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The NSERC USRA is the Undergraduate Student Research Award, which provides support to undergraduate students to perform research during the summer under the supervision of a faculty member. This prestigious award enables undergraduate students to spend the summer months (16 weeks) working with a research group. If you are interested in spending the summer of 2022 with McMaster University we invite you to apply through our Department of Engineering Physics. 

How to Apply

How To Apply

Students should meet with potential supervisors to ensure mutual interest prior to submitting an application to the department. Information about the award can be found at the NSERC website. The application deadline is Friday, February 4, 2022.We are currenty updating the list of projects currently available for summer students, found on the next tab, but you may reach out to a potential supervisor on your own.

To apply for these awards, you must complete and submit your application using NSERC’s On-line system and email the completed application and unofficial transcript to the department to which your faculty supervisor belongs. If you are working with a supervisor from Eng Phys please email  Nicole Macdonald ( The unofficial transcripts need to be attached to the online application. Please follow the link on how to retrieve a PDF version of your unofficial transcript.*new this year*).


APPLICATION PROCESS: The departmental deadline for students submitting NSERC USRA applications is Friday, February 4, 2022.

  1. Find a supervisor that you are interested in working with.
  2. Complete Online Application at
    Form 202, Part I – is to be completed by you, Form 202, Part II – is to be completed by your supervisor (please provide them with the blank form)

    ** Please Note: You are responsible for working with the supervisor to ensure completion of your online application and for submitting both pieces to the department on time.

  3. Retrieve a PDF version of your unofficial transcript.*new this year*).

  4. Email the completed application and unofficial transcript to the department to which your faculty supervisor belongs. (i.e. if your supervisor is from Mechanical Engineering then you will submit your application to that department) NOTE: Your application is not complete until you have submitted it to the department - the online application is only part of the process. Reminder the deadline is February 4, 2022.

    ***If you are selected for an NSERC USRA, you may later be asked to submit an official paper transcript.

    All Completed applications should be emailed to Nicole Macdonald (

The link to NSERC's website for on-line application instructions and other important information can be found here.

Updates will be available soon on when offers to students will be sent out along with the with an acceptance deadline that will allow us to make subsequent offers to students on the reserve list in time for the final deadline from the McMaster University Research Office for Administration, Development and Support (ROADS).

Kindly note:

  • These awards have a value of $8,000 for a full 16-week period. (given the minimum wage of $14.25 per hour in Ontario).
  • Institutions are required to supplement the amount of the award by at least 25% of its value using other sources, such as university funds, NSERC grants or any other research funds; institutions may also provide fringe benefits. Therefore, students will be paid as follows: NSERC contribution of $ 6,000 plus $2,000 minimum paid by the faculty supervisor (representing the 25% minimum contribution from the University).
  • NSERC’s contribution is paid directly to the host institution.


Project Descriptions

Photonic devices for optical satellite communications

Supervisor: Dr. Chang-qing Xu,  

Description: Optical satellite communication is a hot research topic around the world. To achieve practical optical satellite communication with high speed and high security, special light sources are required. In this project, the student will work with graduate students and assist on literature research, design/simulation, and test of some light sources such as mid-IR lasers and quantum pair generators.

Requirements: 3rd or 4th year student who is motivated, has solid background knowledge on photonics and is interested in laser related research.

Biophotonics Lab Summer Research

Supervisor: Dr. Qiyin Fang,  


There are a few summer undergraduate research positions available in the Biophotonics Lab, which is located in the newly renovated ABB photonics facility as well as in the McMaster Smart Home for Aging-in-Place (SHAPE) in Westdale. The students will be responsible to build and calibrate different experimental systems including

  • ultrafast laser micromachining and additive manufacturing,
  • fluorescence microscopy,
  • endoscopic imaging,
  • optofluidic sensing,
  • Smart Home sensor networks.

Each of these projects may have different requirements which are outlined in the project descriptions.  These positions are eligible as Co-op placement and flexible working hours (e.g., for those taking summer classes) can be arranged.  The candidates are encouraged to apply to internal/external summer research awards such as the NSERC USRA, Dean’s Undergraduate Summer Research Award, as well as Work-Study (OSAP eligibility applies).  

These projects may be extended to the following academic year as an undergraduate thesis project (non-engineering), capstone, research inquire course project, or a part-time work-study position.

Hands on experience in at least one programing language (e.g., C/C++, Python, C#, etc.) and high-level computation packages such as MATLAB is highly desired.  Course background in optics and optical instrumentation is a plus. 

Detailed project descriptions can be found at

Safety and Security of Radioactive Waste Management

Supervisor: Dr. Shinya Nagasaki,

In Canada, New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan and most recently, Alberta (heretofore a “non-nuclear” province) have considered adding new nuclear capacity to their energy mix and are interested in building small modular reactors (SMR). However, for any nuclear energy policy decision to be taken by the government and utilities, a plan for used nuclear fuel management and disposal is essential. As of November 2021, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is engaging with municipalities and indigenous communities in two potential siting areas: near the Township of Ignace in northwestern Ontario and the Municipality of South Bruce in southern Ontario. The selection of a site to host a deep geological repository (DGR) will only be possible by building mutual trust between the NWMO and the stakeholders in the communities. This is achieved through technically reliable safety assessment including site evaluations, social engagement to build confidence in safety, and assessments of the potential to build supportive and resilient partnerships. 

In the NSERC USRA Project, the following tasks will be conducted. 

  • The result of safety assessment of used nuclear fuel disposal is critically dependent on the sorption behaviour of radionuclides dominating the long-term radiological risks. The sorption behaviours of key radionuclides (or chemical analogue elements) on Canadian sedimentary and/or crystalline rock will be studied experimentally, the physicochemical sorption models will be applied, and the sorption mechanisms of the radionuclides will be elucidated. 
  • The sorption of radionuclides is the atomic scale phenomenon that can not be measured by conventional experimental methods like spectroscopy. Hence, the sorption behaviour will be examined by quantum chemical simulations such as Density Functional Theory and Molecular Dynamics Simulation. 
  • Canada is taking the initiative of SMR deployment. To obtain public acceptance for SMR deployment, we have to make clear the safety and security of the radioactive waste management strategy of SMR. By mathematical programming, the optimum deployment of SMR and the best energy mix in Ontario etc. will be elucidated and the inventory of used nuclear fuel generated by SMR will be quantified. 

Growth and characterization of semiconductor nanostructures

Supervisor: Dr. Ryan Lewis,


My research program is developing new approaches to semiconductor nanofabrication, where surface, strain, quantum and geometry effects are employed to control the synthesis and properties of semiconductor nanostructures and devices. The goal of this work is to realize next generation nanotechnologies for quantum information/communications, optical data communication and biosensing applications. We explore the self-assembly of group III-V semiconductor quantum dots and nanowires using molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) and metalorganic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD), and the integration of these nanostructures with other technologies (e.g., Si photonics and microelectronics).


3rd or 4th year student who is curious, hands-on and motivated.

New materials for biosensing

Supervisor: Dr. Leyla Soleymani

Description: Our lab is focused on developing biosensors for managing disease and monitoring health. These devices, similar to the blood glucose monitor, require innovation in advanced materials for improved sensitivity, specificity, and speed for use with real-life specimens. We are currently working with health scientists and clinicians on developing biosensors for diagnosing infectious disease and monitoring cancer.

We are looking for a diverse group of undergraduates to collaborate with graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to develop new materials for biosensing. The undergraduate students get the opportunity to train on cutting-edge experimental techniques, work on industry-relevant projects, and collaborate within a multi-disciplinary and supporting team. We encourage entrepreneurship and will also support undergraduates to develop their own innovative ideas. We are specifically looking for undergraduate students to work on the following materials-focused projects.

  1. Self-propelling nanoparticles as “nanorobots” for enhancing biosensor speed
  2. Electrochemiluminescent nanoparticles for visual signal generation in electrical biosenors
  3. Edible nanoparticles as green and sustainable materials for reducing bio-fouling on surfaces

Magnetic core-shell nanoparticles for optical isolation in photonic networks

Supervisor: Dr. Ayse Turak (


The world's appetite for data is growing exponentially, driven by Internet applications such as social networks and streaming media and newly emerging "Internet of Things" applications, including smart homes and offices. But this increased data use comes at a steep energy and time cost, driven by the need to charge and discharge electrons to move data, and to cool those systems to keep them running effectively. Photonics-based electronics, which rely on light use less energy and can transmit data faster than conventional approaches, but the costs and scalability of manufacturing silicon integrated circuits with embedded photonic elements have held back progress in recent years. One of the key missing components is an embedded on-chip optical isolator, which can prevent back-reflections that lead to noise and instability in photonics circuits. Optical isolators only allow light to propagate in one direction, taking advantage of light polarization through the manipulation of a magnetic field. In the proposed project, the student will develop and test Au-FeOx core-shell magnetic nanoparticles using the reverse micelle deposition (RMD) technique to incorporate into silicon waveguide to act as optical isolators. RMD is a solution based approach that allows for cheap and simple incorporation of complex nanoparticles as part of a Si integrated light circuit. Both the intrinsic magnetic properties of the nanoparticles and their effectiveness as an optical isolator will be assessed. The Faraday rotation due to the particles will be determined, and the impact on light propagation as part of pre-etched waveguides will be determined. The student will be responsible for determining the recipe for nanoparticles with optimized magnetic and Faraday rotation properties. They will use AFM, SEM, XRD and XPS to confirm the formation of single crystal nanoparticles, and SQUID and ellipsometry to determine the magnetic and optical properties. Previous experience with ellipsometry a bonus.  

Nanomechanical properties of micelles as a universal route to understanding nanoparticle formation

Supervisor: Dr. Ayse Turak (


Nanoparticles have been found to have an increasingly wide range of applications including drug delivery systems, chemical sensors, biomolecule sensors, single electron devices, catalysis, Li-ion batteries, and solar cells. A variety of methods have been used to produce nanoparticles, but one widely used approach is the application of reverse micelle nanoreactors whereby block co-polymers are used to encapsulate precursor salts and serve as a "nano-beaker" to allow for reactions in solution. The nanoreactor approach is particularly useful as parameters can be tuned to create a nanoparticle array with specific nanoparticle size and order on the substrate. As nanoparticle formation can be a multi-step process, some compositions have proven difficult to make within the reverse micelle nanoreactor. To fully understand the nanoparticle formation process, we developed a method to probe the internal structure of the reverse micelle, based on the quantitative mechanical mapping (QNM) mode for atomic force microscopy (AFM). This approach uses the change in the Young's modulus with salt incorporation as a quantitative stand-in metric for the resultant particle size and composition. This project will focus on confirming the universality of the QNM approach to tracking nanoparticle size and composition, by extending it to include different salts, different polymers and different loading conditions. This will enhancing the existing working theoretical description of the process. The student will be expected to produce micelles with different polymers and different salt loadings, and test them with QNM-AFM and SEM to correlate the mechanical properties with the structure of the micelles, as well as XPS to confirm the composition of the nanoparticles. They will also perform some theoretical modelling of the mechanical properties of polymers to explain the results.

Nitride nanoparticles for battery electrode optimization

Supervisor: Dr. Ayse Turak (


Developing advanced battery and energy storage devices is necessary to meet the increasing need for energy storage systems with high power capacities promoted by the rapid development of transportation and grid applications. In the proposed project, the student will use the reverse micelle deposition technique with in-situ transformation to produce mixed metal nitride nanoparticles from solution approaches to act as catalysts in batteries. Using stoichiometeries, reactants and nitration approaches determined from the literature, a recipe for nano particles will be produced. Once produced, the nanoparticles will be incorporated into an electrochemistry set-up and coin battery to measure the overpotential and incorporate into a rechargeable air battery as a proof of concept. The student will be responsible for producing the nanoparticles, and setting up the battery cell for testing. 

High Efficiency Solar Cells

The positions are filled for Summer 2022.


Supervisor: Dr. Rafael Kleiman,  

Description: My group works on the development of solar cells and systems that achieve high energy conversion efficiency to support and accelerate the roll-out of renewable energy technologies to help mitigate climate change impacts.  The key elements of our work in this area are to

  • develop new device architectures through optical and semiconductor modeling
  • develop new systems for optical concentration and tracking
  • grow single-crystal III-V-based solar cells in the Centre for Emerging Device Technologies (CEDT) at McMaster
  • fabricate silicon solar cells and silicon-based multijunction solar cells
  • develop new characterization methods to understand the fundamental properties of semiconductors that are relevant for solar cell performance
  • characterize semiconductor materials to evaluate and improve their performance for solar cell applications
  • test cells and systems under standard operating conditions in the lab
  • test cells and systems in natural conditions with the new Solar Test Facility on the roof of the Hatch Building
  • develop in-line monitoring techniques for use throughout the cell manufacturing process

We are interested in cells that are assembled into flat modules for deployment under 1-sun conditions, in cells for concentrator systems with high concentration (300-3000X), and in cells/systems for intermediate concentration levels (5-200X).

Requirements: Engineering Physics students who will be entering their last or next-to-last year of their program.  Familiarity with computer programming and instrument interfacing is an asset, but not a requirement to apply for the position.