VIU Scholarship, Research, and Creative Activity

Undergraduate Student Research Awards

The Undergraduate Student Research Award (USRA) is available through significant funding provided by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). Starting in 2023-2024 both the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health (CIHR) are also sponsoring USRAs for Black scholars.

In short, students receive financial support to work on a faculty project over the summer. It is basically a great summer job as a research assistant. These awards are competitive, and students are required to fill out an application to be considered. 

Please keep in mind - If awarded a Undergraduate Student Research Award you will most likely be working on a faculty-led project. You will get to be part of a larger research program and take on a small part of it. 

This page outlines everything you need to know about the award at VIU. Further questions can be directed to Vanessa Moraes, VIU's Student Research Engagement Coordinator (

VIU Internal Deadline: Applications are now closed for the 2024 competition.


  • Must have a GPA average of at least 2.67 over the last two years
  • Must have at least 2 semesters completed at the time of application (ideally you have completed 2 years in the area your research project is based in when you start your award in May)
  • Must be enrolled in their degree program at the time of application
  • Must have been registered in classes in one of the two semesters directly preceding their award tenure (both are fine as well)
  • Must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident
  • May hold only one USRA per fiscal year (April 1 to March 31)
  • May hold a maximum of three USRAs throughout your undergraduate university career
  • Must not have started a program of graduate studies in the natural sciences or engineering at any time
  • Must be engaged on a full-time basis in research and development activities during the tenure of the award - NSERC's eligibility criteria for students and fellows

Science and Technology Projects

  • D. Baker
  • K. Duncan
  • C. Gill
  • J. Gorrell
  • T. Green
  • J. Janes
  • E. Krogh
  • S. Russell
  • S. Sloan
  • E. Stringham
  • H. Wiebe
  • W. Wood
  • A. Loudon
  • S. Shultz
  • M. Huggan
  • A. Shrestha

Social Sciences and Humanities

  • Whitney Wood

Health Sciences

  • Whitney Wood
  • Shannon Dames

For faculty members not listed above:

  • Students may be awarded a USRA to work with these faculty members if the priority group does not use up the quota allocations and the faculty member is able to provide the necessary top-up.

The awards are similar to a summer job. You will receive at least minimum wage, paid out every two weeks for 16 weeks worth of time. You will need to fill out tax forms and income tax will be deducted. Payments are made via direct deposit into your bank account.

The award is to be held in a full time capacity over the summer (May-August). Full time is considered 35 hours/week at VIU, but we understand that lab/field/summer work does not always follow a regular schedule and so the supervisor will determine exact hours. However, the average work week over the 16 week award period needs to be approximately 35 hours.

Science and Technology Projects

NSERC assigns a certain number of awards to the universities across Canada. VIU has been awarded seven for summer 2023.

In addition to this quota, we are able to support additional eligible applications from Indigenous and Black students. If you are an interested student who identifies as Indigenous or Black, you are highly encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity!

Social Sciences and Humanities Projects

SSHRC assigns a certain number of awards to the universities across Canada. VIU has been awarded one for summer 2023 for a student who identifies as Black.

Health Science Projects

CIHR assigns a certain number of awards to the universities across Canada. VIU has been awarded one for summer 2023 for a student who identifies as Black.

Applications will be accepted via the ROMEO systemnot the online NSERC system.

  • USRA workshop: January 12 @ 11:30 am in B305|R440.
  • Only those students who are awarded an award will need to fill out the online NSERC application.

VIU Internal Deadline: January 29, 2024.

  • Applications include:
    • All necessary sections on the Romeo application 
    • Unofficial transcripts (if awarded you will need to provide official transcripts to NSERC)
    • Reference Assessment Form completed by an academic reference other than your proposed supervisor
  • Learn how your application is evaluated by the NSERC Awards Selection Committee:  Rubric USRA 2024-24

Supervisors and their research

Please note that this does not represent all potential supervisors. The space is made available to those interested in recruiting students.

Supervisor: Spencer Russell

Background: Tenacibaculum bacteria are found in all coastal marine environments world-wide and in British Columbia (BC).  Tenacibaculum maritimum (Tmar), T. dicentrarchiT. finnmarkense, and other species are causative agents of tenacibaculosis, an important bacterial disease worldwide, which causes heavy losses to the Atlantic salmon aquaculture industry in BC. Infections with Tenacibaculum species present clinically with a variety of external lesions depending on the fish species affected. Knowledge of Tenacibaculum ecology (e.g. impacts, hosts, and distribution) in Pacific salmonid aquaculture production is sparse, and the location of Tenacibaculum bacteria in the marine environment  are also widely unknown. This project aims to identify the presence of Tenacibaculum species marine waters surrounding Vancouver Island.

Supervisor: Whitney Wood (

Project: Making Sense of Women's Pain in Modern Canada 

Across a range of health settings, the pain experienced by women, non-binary, and gender diverse individuals assigned female at birth is routinely under-recognized and under-treated. Drawing on a combination of print, archival, and oral history sources, this historical research explores the roots of ongoing gaps in pain relief and obstetric and gynecological care, focusing on how these have been (and continue to be) shaped by intersecting factors including sex, gender, race, class, age, ability, and geographic location.