USRA Awards

The Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA) programs expose undergraduate students to research, with the goal of encouraging students to pursue graduate studies leading to research careers. Previous students have been able to link their USRA to a co-op work term; please contact the Science Co-op office for more information on this possibility.  If you are assigned to a project and would like to link the USRA to a co-op work term, please check first with your supervisor.  The supervisor's co-op participation is limited to a short midterm check-in with the co-op program of about 15 minutes and a short online evaluation form at the end of the work term.  Students requiring further feedback on or assistance with the co-op report or paperwork should consult the co-op office.

Science students have access to two programs, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) USRA program and the SFU Vice President, Research (VPR) USRA program. NSERC USRAs are restricted to Canadian citizens and permanent residents; VPR USRAs are open to international students. Canadian citizens and permanent residents should apply to the NSERC program only.  For more information, please see the SFU Dean of Graduate Studies USRA website.  

The Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science is hoping to appoint multiple students for Summer 2020. Information on how to apply is given below. Descriptions of proposed projects will be posted as they become available, likely by the end of December 2019. Applications will be due in the New Year, around January 21, before the NSERC/university nomination deadline of January 31.

Identification and Registration of Hits in Genome-Wide Association Studies

Supervisor: Lloyd Elliott

Multivariate genome-wide association studies (GWAS) provide a vector function of the genome (the elements of the vector are the p-values of each phenotype). Typically, these objects are examined by hand in order to determine "hits" (local minimum). However, when the number of phenotypes is large, an automation of this process is required. The project involves 1) implementation of a method for determining "hits", 2) extension of the method to allow registration of hits between phenotypes (i.e., determine when two hits on two phenotypes are close enough to be called the same location.) 3) development of Bayesian nonparametric theory for this problem.

Visualisation of Hierarchical Clustering

Supervisor: Lloyd Elliott

Methods such as decision trees, linkage based clustering (dendrograms), binary space partitioning, and Ward's algorithm all provide hierarchical clusterings in which the data are organised at the leaves of a tree. Visualisation of the validity of this tree is difficult when the tree is large. This project involves development and implementation of a new method for visualising hierarchical clustering in which each tree split is associated with a one dimensional projection of the partitioned data. These projections are rotated and translated within a single plot, forming a fractal-like organisation for which the nature of the clustering can be readily appreciated.

If you are interested in applying, please follow the procedure below:

Note We thank all applicants for their interest but request that they refrain from contacting prospective supervisors during the selection process. Supervisors will contact applicants selected for an interview.

NSERC Award:

Canadian citizens and permanent residents should apply for the NSERC USRA only; please do not apply for  the  VPR USRA. If you are eligible for the NSERC USRA:

  • Go online at the NSERC site: BRPC_eng.asp
  • Please submit the following: the printed NSERC Form 202 (Part I), with your NSERC Online Reference #; an up-to-date unofficial transcript (not an advising transcript); and, optionally, a short statement (<200 words) about yourself and your interest in the USRA programme. These must be submitted to the Grad Secretary in the Department of Statstics & Actuarial Science Room SC K10547 by January 21, 2019.  
  • Selected students will be notified by the department. These students must verify applications online by January 31, 2019. Note that this includes uploading transcripts and having a supervisor start Form 202 Part II.

VPR Award:

If you are only eligible for the VPR USRA:

  • Go to and complete the student portion of the application form.  In the section on Award Information, filling in the proposed supervisor is optional.
  • Once you have completed the student portion, print it and attach an up to date unofficial transcript (not an advising transcript) and, optionally, a short statement (<200 words) about yourself and your interest in the USRA programme. These must be submitted to the Grad Secretary in the Department of Statistics & Actuarial Science Room SC K10547 by January 21, 2019 
  • Selected students will be notified by the project Supervisors.
  • Supervisors will fill out the 'Supervisor Information' and 'Research Project' sections of the form by January 31, 2019.

USRA Recipients


Description Supervisor Student Semester Award Type