Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council Undergraduate Research Awards (NSERC USRA)

This website contains the application instructions and deadlines for NSERC USRA for tenure in the Department of Psychology. Application deadlines are firm. Recommend that you print the summary of deadlines for reference so that you don't miss any critical steps or deadlines in the application process. 

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Description of the USRA

 Details regarding the USRA provided by:

The USRA are allocated from the home department of the research supervisor. The USRA holder will work in the research supervisor's lab.

The USRA offers a few Honours Psychology students (regular or co-op system of study) per year the opportunity to work as a paid research assistant on a full-time basis for one school term (i.e,. 16 consecutive weeks for a minimum of 35 hours per week) for a research supervisor who currently holds an NSERC research grant, or who will have an NSERC research grant by the beginning of the term when the student holds the USRA. 

The USRA are intended to stimulate the recipients' interest in research and to encourage them to undertake graduate studies and careers in a 'natural science' area of Psychology (e.g., behavioural neuroscience, cognition/perception, cognitive factors of development or depression, etc.).

If a Co-op student receives a USRA, the research term counts as a work term unless all work terms have already been completed.

NSERC permits the University of Waterloo to set stricter criteria for selecting USRA candidates than the minimum standards set by NSERC, to give higher priority to uWaterloo students applying for the USRA for tenure at uWaterloo, and to establish procedures and deadlines for the USRA competition.

Details specific to the NSERC USRA competition in the Department of Psychology are provided on this website.

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Scholarship for the USRA term

The scholarship for the research term comes from two sources.

NSERC USRA

The USRA provides $1125.00 per month for four months. Additional details:

  • Recipients must work a minimum of 80 days (excluding statutory holidays) in order to order to receive the full value of the USRA (i.e., $4500.00). For applicants who propose to work less than 80 days, pro-rated awards may be approved in truly exceptional circumstances where the situation is beyond the student's control, only if the request for approval is submitted in writing to the Office of Research at the time of the application. The request must be supported in writing by the potential research supervisor. If you intend to seek a prorated award, please consult with the potential research supervisor prior to stage 2 of the application process.
     
  • The USRA program makes no provisions for sick leave, vacation leave, or other interruptions after the research term begins. Should the research term be interrupted or terminated for any reason, the research supervisor must notify the Office of Research immediately.

Financial supplement

In addition to the scholarship provided by the USRA, the award holder will receive a financial supplement from the research supervisor. 

The University of Waterloo expects the total earnings for the term (USRA plus supplement) to be no less than minimum wage (based on 16 consecutive weeks for a minimum of 35 hours per week).

If field work is necessary, additional costs related to the field work (e.g., travel expenses) must be covered by the research supervisor.

Notes regarding the financial supplement:

Although the supervisor is required to have an NSERC grant, the supplement does not have to be paid from the grant account. At the appropriate time, Janice da Silva (Administrative Officer, Psychology Department) will handle the Temporary Employment Authorization Forms required by payroll. 

The research supervisor has the option of applying to the Co-operative Education and Career Action Department (the student doesn't have to be in the Co-op system of study) for funds from the Undergraduate Research Intern (URI) program to offset the cost of the financial supplement required from the research supervisor for the NSERC USRA.

Direct questions about URI funding to Danijela Vukancic (ext 31808) in the Co-op Education Department. For those receiving funds from the URI program, Danijela will provide Janice da Silva (Administrative Officer, Department of Psychology) with the appropriate Temporary Employment Authorization Form required by payroll for these cases.

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Are USRA available to non-University of Waterloo Students?

The Department of Psychology will not be accepting USRA applications from students registered at other universities at this time.

Potential research supervisors for USRA holders

The Department of Psychology reserves the right to match students with research supervisors.

The faculty members listed below are eligible research supervisors for USRA holders:

  1. Britt Anderson
  2. Derek Besner
  3. James Danckert
  4. Stephanie Denison
  5. Mike Dixon
  6. Myra Fernandes
  7. Ori Friedman
  8. Jonathan Fugelsang
  9. Roxane Itier
  10. Derek Koehler
  11. Colin MacLeod
  12. Evan Risko
  13. Dan Smilek
  14. Jennifer Stolz
  15. Katherine White

For the research interests of supervisors go to our people

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Eligibility criteria to be a research supervisor for a USRA holder

Notes for faculty members in the Department of Psychology:

  • You are not eligible to supervise a USRA holder if you hold only NSERC Research Tools and Instruments, and/or only NSERC Infrastructure Grants.
  • You must hold one of the following NSERC research grants by the beginning of the USRA term: Discovery, CREATE, Strategic, Research Partnerships.
  • If your research grant will not be active for the full duration of the USRA applicant's research term, go to the NSERC website for further details regarding your eligibility to be a potential research supervisor before completing NSERC Form 202 part 2.  Also consult with Evan Risko immediately.

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Incentives for Aboriginal peoples

Any qualified Aboriginal student recommended for a USRA will not be counted in the University of Waterloo's NSERC USRA quota. Students who wish to identify themselves as Aboriginal when applying for a USRA are asked to do so on the departmental supplementary information form for the NSERC USRA application.

Aboriginal peoples are defined as the descendants of the original inhabitants of North America. The Canadian Constitution Act 1982 recognizes three groups of Aboriginal people: Indians, Metis people and Inuit. Eligibility may be established through official documentation (certificate of Indian status, band/treaty number, or enrolment as a beneficiary of a land claim agreement). Aboriginal peoples without official documentation can establish their eligibility by demonstrating their involvement within the Aboriginal community or their acceptance as people of Aboriginal ancestry within the existing Aboriginal community.

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Eligibility criteria for USRA applicants

Applicants must be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada as of the deadline date for applications at the university.

NSERC specifies that a student can receive only one USRA per fiscal year (i.e., over Spring, Fall, Winter) and no more than three USRA in a university career. However, given the limited number of USRA available per year in the Department of Psychology and the level of interest by students in these awards, the Department of Psychology may limit students to no more than two NSERC USRA in their university career so that as many students as possible will benefit from the experiences that these awards provide. 

Other eligibility criteria are listed below including program status, grades and academic standing, course enrolment restrictions (e.g., PSYCH 499), and required training.

Program status

Must have successfully completed at least 5.0 units (i.e., 10 term courses).

Must be enrolled (i.e., part-time or full-time enrolment status) in an Honours Bachelor's degree program in a natural science (e.g., Honours Psychology) or engineering area at uWaterloo as of the deadline date for applications at the university as well as the term preceding the proposed research term.

An applicant who is pursuing a second Bachelor's degree is allowed to apply for a USRA. If he/she holds a degree higher than an Bachelor's degree in the natural science or engineering field they are not eligible to apply.

Grades and academic standing

A cumulative overall average of at least 80% is required (Department of Psychology policy). The only exception is for those beyond the 2B level who meet both of the following criteria:

  • cumulative overall average of at least 75%
  • plus a cumulative overall average of at least 80% for the most recent two full years of study (i.e., at least 10.0 units).

Example: A current 4A level student who did poorly in the 1A and 1B school terms, has a cumulative overall average of 75%, but earned 80% or better for the 2A through 3B school terms including at least 10.0 units, may apply for a USRA.

However, we anticipate that USRA holders for tenure in the Department of Psychology will have overall averages of 84% or higher. 

Must not have any outstanding grades (i.e., INC, NMR, DNW, etc.). 'In progress' (IP) grades for PSYCH 499A/B/C (Honours Thesis) are permissible.

Must be in satisfactory academic standing (i.e., satisfactory, good, or excellent standing) in the Honours program at the end of the term preceding the USRA term.

Course enrolment restrictions

USRA holders are not permitted to take courses during working hours throughout the USRA term unless special arrangements to make up the time have been made with the research supervisor. Those doing so may take a maximum of 1 term course (i.e., no more than .5 units) during the USRA term with the written permission of the research supervisor.

USRA holders may not be enrolled in the honours thesis (PSYCH 499A/B/C) during the USRA term. 

Training required for USRA holders

Ethics clearance and training required for all USRA holders

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Stage 1 of the application process: Documents required from the student

Stage 1 part A: Complete the on-line NSERC Form 202 Part 1

No printing of the form or hard/wet signatures are required.

Before completing the form, read carefully the 'general information' provided by NSERC e.g., the terms that you accept by applying for the USRA such as ethical conduct, notes regarding the content and presentation standards for completing the form, help using the on-line system, etc.

Login to the NSERC website as either a previous user or a first time user. Locate and complete NSERC Form 202 Part 1. If you recorded a Form 202 Part 1 for an earlier USRA competition, access that form and edit it for the 2017 cycle. Do not create multiple forms

The PIN number requested is your NSERC PIN number not your uWaterloo ID number. All USRA applicants have an NSERC PIN. It can be found on any official correspondence received from NSERC. Refer to your PIN each time you apply for a USRA and in future correspondence with NSERC. If you have not previously applied for a USRA, or if you cannot remember your PIN, leave the field blank.

Leave the reference number blank. The system will assign this number automatically.

Regarding current and previous academic background, only list current and past universities (e.g., do not list colleges that you attended).

Review Form 202 Part 1 carefully for accuracy and completeness before finalizing it because revisions after stage 1 of the application process are complicated and time consuming. Further details regarding corrections are provided in stage 4.

You must upload a copy of your unofficial UWaterloo transcript or the system will not verify and confirm Form 202 Part 1. Access your unofficial transcript on Quest and create a pdf of the transcript. Then upload the pdf to Form 202 Part 1. Follow up with the official transcript requirement when instructed to do so by the Office of Research

After you have completed Form 202 Part 1 and uploaded the unofficial transcript, go to My Portfolio and select 'verify'. Once verification is confirmed, make note of the reference number (see the top of Form 202). If invited to stage 4 of the application process, give the reference number to your potential research supervisor. Do not give him/her your NSERC ID number or password.

Evan Risko (Departmental NSERC USRA Coordinator) cannot view or print Form 202 Part 1 until after the potential research supervisor completes Form 202 Part 2 during stage 4 of the application process.

Stage 1 part B: Submit all of the following documentation

Submit the Department of Psychology supplementary information for the NSERC USRA application

The document that you submit containing the supplementary information is for use in the Department of Psychology only and will not be forwarded to the Office of Research or to NSERC.

List a maximum of 4 potential research supervisors (in priority order) that you would be willing to work for if you receive a USRA. Please speak to those you are ranking regarding your background (e.g., research experience, grades, etc.), the activities in their labs, the role that you would play if you are offered a USRA to work in a particular faculty member's lab, the amount of financial supplement that he/she is willing to pay you, etc. Please do not ask potential research supervisors to make a firm commitment to you at this stage of the application process. Faculty members do not rank applicants until stage 2 of the application process.

Requests for approval of a reduced award (i.e., less than 80 days) must be approved. Go to Scholarship for the USRA term for further details.

Transcripts for post-secondary studies:

You are required to upload a copy of your unofficial UWaterloo transcript (the same one as submitted with your NSERC Form 202 in part 1).

If you attended any post-secondary institution(s) other than uWaterloo (college or university), that official transcript is also required. In that case, ask the Psychology Undergraduate Advisor as soon as possible to inquire if the UWaterloo Registrar's Office has a copy of that official transcript. If so, NSERC will accept a pdf of the original if created by the Registrar's Office. Include your last name and "NSERC transcripts" in the subject line of the inquiry to the Psych advisor. If the Psych advisor obtains that document for you and you are nominated for a USRA, The Office of Research will follow up with you regarding uploading the document to your online USRA application.

If it is necessary to obtain the official transcript directly from the institution attended, please provide Evan Risko with an unofficial copy of the transcript by and follow up with the hard copy of the official transcript.

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Stage 2 of the application process: Ranking of applicants by potential research supervisors

Evan Risko will forward copies of the stage 1 application documents and grades to the potential research supervisors.

Supervisors respond to Evan Risko with a ranked list of the applicants applying to work in his/her research lab including the amount of financial supplement he/she is willing to pay the USRA recipient.

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Stage 3 of the application process: Ranking of applicants by the Departmental NSERC USRA Coordinator

Ranking the applications for the USRA

Evan Risko will rank the applications taking into consideration the following factors:

  • information provided in the stage 1 application documents,
  • grades,
  • consideration of the ranks provided by students for supervisors and visa versa.

Decisions and notification

Applicants will receive one of the following 3 decisions from Evan Risko:

Group 1 will be nominated for a USRA:

These applicants will be given the name of their potential research supervisor and the amount of financial supplement that the supervisor is willing to pay if he/she receives a URSA. Applicants will not be given information regarding their ranks on the nomination list. Candidates wanting to withdraw from the competition at this stage should notify Evan Risko of his/her decision as soon as possible.

See final selection and notification of decisions for further details.

Group 2 will be on the waiting list should additional awards become available:

A wait list is created for the USRA awards in case:

  • additional awards become available

  • a recipient(s) declines the USRA for any reason

  • or an applicant is deemed ineligible for a USRA by subsequent reviewers in the selection process.

This applicant(s) will be given the name of his/her potential research supervisor and the amount of financial supplement that the supervisor is willing to pay if he/she receives a URSA. There is no guarantee that a person(s) on the waiting list will receive a USRA. We cannot predict whether or not additional awards will become available or when. However, be aware that award offers (if applicable) for those on the waiting could be as late as 1-2 weeks prior to the targetted award term. If there is more than one name on the waiting list, applicants will not be given information regarding their rank on the waiting list. Candidates wanting to withdraw from the competition at this stage should notify Evan Risko of his/her decision as soon as possible.

If you requested a USRA for Spring 2017 and do not receive an award, please consult with Evan Risko and the potential research supervisor about the waiting list for a USRA for Fall 2017 (or Winter 2018).

Group 3 will not be nominated for a USRA and will not be on the waiting list. Reasons may include, for example:

  • the number of applicants who meet the minimum eligibility criteria exceeds the number of awards available and the number of positions on the waiting list for awards.
     
  • the applicant does not meet all of the eligibility criteria for the USRA.
     
  • the applicant has not demonstrated an aptitude for doing research through prior experience.
     
  • the applicant was not matched with (or ranked by) a potential research supervisor (e.g., because the student is unknown to the faculty member).

Potential research supervisors will also be informed of the decisions. 

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Stage 4 of the application process - Documents required from the research supervisors for applicants nominated for a USRA (group 1) and for those on the waiting list (group 2)

Complete/submit the following documentation to Evan Risko.

Complete NSERC Form 202 Part 2 (Proposed location of tenure and research project):

No printing forms or hard/wet signatures are required.

Read the general information on the NSERC website. Note the section near the bottom of that page titled "The signatures of the proposed host organizations certify that the organization".

Obtain the student's reference number (top of Form 202 Part 1).

Login to the NSERC website. Use the same userid and password you created for your own NSERC grant. If you forgot your userid or password, contact NSERC On-line Services Helpdesk for assistance (Ph 613-995-4273). To access and complete the form:

  1. select 'forms-researcher' under the heading 'forms management',
  2. select 'Form 202 Part 2'
  3. enter the student's reference number.

If there is a warning that the student previously applied for a USRA, the system won't let you create a new Form 202 Part 2. In that case, access the previous Form 202 Part 2 and revise it appropriately.

Your active NSERC grant number and PIN number must be on the form. If you don't know the numbers, consult with Sarindra Andrianasolo (Office of Research) at extension 39104.

The title of the research project may be used for publication purposes and therefore, should describe the subject of the research. Do not include symbols, acronyms, company or trade names. Details regarding the project must involve research and development activities in a 'natural science' area of Psychology.

Research subject codes for Psychology research

NSERC does not support clinically-oriented research. See the Guidelines for the eligibility of applications in Psychology.

The form must include a few points regarding the responsibilities of the student researcher.

Dates for the USRA term

Regarding joint supervision: NSERC allows USRA holders to work under the supervision of two NSERC grantees as long they work on a 'genuine' research project allowing them to be exposed to all aspects of the research process. However, students must not move between laboratories on different projects because this would dilute the value of the experience. One NSERC grantee must be designated as the student's official supervisor. Co-supervision by a non-NSERC grantee is not allowed. If joint supervision is necessary, put only one (primary) supervisor's name on Form 202 Part 2 and send an email message to Evan Risko explaining why joint supervisor is necessary. Evan will follow up with Sarindra Andrianasolo (Office of Research).

Review the application carefully for accuracy and completeness. When complete, go to My Portfolio and select 'verify'. Once verification is confirmed, the status of the application will change to 'completed'. Then select 'submit to LO' (LO means Liaison Officer) which gives the Office of Research and Evan Risko access to view and process the form. Notify Evan Risko by email when the transaction is completed. Put the student's last name and `NSERC' in the subject line of the message.

Corrections to Form 202 Part 2 (instructions supervisors): If after you do 'submit to LO' (LO means Liasion Officer) corrections are needed, notify Evan Risko. Please put the student's last name and `NSERC' in the subject line of the email message. Evan will login to the NSERC site to the 'drop down action' and do 'return' and 'save' to give you access again to Form 202 Part 2. Evan will notify you when the access coding is complete. You then login to Form 202 Part 2 to make the corrections, and repeat the 'verify' and 'submit to LO' steps for Form 202 Part 2. When finished, reply immediately to Evan Risko to confirm that the corrections and verification are complete.

Corrections to Form 202 Part 1 (instructions for students): If corrections are required to Form 202 Part 1 after Form 202 Part 2 has been submitted, contact Evan Risko regarding the problem. Put your last name and 'NSERC' in the subject line of the email message. Evan will login to the NSERC site to the 'drop down action' and do 'return' and 'save' to give you access again to Form 202 Part 1. Evan will notify you when the access coding is complete. Then login to Form 202 Part 1 to make the corrections (upload again your grades), and go to My Portfolio and select 'verify'. When finished, reply immediately to Evan to confirm that the corrections and verification are complete. You must then notify the potential research supervisor that he/she must login to My Portfolio as soon as possible to repeat the 'verify' and 'submit to LO' for Form 202 Part 2.

Email Evan Risko the following information

Research supervisors must email the following information to Evan Risko. Make the subject line e.g., Jones - NSERC supplementary information.

  1. student's full name
  2. If the applicant plans to take a course (maximum .5 units allowed) during the USRA term you must confirm whether or not he/she has your permission to do so and that the course will not interfere with applicant's work obligations. See eligibility criteria for further details.
  3. confirmation of the amount of financial supplement that you will give the individual per month if he/she receives a USRA (must be at least $500.00 per month).

Requests for approval of a reduced award

Go to Scholarship for the USRA term for details and consult Evan Risko.

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USRA nominations submitted to the Faculty of Arts

Evan Risko will confirm that all documents have been received. He will submit a rank ordered list of nominees for the USRA and the waiting list name(s) for the USRA, including names of the potential research supervisor for each individual, to the Faculty of Arts. A representative from the Faculty of Arts will review the nominations and forward the final nominations to the Office of Research.”

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Final selection and notification of USRA decisions

The Office of Research will review the applications, verify eligibility, and contact the successful candidates. They will also notify Evan Risko and the research supervisors of the decisions.

If you are offered a USRA (check your email frequently), please accept or decline the offer as soon as possible in case your decision affects the status of another applicant (e.g., someone on the waiting list for an award) or rankings for co-op positions in the case of a student in the co-op system of study.

There is no guarantee that those on the waiting list for a USRA will receive an award.

Warnings to those in the co-op system of study who are applying for a USRA

  • If you have already been matched with a co-op position at the time that you are offered a USRA, you cannot turn down the co-op position in favour of the USRA. If you were to do so, you would receive a 'failed grade' for your Work Term. You have two choices:
    a) decline the offer for the USRA.
    b) if you are interested in deferring the USRA to the next Work Term (Winter 2017), consult with Evan Risko regarding whether or not this is possible. Requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • If you have not been matched yet with a co-op position at the time that you are offered a USRA, accept the USRA offer and contact the appropriate Faculty Relations Manager in the Co-operative Education and Career Action Department (CECA) immediately to inform him/her of your decision. 

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Payroll information for the USRA term

NSERC USRA payment

Office of Research will provide the Student Awards and Financial Aid Office with your name, identification number, and the value/type of award that you are receiving. The full value of the USRA ($4500.00) will be paid to your uWaterloo student financial account through Quest in one lump sum the second week of the second month of the USRA term. A cheque will be sent to your home address shortly thereafter if you do not have any fees owing to the University. If you owe fees to the University, those fees will be paid first and then the remaining balance will be sent to you by cheque.

If you need funds for living expenses (e.g., rent) until the USRA payment is received, see details regarding emergency loans from the Student Awards and Financial Aid Office.

Payment of the financial supplement for the USRA term

Evan Risko will provide Janice da Silva (Administrative Officer, Department of Psychology) with the list of USRA recipients, the names of their corresponding supervisors, and the amount of financial supplement that each individual will be receiving. Those receiving a USRA must meet with Janice (Location: PAS 3019) the first week of the USRA term to sign the appropriate paperwork for payroll to initiate payment of the financial supplement.

The supplement will be paid monthly. 

Reminders for Janice:

A Temporary Authorization Form is required to initiate payment of the financial supplement from the research supervisor. When the form is completed, send the original to Payroll and a photocopy to Sarindra Andrianasolo (Office of Research).

In the case of (Undergraduate Research Intern (URI) funding, Danijela Vukancic (ext. 31808) in the Co-op Education and Career Action Department will provide you with the appropriate Temporary Authorization Form etc. When completed, send the originals to Danijela who will sign and forward the paperwork to Payroll. Please also send a copy of the forms to Sarindra Andrianasolo (Office of Research).

In either case, please include on the paperwork the statement "this is a scholarship and not salary, therefore benefits are not applicable."

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Summary of the deadlines for the USRA competition

The application deadlines are firm. However, the Department of Psychology reserves the right to extend the application deadlines and/or the deadline for making the nomination decisions.

Friday, February 22nd (stage 1):

  • complete and submit NSERC Form 202 Part 1 online.
  • Submit the Department of Psychology supplementary information for the NSERC USRA application

Friday, March 1st (stage 2): Evan Risko forwards the departmental application forms and students' grades to the potential research supervisors for evaluation.

Friday, March 8th (stage 2): Potential research supervisors rank the USRA applications and notify Evan Risko of their ranking decisions as well as the amount of financial supplement they are willing to pay the USRA recipient.

Friday, March 15th (stage 3):

  • (stage 3) Evan Risko ranks the applications and notifies applicants and faculty members of decisions by email.
  • USRA applicants must submit official transcripts from post-secondary institutions attended other than uWaterloo to Evan Risko (if applicable).

Friday, March 22nd (stage 4): Documentation required from the potential research supervisors for applicants invited to stage 4 of the application process.

Monday, March 29th: Evan Risko will submit the nominations for the USRA to the Faculty of Arts for review.

The Faculty of Arts will confirm whether or not the Psychology USRA applications can go forward to the Office of Research for processing. The Office of Research will notify the USRA nominees and their potential research supervisors whether or not the applications have been approved and the deadline for accepting or declining the award.

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Reminders to USRA holders

Ethics clearance and training required for all USRA holders

Meet with Janice Da Silva (location: PAS 3019) the first week of the USRA term to sign the appropriate paperwork for payroll.


Contacts in the Department of Psychology for the USRA

Evan Risko
Department of Psychology, NSERC USRA Coordinator
Location: PAS 4010
Mailbox: PAS 3021A
Email: efrisko@uwaterloo.ca
FAX: 519-746-8631

If Evan is not available, contact Sam Vandekerckhove
Location: PAS 3007
Email: srvandek@uwaterloo.ca
Phone: 519-888-4567 x 37190


Report broken links to Sam Vandekerckhove.

Last updated: December 14, 2017

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