NSERC Undergraduate Summer Research Award Opportunities (USRA)

What is USRA?

  • Stimulates students’ research interest in Natural Sciences and Engineering
  • Engages students in research activities
  • Encourages and motivates students to pursue graduate studies
  • Provide financial support for research experience through the host university


  • Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident
  •  Registered full-time student in the term immediately before the award
  • Do not hold higher degrees in natural science or engineering
  • Minimum cumulative 78%
  • May hold up to three USRAs throughout university career
  • Have not begun a graduate program prior to the tenure of award
  • Not enrolled in a professional degree (M.D., D.D.S., B.Sc.N.)

Other Summer Opportunities

Engineering Dean's Award

This award has the same requirements and value as NSERC USRA but is also open to International Students. If you are an international student and wish to apply, please contact the Graduate Office by emailing

Undergraduate Summer Research Award

This award has the same requirements and value as NSERC USRA but is also open to International Students. In addition, students with an average below 70% may be considered for this award. If you are an international student and wish to apply, please contact the Graduate Office by emailing

Value of Award

  • $4,500 for 16 consecutive weeks on a full time basis (May - August)
  • Part-time hours and vacation leave will not be approved
  • Supervisors supplement award by at least 25% (minimum $1,125) using NSERC grants or any
    other research funds
  • Total minimum stipend: $5,626
  • Competitive award

Summary of All Awards

Award Type Academic Average Stipend (minimum) Stipend Breakdown
NSERC USRA 78% and above $5625 $1125 (Supervisor) $4500 (NSERC)
Dean's Award 78% and above $5625 50% (Supervisor) 50% (Faculty)

Summer Research


70% and above $5625 75% ( Supervisor) 25% (Faculty)

How to Apply

One Application for all awards that must be submitted through the NSERC Portal

International applicants for Dean’s and Summer Research awards also complete the NSERC USRA application but must contact and inform Kristen Edwards (Graduate Officer),

Deadline: TBA - Usually during the last week of January


Potential Projects Summer 2020

CubeSat (Western University-Nunavut Arctic college Nanosatellite launching in 2021-2022)

Supervisor: Jayshri Sabarinathan

Research Area: Remote Sensing Instrumentation

Multispectral Camera Development – Agricultural Monitoring on UAV/ Mobile Robots (Greenhouse and Lunar) Several projects include Camera Embedded Interface development, Camera sensor characterization, camera image processing development, Camera interfacing

Supervisor: Jayshri Sabarinathan

Research Area: Remote Sensing Instrumentation

XRD instrumentation for Lunar/Mars Rover

Supervisor: Jayshri Sabarinathan<

Research Area: Photonic integrated circuits

Photonic Integrated circuits - for satellite laser communication applications USRA projects include photonic design, testing, optical spectrometer characterization, optical testing automation

Supervisor: Jayshri Sabarinathan


Research Area: Machine learning methods for Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS)


  • Analyze network traffic, or its metadata and detect malicious traffic or attacks such as DoS, DDoS, data exfiltration, code injections 
  • Develop dynamic countermeasure within network infrastructure when intrusion are detected.


  • Detecting multi-stage, long-term attacks Formulating Machine learning models for IDS Interpretability of ML models Use of adversarial models


  • Setting up a test environment - VMs on virtual network (attacker-victim setup)
  • Run attacks on it (existing tools, custom attack scripts, notorious attacks) Understand the attack landscape, build datasets for novel attack scenarios Evaluating popular traditional (rule-based) IDS such as Snort, Bro Performance evaluation and optimization in machine learning pipelines and IDS Training ML models with very large datasets (several Tb). Profiling and optimizing code.

 Supervisor: Jagath Samarabandu 



Research Area: Robotics

Requirements: to be familiar with fluid dynamics and FEM

Project: Design optimization of a miniaturized magnetic clutch in COMSOL Multiphysics or ANSYS software.


  1. Learn the basic principles of our clutch technology (disk-type, drum-type, gear-type);
  2. Learn the Electromagnetic simulation in COMSOL Multiphysics or ANSYS software;
  3. Learn the Multiphase Fluid flow simulation in COMSOL Multiphysics or ANSYS software;
  4. Learn the Multibody Dynamics simulation in COMSOL Multiphysics or ANSYS software;
  5. Develop the FEM model of miniaturized clutch using Electromagnetic, Multiphase Fluid, and Multibody Dynamics components in COMSOL Multiphysics or ANSYS software;
  6. Run the simulation and compare the calculated results with the actual test results from the hardware prototype;
  7. Study the relation between the geometry and the torque transmitted by the clutch ;
  8. Optimize the gear geometry of the gear-type MR clutch with given dimensions to transmit the maximum possible torque.

Supervisor: Mehrdad Kermani 


Research Area: Robotics

Project: Design of an intelligent robotic finger

Required capabilities: Good at CAD designing and embedded programming.


(1) Based on our 3-finger hand, design a new finger to meet our specific design requirements
(2) Build and test the new finger.
(3) Obtain the data from the finger using an STM32 MCU based embedded system.

Supervisor: Mehrdad Kermani 



Research Area: Power Systems

Project: Application of image processing techniques for fault detection in power systems 

Required skills and knowledge: MATLAB coding, basic understanding of signals and systems


Become familiar with fault detection requirements in power systems

Review the existing image processing techniques and identify the ones that can be utilized for fault detection in power system

Implement fault detection algorithms in MATLAB

Evaluate the implemented algorithms under various disturbances

Project Supervisor: Firouz Badrkhani Ajaei



Research Area: Power Systems

Project: Transformer testing platform

Required skills and knowledge: LabVIEW coding, being able to work with laboratory equipment such as signal generators, oscilloscopes, operational amplifiers, and National Instruments Compact Rio hardware


Use power amplifiers to build a controllable voltage source for testing low-voltage transformers

LabVIEW code (to be implemented in NI Compact Rio) that controls the voltage source

Use the developed testing platform to measure the magnetizing characteristic of transformers

Project Supervisor: Firouz Badrkhani Ajaei

Engineering Organizations