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Opportunities for undergraduate research

[Former USSRF recipient Karen Law of fine art and concurrent education]
Former USSRF recipient Karen Law of fine art and concurrent education with her project “The Historical Photographic Documentation of the Chinese Diaspora in Canada.” (Supplied Photo)

For undergraduates looking to learn more about the research process, the Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowships (USSRF) provide a unique opportunity to acquire industry-ready 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 USSRF program was established in 2011 to provide students with meaningful opportunities to engage in discovery-based learning and to develop research and presentation skills.

In 2019, a minimum of 19 fellowships of $6,000 each will be awarded, including funding for two projects at the Bader International Study Centre (BISC) in England. Applications are currently being accepted by University Research Services.

Bibi Imre-Millei is an undergraduate student in political studies and received a fellowship last year for her project “Droning Discourse: Remotely Piloted Systems and Masculine Protector State.”

"One of the things I enjoyed most about the USSRF is that it allowed me to build professional networks in academia,” she says. “The opportunity to be mentored while doing independent research was very exciting and unique to me. USSRF has opened so many doors for me, in that it has allowed me to build practical and necessary skills, while gaining meaningful connections with others in my field.”

Mentorship is another important component of the program. It readies students for the kind of supervisory relationship they can expect in graduate school and helps faculty members encourage students to pursue advanced research opportunities.

Karen Law was also a recipient last year while studying fine art and concurrent education. Her project, entitled “The Historical Photographic Documentation of the Chinese Diaspora in Canada,” used art-based research to explore contemporary issues of immigration and inclusion in Canada.

“My summer spent between the library and the studio allowed me to gain confidence in art research, which has propelled me into my fourth-year thesis,” she says. “The guidance of my supervisor, Dr. Joan Schwartz, was essential to the project because I was able to gain new research insights during our meetings, and she was able to help push my ideas further than I anticipated.”

While a rewarding experience for students, it also is rewarding for faculty supervisors as they guide undergraduates through their first research projects, including the non-linear road that research often takes.

“The USSRF is an invaluable opportunity for undergraduates to experience the excitement, joys, impact, frustrations, and disappointments of real research,” says Dr. Schwartz (Art History and Art Conservation). “Students learn the intellectual resilience, persistence, and sleuthing skills needed to ferret out information from unlikely sources, go down rabbit-holes and come back out unscathed, careen headlong into dead-ends and not get discouraged, and ultimately feel a sense of triumph, if not in success, then in lessons learned through a thorough search, well done.”

The application deadline for the 2019 USSRF program is March 1, at 4 pm.

Information on the program and how to apply can be found on the USSRF website.

For further enquiries, contact Traci Allen, Research Program Coordinator, University Research Services.