Gaining undergraduate research experience

The Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowships (USSRF) application period is open until March 2, 2020. 

USSRF recipient Clare Simon takes a moment in front of her 2019 poster presentation with her faculty supervisor Dr. Lisa Pasolli.

USSRF recipient Clare Simon takes a moment in front of her 2019 poster presentation with her faculty supervisor Dr. Lisa Pasolli.

For undergraduate students looking to explore research, the Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowships (USSRF) provide a unique opportunity outside of regular coursework to acquire valuable skills and prepare for further education.

Fellowship recipients develop a research project in the social sciences, humanities, or creative arts over the course of the summer under the guidance of a faculty researcher. The program, sponsored by the Vice-Principal (Research) portfolio, was designed to provide students with meaningful opportunities to engage in discovery-based learning and to develop research and presentation skills. In 2020, a minimum of 19 fellowships of $6,000 each will be awarded, including funding for two projects at the Bader College in England.

Clare Simon is an undergraduate student in history who received a fellowship last year for her project “Not just somebody’s mother: University Campus Daycare Co-operatives in British Columbia and Ontario, 1960s to 1970s” under the supervision of Lisa Pasolli (History).

“The USSRF program helped me find the areas of research that I was really excited about and gave me vital experience that will help me in my future endeavours,” she says. “I learned a lot about how to formulate research questions, locate appropriate sources, write my own project, and I even got to travel with Dr. Pasolli to the University of Ottawa archives.”

In developing her project proposal, Simon and Dr. Pasolli, were able to build on Simon’s interest in public policy and gender to identify a project related to campus co-operatives.

Through the course of the summer, Simon learned that a research focus can evolve as you go through a research process and gather findings and data. Her project analyzed case studies from Simon Fraser University, University of Toronto, and Queen’s to situate the formation of daycare co-operatives within the context of contemporary ideologies such as the Women’s Liberation Movements. Her research led her to explore the history of university daycares and the recognition of the importance of childcare on university campuses.  

At the USSRF celebration this past fall, the 2019 recipients concluded their fellowship with a poster presentation of their projects. It was an opportunity to engage with the public, their supervisors, and other recipients on their research topic.

“It definitely made me feel more confident that I can hold my own in an intellectual environment and can participate in the expansion of knowledge,” Simon explains.

USSRF also allows undergraduate students to see a glimpse of what graduate research could be like. For Simon, it was a chance to explore a research topic and confirm her interest in pursuing a master’s degree. She was also able to leverage her project in her graduate applications, including using the written portion as a writing sample. Simon will pursue a closely related research project, shifted to focus on a British context, during her Master’s of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge.

The application deadline for the 2020 USSRF program is March 2, 2020. Information on the program and how to apply can be found on the USSRF website.

Note: This article originally appeared in the Queen's Gazette.