Undergraduate Research Assistantship Program: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is a URA?
An Undergraduate Research Assistantship (URA) is a paid, term-long introduction to academic research. Students are hired by a faculty member, who is active in research, and spend the term working on a research project or problem while being mentored by the faculty member. A student can hold a URA during any of the three terms of the school year - Fall, Winter, or Spring; though C&O has a specific Spring program with additional opportunities and experiences.
What makes the Spring program different from a URA in Fall or Winter?
In addition to research work and mentorship from a faculty member students will also participate in weekly seminars, held specifically for the program, to learn about research being conducted by faculty members and other students. Leading up to the URAs presenting their own seminar at the end of the term, an opportunity for the students to be recognized for their own work.
In the Spring program there are several students holding URAs at the same time which gives the students more opportunity to meet fellow researchers. We hold luncheons throughout the term in order to add a social component and more relaxed environment to the program, all leading to an overall positive experience.
What is the time commitment?
The URA program is a full-time (35 hours/week), 16-week position.
The positions begin on the first day of lectures of the term, and continue until the end of term.
Do I receive a course credit for the URA?
No, there is no course credit granted for the URA position.
Do I need to have previous research experience?
No previous research experience is necessary.
What are the requirements?
To be eligible, students must meet the following criteria:
- Registered in an undergraduate Math degree program at UW or another university/institution.
- Eligible to work in Canada – applicants must have either:
- Canadian citizenship
- Permanent residency
- Student visa
- Cumulative GPA of at least 72%
- Most recently completed at least 2B term
I am in a co-op program, can I still apply?
Yes. Since the URA program is a full-time position, you may use it as a co-op position. If you plan to do so, please include that information in your application cover letter.
I am not a University of Waterloo student, can I still apply?
Yes, the Department of C&O encourages undergraduate students enrolled in other universities/institutions to apply to the program.
I am on an academic term, can I still apply?
Unfortunately, no. The URA position is a full-time position.
I am an international student, can I still apply?
Yes. International students, with a student visa, are encouraged to apply for the program.
I plan to graduate in June, can I still apply for a Spring term?
Fourth-year students who have been accepted into or applied to a graduate or post-graduate professional program starting in September are eligible to apply.
Can I take courses during my URA?
In special circumstances, your supervisor may allow you to take courses during your participation in the URA program. However, this must be discussed and decided upon prior to enrolment in the course and the program.
If you are holding an NSERC USRA you are permitted to take only two courses.
What is the student stipend or compensation?
All URA students are guaranteed to receive a salary of $12,000 for the term. There are also a number of awards and scholarships.
To find more information about available awards and scholarships, please see below for Additional Research Awards and Funding.
Applying to hold URA
How do I apply to the Spring program?
- Applications for the Spring term program are to be submitted in the previous year’s Fall term (October to December).
- Applications include:
- The specific aims/objectives, resume, cover letter with two references, a CV/resume, a copy of an unofficial transcript as well as email contact information of two references.
- Combine all documents into a single PDF
Applications are to be submitted electronically using an online form, which will be available on the C&O website when applications are being accepted.
How do I apply for the Fall or Winter term?
URAs in a Fall or Winter term are not common practice in the C&O department, therefore they are hired on an individual basis with no formal application. The student must approach (or be approached by) a faculty member active in research to request a URA position. Please review the personal websites of our professors (from the faculty listing) to see which area of research interests you the most before contacting a prospective supervisor.
Paperwork to confirm the position and application for awards can move forward once the pairing is approved by the chair of the department.
On rare occasion a faculty member may post an open URA position on our Job Board. If interested in such a position, a student must contact the faculty member directly and may need to provide a resume/CV and transcript.
When do I apply?
Generally, applications for our Spring program will be accepted beginning in early-mid October, with a deadline in early December.
If you're wishing to hold a URA in either Fall or Winter term you must complete the process at least one full term ahead; keeping in mind that standard deadlines for co-op students on WaterlooWorks is mid-term.
What is an example of a reference?
A reference can be anyone who is familiar with your study and/or work ethic: a professor, a past/current employer, coach or club director, and so on. You will only need to provide the name and contact information for your references. A letter is not required.
Locating & Securing a Supervisor
How do I find a supervisor?
After reviewing your application, the department will make every attempt to match you with a faculty member if applying for the Spring program. If there is a specific faculty member who you are interested in working with, we encourage you to contact them directly.
If you're interested in holding a URA in Fall or Winter, you can look at our URA Job Board for anything available or contact your preferred faculty member to discuss an opportunity.
Do you have any tips or suggestions about locating a supervisor?
- Speak with TAs and upper year students who have gained research experience or have participated in the program in the past.
- Ensure your resume, CV, transcript and web application form are carefully prepared and up-to-date.
- Identify the area of research you are most interested in and focus on a faculty member in that area.
- When contacting a supervisor, ask about their research or current projects, publications and a link to their website.
Do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions. Our office is always here to help!
Additional Research Awards and Funding
Am I eligible to receive an NSERC USRA?
NSERC USRA awards are limited, and will be assigned by the department. If you are nominated for an award, you will receive instructions for applying.
Please note, USRA awards are available only to Canadian citizens and permanent residents of Canada. Students may receive a maximum of three USRAs throughout their undergraduate careers but never more than one within a fiscal year.
Am I eligible to receive a Math Undergraduate Research Award?
MURA awards are limited, and will be assigned by the department. If you are nominated for an award, you will receive instructions for applying.
Please note, MURA awards are available to all students including those who hold international citizenships.
Am I eligible to receive the President's Research Award?
Students who received the President’s Scholarship of Distinction upon enrolment at UW are eligible to receive additional funding in the form of the President’s Research Award. Students may receive a maximum of two of these awards throughout their undergraduate careers.