb-05.pdf Complete SURA application (if supervisor's department requests one PDF containing all documents) for student Jane Doe with Professor Macdonald, prepared on February 5
    You may submit each application document as a separate PDF. All other eligible departments that are not listed above. Doe-Jane-SURA-Form1-2023-Feb-05.pdf Only SURA Form 1, for student Jane Doe, prepared on February 5
    Doe-Jane-SURA-Form2-ProfMacdonald-2023-Feb-06.pdf Only SURA Form 2, for student Jane Doe, supervisor Professor Macdonald, prepared on February 6
    Doe-Jane-SURA-Transcripts-2023-Feb-05.pdf Unofficial transcripts, for student Jane Doe, prepared on February 5
    Doe-Jane-SURA-Transcripts-2023-Feb-12.pdf Updated version of transcripts, dated February 12. Avoid submitting multiple versions of a document; but if necessary, for example if a grade changes, the date in the filename will help your department track which is the most recent version.
    Doe-Jane-SURA-Statement-2023-Feb-05.pdf A supporting statement is not a normal requirement in most departments; however, if student Jane Doe chooses to provide one, or if her department requests a statement from all applicants, this would be the naming format to use. Change "statement" in the filename if this is for some other kind of document.

  5. Submit your application by the deadline. Students generally apply through the department of the proposed supervisor. Deadlines vary by department. The "contact person" listed in each department is both for questions, and to whom you should submit your completed application, unless noted otherwise.

    Departmental contacts and deadlines

    SURA Type Supervisor's department: Contact person (Questions, applications): Deadline:
    'Regular' SURAs Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Ms. Aneta Klima via admin.aos [at] (admin.aos@m...) Extended: Friday, February 24, 2023, 12:00 noon.
    [Was: Monday, February 20, 2023]
    Biology BOTH susan.gabe [at] (Ms. Susan Gabe) AND nancy.nelson [at] (Ms. Nancy Nelson) Friday, February 17, 2023
    Chemistry Dr. Samuel Sewall via advisor.chemistry [at] (advisor.chemistry@m...)
    Optional: include your C.V. and/or personal statement.
    Friday, February 17, 2023
    Computer Science teresa.pian [at] (Ms. Teresa Pian)
    Optional, if your transcript does not reflect all your research experience: include your CV (1 page max.) and/or Statement of research experience, research interests, relevant experience (150 words max.).
    Tuesday, February 21, 2023
    Earth and Planetary Sciences kristy.thornton [at] (Ms. Kristy Thornton) Thursday, February 23, 2023
    Geography Ms. June Connolly via undergrad.geog [at] (undergrad.geog@m...) Thursday, February 23, 2023
    Mathematics and Statistics angela.white [at] (Ms. Angela White) Friday, February 17, 2023, 4:30 pm
    Microbiology and Immunology
    (Please review the Student Eligibility section above.)
    Ms. Christine DeSantis via undergrad.microimm [at] (undergrad.microimm@m...) Friday, February 24, 2023, 5:00pm
    Note: 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
    Office of Science Education tamara.western [at] (Prof. Tamara Western) Tuesday, February 21, 2023
    Physics Prof. Walter Reisner
    Note: Consult these application instructions specific to Physics.
    Thursday, February 23, 2023
    Psychology Ms. Julia Marussi via undergrad.psych [at] (undergrad.psych@m...) Friday, February 17, 2023, 12:00 noon
    Redpath Museum BOTH susan.gabe [at] (Ms. Susan Gabe) AND nancy.nelson [at] (Ms. Nancy Nelson)
    Note: Apply through Biology
    Friday, February 17, 2023
    Pan-McGill SURAs Anatomy and Cell Biology victor.chisholm [at] (Mr. Victor Chisholm) Friday, February 17, 2023, 12:00 noon
    Pharmacology & Therapeutics

  6. In late February or early March, departmental selection committees will rank applications. 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 (students and professors) 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 reach out before you apply, or as soon as the issue arises.
    • Please contact the department where you wish to hold the award; refer to the "Departmental contacts and deadlines" section above.
    • Depending on the question, they may have to consult the Faculty of Science.
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