Competition launched for NSERC undergraduate research grants

Many undergraduate students dream of co-authoring a journal paper. For Michael Finch (BSc ’20), that dream became reality as he completed the final year of his Health Sciences program in 2020.

Assistant Professor of Health Sciences Rebecca MacPherson told him about a special grant being offered by the federal government’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) — and Finch went for it.

He successfully received a grant last year under NSERC’s Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA) program, enabling him to join MacPherson’s research team last summer.

He, along with senior graduate students, subsequently published an article in the Journal of Applied Physiology that reviewed an earlier paper.

Now in his first year of a master’s program in Health Sciences, Finch is urging undergraduate students to apply for funding in this year’s USRA competition.

“It’s a great opportunity, especially for people who want to get into research, into the lab and make a future career out of it,” says Finch adding that, for him, it was a strong “bridge point” that led to him pursuing his master’s degree.

USRA grants are meant to nurture students’ interests in, and fully develop their potential for, a research career in the natural sciences and engineering. The grant program also aims to encourage undergrads to pursue graduate studies in those fields.

In addition to co-authoring a paper, Finch researched how changes in genes are related to mitochondria in fat cells as a part of a larger project with Professor of Kinesiology Brian Roy studying creatine supplementation and obesity.

“Many fundamental research skills are learned and refined through mentorship,” says Brock’s Vice-President, Research Tim Kenyon. “This fund fosters undergraduate students’ curiosity and gives them valuable professional experience that can launch them into a research career.”

The funding, valued at $6,000, provides 16 consecutive, full-time weeks of research employment that complements students’ undergraduate studies in an academic setting. There are 23 grants available in this year’s competition.

NSERC and Brock University are encouraging qualified Indigenous students to apply for this award.

The application is a two-part process. Students fill out the USRA Application Form Part A. Supervisors fill out the USRA Application Form Part B. More details can be found in the USRA Applicant Guidelines 2021.

The application deadline is Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 4:30 p.m. For more information or assistance contact Research Officer Danusha Kalinga at

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