Jan. 3, 2024

Looking back on a year of exceptional undergraduate research experiences

In 2023, students researched everything from natural dyes to AI detection tools during summer studentships
Students smiling inside the Taylor Institute at the annual Celebration of Achievement for undergraduate research.
Students mingle at the annual Celebration of Achievement for undergraduate research at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning. Mike Tan

Part of the UCalgary student experience is learning about incredible research from far and wide. But doing your own research in an area that interests you and has a real impact on the world? That’s priceless.

It’s the experience hundreds of bright and curious undergrads have each summer as they embark on a new kind of academic adventure with the guidance of UCalgary researchers. Through summer studentship awards like the Program for Undergraduate Research (PURE), Alberta Innovates Summer Research Studentships (SRS), and the Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA), students are awarded up to $7,500 to dive into a research project that interests them and gives them employable skills along the way.

“Participating in a summer research project really opened my eyes to the unique steps involved in conducting research and I now feel more qualified and excited for future opportunities within my research field.”

- Sophie-Jayne Morgan, a kinesiology student who was awarded an Alberta Innovates summer studentship in 2023

In 2023, over 350 students were awarded more than $3.5 million in awards to research a huge variety of topics that sparked their interests. From bringing Shakespeare’s plays to the big screen, to the minutiae of AI coding, the experience sees students contributing in real ways to research at UCalgary and beyond.

Anastasha Nebres is an engineering student who was awarded an USRA summer studentship to do research at the Laboratory for Turbulence Research in Aerodynamics and Flow Control.

“I had the opportunity to actively apply the knowledge gained in my coursework to a field I’m eager to build a career in, equipping me with practical skills and real-world insights,” she says.

A student and a mentor work together on a mechanical piece of equipment in a lab.

Anastasha Nebres conducted research in the Laboratory for Turbulence Research in Aerodynamics and Flow Control during the summer of 2023.

Courtesy Anastasha Nebres

Many students' projects spanned disciplines and allowed exploration of technology regardless of their program of study, such as Werklund student Sarah Sbeiti's research.

“My research experience this summer has been an incredible opportunity that allowed me to learn about technology integration in support of wellness for neurodiverse students,” she says.

The past year also saw a renewed emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion for undergraduate research experiences.

New opportunities were introduced for Black students to participate in USRA summer studentships through funding by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). The Natural Sciences and Research Council (NSERC) announced additional federal funding to support projects from Black and Indigenous students.

Additionally, in 2024, a new $500,000 gift from Cenovus will increase research opportunities for equity-deserving students at UCalgary. The Cenovus PURE EDI Program will create up to 325 new summer studentship research experiences for LGBTQ2S+, Black, Indigenous and other deserving students over the next five years.

Looking back at a year of undergraduate research discovery, creativity, and innovation, the biggest impact is on the personal growth of the students themselves.

“Doing summer research has, for the first time, given me a vision for my future research goals, education, and career, and the tools to help me get there,” says Lila Webb, a PURE student from the Faculty of Arts.

Watch the video to hear more students on their undergraduate research experiences.

Applications are now open for 2024 undergraduate research summer studentships. Students can apply with one application to be considered for 15 different awards. There are opportunities for students in every faculty and every stage of their degree program with specific funding for Black, Indigenous and other equity-deserving groups.

Visit ucalgary.ca/summer-studentships for more information on the application process.

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