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NSERC first time. 2nd year. Research

  1. Dec 30, 2011 #1
    Hi everyone, I need a bit of guidance. I am Canadian (in case you cannot tell from title) and I am a second year student, a math/physics student. I would like to participate in math research in the summer.

    Here are my problems.

    1. I go to a very very small university, with only a handful of profs (say 10 profs at most and most of them are on holidays, including my program advisor) and I need a supervisor. I've asked around and it seemed that USRA are very rare as that only 3rd years + are favored over everyone. While I have been getting As in all my math classes, I am not sure if they are looking for quantity or quality of classes. I should also note that my average for this term is close to 85% (first year had a 80%, but I was ill for some time, missed a few lectures and first term suffered. I made comeback with second term)

    2. Since there are only small handful of profs in my university and not being a 3rd year is really disadvantage. I am looking to do research in another university. The thing, I don't know HOW to ask profs from other provinces. I hear profs get generally at least 10 emails about research everyday and while I want to talk in person, I simply cannot. I thought of including a CV and briefly in the email talk about my interest in their research (I am not sure if they even care), but I arrived at the problem of a "empty" CV. Looking at my prof's CV, mine is completely empty. I have so little to put that I am afraid adding it will hurt my chances.

    3. The other day I called and emailed NSERC about my application on transcripts, it has been over two weeks and they never responded or "i am not sure" (should I mention they even charged me for a long distance call!) Does anyone know what transcripts they want? I am referring to Form 202 I.

    Are there any additional advice you could give me? I'll clarify if needed, thank you to you all. I'll try to get back in as often, because I don't have Internet for a 3 weeks and I have use the library.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 31, 2011 #2


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    1) If you know which professors at your university may have USRAs to give out, try talking with them. They have some say in who they prefer for the awards (at least, that's the way it went when I applied), so if you can convince them you could do some good work, they may put in a good word for you during the selection process. I admit, it is hard to do anything theoretical when you're only a second year, but you can try and at least get some advice. Alternatively, you could possibly volunteer to do research during the summer. You probably won't get paid and it's not as impressive as a USRA, but it's research if you can't get anything else.

    2) A professor typically has more than a decade of experience more than you, so their CV will of course have much more material in it than yours! Rather than include a formal CV, you could perhaps introduce yourself and give a bit of background, mention that you would like to apply for a USRA and talk about why you would be interested in doing research with them in the summer. You want to demonstrate that you are interested in their work and would be able to accomplish something (hopefully).

    3) They want your undergraduate transcript so far. Also, I have to say, I find it very annoying how "long distance" in Canada isn't actually long at all! I've been spoiled by the US, where I can call anywhere in the US and it's just a "local" call. I wish Canadian telephone companies would let people call anywhere in Canada and consider it a local call!
  4. Jan 3, 2012 #3
    1) If I don't get an USRA at my university and my prof decides to offer me a position (not with NSRRC) and I may or may not get paid, is it a good idea to take it? Would it be something I could put on my resume in the future? I guess I need to find a supervisor first before worrying about the cut.

    2) A lot of profs seem to want a certain skill (like knowledge) before asking them. For instance, one prof I looked up says he wants the student to have knowledge of ODE. On paper, I don't have this, but I have studied it before myself and I very familiar with it. If I give/sent out my 1st year transcripts (which my ODE won't be on it), will this raise suspicions? How do I even convince him that I know something, but it isn't on paper?

    Thank you for your advice.
  5. Jan 3, 2012 #4


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    If you have no other offers and can afford to do volunteer research over the summer you should do it, unless you have a good reason not to. If you have an offer from another university and you can afford it, have a USRA from NSERC always looks good on an application. There are some pros and cons: if you stay at your home university, you may be able to continue volunteering part-time during the fall semesters, which may help lead to some papers, which you wouldn't be able to do working with a prof at a different university. On the other hand, if you have an offer from a professor at a university you might one day want to apply to for grad school, it may help for them to know you there.

    2) Usually you have to submit more than just your transcripts. Usually there is some sort of statement of research interest involved in which you could mention that you have self-studied ODEs, for example. When you contact a professor directly to discuss things (before you submit your application stating you would be interested in working with them), you can always mention you have studied these things on your own but have not yet taken a formal course in them. They may take you at your word, or test you to see what level you are at, or not bother and hire someone that they know has taken the course and received a good grade it in because it's more of a guarantee. If they don't hire you because you lack a certain skill-set, oh well. It's disappointing, but you can always try again next year.
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