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NSERC USRA: Does cgpa include first degree?


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Hi.  I have a poor 1st degree cgpa, but am doing well in my second degree.  I have never done research before, but would like to try it.

1) When considering the cgpa of the applicants, does the research institution/program (i.e. for usra) usually consider the cgpa of both degrees or just the 2nd degree?

2) How difficult is it to get a research position in biology if one is not undergoing a typical biology/chemistry/etc. program and does not have lab experience?

3) When emailing researchers about opportunities, does one need to come up with their own research topics or would the researcher help with this?

4) Is it acceptable to ask professors from different universities and make multiple applications for better chances or would this be frowned upon?

Thanks so much!

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1) On the the website, it says to "include only current and past postsecondary programs" meaning you will have to submit your transcript for both degrees. Though no one really knows the weight they put on your previous degree... you'd have to contact them if it's really a source of anxiety for you. However, don't let your past performance stop you from applying; not everyone join their 'dreamed' program on the first application, and if anything, I'd say that your background is quite respectable as you got back on track and didn't let your past 'failures' stop you. (https://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/OnlineServices-ServicesEnLigne/instructions/202/USRA-BRPC_eng.asp)

2) It's... difficult. But again, don't let that stop you if you have a goal in mind. Every researcher out there started with little to no experience; and experience is gained with an internship. I don't know what you mean by "not undergoing a typical biology/chemistry/etc. program" but as long as you've taken some classes on the topic you want to research, perfected your CV, emailed and met many researchers, got over refusals, with motivation, ambition, patience, you can find the right mentor who's willing to take you in his/her lab.

3) When exchanging the first email, it's best to simply introduce yourself, your motivations, plug in your CV and ask for a meeting. Only when you know the researchers has an open position for an intern, then you can broach the topic of the research project. Some researchers already have a lot of projects going on and can't afford to start a new one, whereas others can be open to new ideas. You'll have to ask them about their lab situation. However, if they're open to start a new project, don't feel pressured to accept the proposal. Keep in mind it's your first internship in a lab; most of your time, you'll spend it learning. But if there's a specific topic related to the researcher's lab work that you're burningly passionate about, then maybe you can give a try to a new project of your own.

4) You can't apply to the USRA more than once, so no. Meet as many researchers as you want (a lot) to at least secure an internship in case you don't have the scholarship, but apply to NSERC with the one who has a project for you that speaks the most to you and with whom you feel a good chemistry and appreciate the work ethic (very important).

Hope it helps! I got the USRA, did a few internships, met several researchers, etc.; ask away if anything isn't clear. Best of luck!

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9 hours ago, MK. said:

Totally! It's never inappropriate to approach a researcher for an internship/shadowing if you're genuinely interested by their work or the field, even if you have no whatsoever relation with them (out of the dozen PIs I approached, only one was my teacher once, and some weren't even teachers in my uni)!

Thanks for the reply.  To clarify a bit, you don't think there would there be a conflict of interest since I am trying to get him to be my supervisor while at the same time, he will be marking my exams and assignments?  There is also a possibility that I would end up not doing well in his course...

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There could always be conflict of interest, but that's beyond your control; it'd be on the teacher. But researchers and teachers are well educated on the matter. They know the risks and, for the most part, remain neutral towards their students-interns. Plus, it would not benefit them to have an intern who doesn't master well the research topic as taught in class, so it wouldn't benefit them in any way to, let's say, increase your grades.

As for you not doing well in their class, that's a risk for you to take. But instead of looking at your situation with pessimistic eyes, use that as a motivation motor to work hard on that class, master the subject, and do well. It can only help you whether or not you get the internship ! Always aim for the best of yourself, and turn situations at your advantage~

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