Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Doctoral Research Awards

Please note: Information and dates may be updated depending on further information from the Tri-Agency and resources available.

The information below is for the following 2 programs, for the Fall 2016 term:

  • NSERC Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarships (CGS) Doctoral
  • NSERC Postgraduate Scholarships (PGS) Doctoral

Both program award applications are adjudicated and sent forward to a national competition by the University of Waterloo's Graduate Studies Office (GSO). In some cases students may apply directly to NSERC. Applicants must check the NSERC website for complete details regarding the competition. For information pertaining to the Tri-Agency Canada Graduate Scholarships Master’s (CGS-M) competition, please visit Waterloo’s Tri-Agency (CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC) Canada Graduate Scholarships Master's (CGS-Mwebsite.

What is it?

NSERC Canada Graduate Scholarships (CGS) and NSERC Postgraduate Scholarships (PGS) provide financial support to high-calibre scholars who are engaged in doctoral programs in the natural sciences or engineering. There are two types of NSERC Doctoral Research awards available through a single application:

1. Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarships-Doctoral Program (CGS D) - for study in Canada; without exception, these awards are tenable only at eligible Canadian universities.

2. NSERC Postgraduate Scholarships-Doctoral Program (PGS D)- for study in Canada or abroad; these awards may be taken up at any eligible Canadian university or an eligible foreign university provided that the applicant has received a previous degree in the natural sciences or engineering field from a Canadian university.

If a student is offered a CGS-D but decides to take the award to an eligible foreign university (provided they are eligible to do so), they must decline the CGS-D and accept a PGS-D instead.

Waterloo’s Quota = 113

What is the value, duration and deadline?

The agency determines the value and duration of the award during the national adjudication based on the number of months of full-time study completed as of December 31 of the year of application.  The CGS-D scholarship is valued at $35,000 per year for up to 3 years while the PGS-D is valued at $21,000 annually for up to 3 years.  Specific details can be found on the official NSERC Doctoral website.

Recipients of NSERC Doctoral Scholarships who hold their award at Waterloo are eligible to receive the President’s Graduate Scholarship.

Eligible students wishing to apply through the University of Waterloo are required to complete NSERC’s Form 201 and submit it using NSERC’s online application system by October 14, 2016 at 8:00 p.m. (EST).

What are the steps in the application process?

The critical steps in the NSERC application process are:

1.  Confirm eligibility

Canadian citizens and permanent residents are eligible to be considered for the NSERC Doctoral Scholarship. It is the applicant’s responsibility that the minimum eligibility criteria of this award is satisfied before they begin the application process. Interested applicants must review the eligibility and selection criteria on the official NSERC Doctoral website before beginning their application.

2.  Confirm where to submit the application

The student’s registration status at the time of application will determine where they will submit their application to; i.e., either through a Canadian university or directly to NSERC.  It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure they are submitting their application through the proper channel.  If a student applies directly to NSERC when they were required to apply through a Canadian institution, their application will be deemed ineligible and rejected.  Applicants must review the “Registration Status at Time of Application” on the NSERC website for details.

3. Assign a transcript designate

Students applying for an NSERC PGSD/CGSD must assign a designate in the NSERC online application system in order to have their current and previous transcripts uploaded and attached to their application.

As a condition of graduate program admission, students must provide their final official transcripts from previous institutions to the Graduate Studies Office (GSO). Providing these have been received, the GSO will retrieve transcripts from the previous institutions identified on the Academic Background page from their data management system.

The Academic Background page of the online application MUST be completed before assigning a designate. This will ensure that the designate has the information required to gather all transcripts necessary.

When prompted by NSERC's online application system for a designate e-mail, University of Waterloo students must input "" as the transcript designate. When prompted for the Family Name and Given Name fields, applicants should enter "Bilotta" and "Miranda" respectively.

Students have until Friday, September 30, 2016 at 3:00 p.m. (EST) to assign the transcript designate. This will ensure all transcripts are uploaded to the student's application by October 14, 2016 at 8:00 p.m. (EST), so that students may submit their completed applications online.

Students will be able to view their transcript on their NSERC application once it has been uploaded.

Applicants who are in the following situations are responsible for providing their final official transcripts from previous postsecondary institutions:

  • Waterloo undergraduate students who attended a previous postsecondary institution for an exchange or for a previously completed undergraduate degree.
  • Students who have not provided their final official transcripts from previous institutions to GSO for graduate admission purposes.

Students who are in the above two situations must have their transcripts sent in a sealed envelope marked for scholarship purposes to the attention of Miranda Bilotta in the GSO, 2nd floor Needles Hall by September 30, 2016.

Note: Students are unable to submit their application until all transcripts are uploaded to their application by the GSO.

4. Select and contact referees

  • Applicants must contact 2 potential referees as soon as possible but no later than 3 weeks prior to the October 14 application deadline.  Referees should be advised that their “Report on the Applicant” form must be completed no later than October 11 (3 days prior to the application deadline).
  • Applicants must direct their potential referees to the Report on Applicant Instructions (NSERC website) so that they may see the selection criteria and know how the applicants are being evaluated.

Tips for selecting referees and reference letters

  • It is recommended that applicants select referees who have had sufficient opportunity to assess their research potential and abilities from an academic perspective (for example, past or current academic or industrial supervisor) *NSERC will not accept a reference letter from an applicants’ proposed supervisor unless they are their current supervisor or have supervised them in the past.
  • Applicants should be up front and ask their potential referees if they have the time and are able to provide a supporting Report that will speak to all aspects of the selection criteria.  They should highlight qualities such as academic and non-academic leadership as well as research ability/potential and academic accomplishments.
  • Applicants should provide referees with a package of information that will assist them with writing the Report.  This package should contain:
    • An up-to-date curriculum vitae
    • Transcripts
    • A list of research contributions
    • A copy of the research proposal
    • A list of community involvement or other extracurricular activities that demonstrate leadership qualities 

Further information regarding “Reports on the Applicant” can be found in the detailed Application Instructions (NSERC website).  These instructions contain valuable information on how to set a deadline for the referees to complete the Report, how to send them reminders, etc.

Applicants can only submit their application using NSERC's online system when both referees have completed and submitted their Reports. Both Reports should be submitted to the application no later than October 11th, 2016.   Applicants will be able to see that the referees have submitted their Reports but will not be able to see the content of them.

5. Research proposals

Applicants are strongly encouraged to develop their research proposal early and ensure they are applying to the correct agency. Applicants are only allowed to apply to one Tri-Agency competition and it is important to ensure it is the correct one or they may be disqualified. Applicants are encouraged to refer to the Eligibility Criteria for Students and Fellows section of NSERC’S website for confirmation.

Waterloo's administrative process

  • Applicants who are applying through the University of Waterloo must submit their NSERC Doctoral application through NSERC’s online application system by 8:00 p.m. (EST) on October 14, 2016.
  • The Graduate Studies Office will retrieve applications from the online system and provide them to the graduate department for review, confirmation of eligibility, as well as ranking.  Departments will rank and provide a merit score for each of their eligible applicants.
  • At the University adjudication meeting, the committee will select applications to go forward to NSERC based on an agency-set quota; an alternate list will also be selected in case there are conditions that cannot be satisfied for a recommended applicant.
  • The GSO will review the applications selected to go forward to NSERC. Using the email address provided on the application, the GSO will communicate any corrections required to the applicants.
  • The GSO will submit nominees to NSERC electronically.  Applicants will receive notification from the University indicating whether or not they were forwarded to the agency.

Helpful tips

Waterloo timeline


Funding payment information

Visit our funding payment information web page to find out how you will get paid.