Undergraduate students contribute to research in our many outstanding research groups at Smith Engineering, either full time during the summer or part time during the semester. You can do undergraduate research at any point, but it is more typical for third and fourth year students. As an undergraduate researcher assistant you get paid for your work or you can conduct the research as an undergraduate research thesis for credit. You will get trained in the research tasks by their faculty supervisor and/or the graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the research group. Examples include assisting with experiments, field work, collaborating with industry, data collection and analysis, writing code, running simulations or developing models. 


Why conduct research as an undergraduate?

  • It's exciting! Play a small part in solving the world's pressing challenges such as reducing green house gas emissions or protecting our water resources. Help to advance the state of the art, develop better models, new device prototypes, or entirely new capabilities.
  • Many undergraduate research assistants learn to use advanced equipment, software and techniques in high demand by employers.
  • It's a great way to find out if research and graduate school is right for you.
  • Undergraduate research experiences give you a significant advantage when applying later for graduate school lor for research-oriented positions in industry.
  • Some departments  offer an accelerated "4+1" Master's program: 4+1 students obtain a Master in Applied Science degree after just one year of graduate studies by starting a research project during their undergraduate degree, often in the summer after their third year. 4+1 Accelerated Master degrees are currently offered in Electrical and Computer Engineering as well as Mechanical and Materials Engineering. Contact those department's graduate assistant for details. 

How does it work? 

  1. All undergraduate research projects require a faculty supervisor.Therefore, the first step is to identify professors who conduct research that you find interesting -- see the next section. Research poster sessions are also great opportunities to find out about interesting research projects.  
  2. Next, talk to these faculty members to let them know that you are interested in conducting research under their supervision, e.g., after class or during office hours. You can also send a faculty member an email to express your interest in undergraduate research and to find out if they have funding and time to supervise you. Check out the 2023 Queen's undergraduate research guide with tips for writing such emails.
  3. There are quite a few funding programs, see below. For some programs like SWEP, the faculty members post undergraduate reseach positions that you can apply for. Other programs like USRAs are a good opportunity to approach faculty members 4-8 weeks before the deadline. 

Feel free to email Vera (vmk@queensu.ca) if you have questions about undergraduate research.


Research at Smith Engineering

Our researchers are dedicated to discovering forward-thinking solutions for the challenges of our rapidly changing world.  


Funding programs for undergraduate research

  • NSERC USRA: The USRA program requires a faculty supervisor to provide part of the student’s salary, so talk to professors you would like to work with. Only Canadian citizens, permanent residents or protected persons under subsection 95(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (Canada) can apply for an NSERC USRA. Each department at Queen’s is given a certain number of USRAs each year and each department sets their own internal deadline, usually in February or early March.
  • Queen's has an undergraduate research program called USSRF, but for the five Smith Engineering departments, the USSRF recipients are picked from the applicants to the USRA program.
  • Charles Allan Thompson Research Award: similar to an NSERC USRA, but international students are eligible and will have higher priority since they are not eligible for the USRA program. The deadline is typically in early March.
  • Queen’s Summer Work Experience Program: faculty members sometimes fund research projects for undergraduate students through SWEP, so check the list of SWEP positions for next summer, which will be posted on December 15, 2023, with an application deadline of February 13, 2024. 
  • Women in Engineering Summer Research Grants: these are smaller grants, one per undergraduate program. Information will be distributed through the departments closer to summer or email Heidi Ploeg, the Queen’s Chair for Women in Engineering.
  • Queen’s STEMInA undergraduate research program: a new pilot initiative this year for Indigenous students who are interested in research.
  • Cross-Disciplinary Internship Program | Arthur B. McDonald Institute: this program is specifically for students not enrolled in Physics or Engineering Physics programs. Next deadline: January 19, 2024. 
  • Some faculty members have included a budget for undergraduate research projects in their grant applications and will not require co-funding from one of the programs listed above


  • Stay tuned - we are planning an event about undergraduate research for February 2024!
  • The Canadian Undergraduate Conference on Healthcare (CUCOH) will be held in January 2024 at Queen's University and hosted virtually. As a conference focused on health-related innovation, CUCOH is proud to offer a Research Competition that showcases the efforts of undergraduate researchers across Canada.