Undergraduate Student Research Awards

Working in the LCI Lab

One of the most valuable research experiences for an undergraduate student is to be a research assistant. Each year, the department receives a number of research awards that help provide funding for an undergrad student to spend 16 weeks over the summer working full time in one of the department’s research labs, often with the opportunity to publish their work. (See this page for previous projects and supervisors.) This kind of research experience is highly sought after by graduate programs. 

See the following links for details!

UBC Computer Science Site(link is external)

NSERC Site(link is external)

UBC Careers Site

Award Categories

Please see the pages linked below for important details, including eligbility:

NSERC USRA - NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award

SURE - Science Undergraduate Research Experience Award

WLIUR - Work Learn International Undergraduate Research Award

The positions are available to 2nd, 3rd, and 4th year students with strong academic records. More information, including eligibility requirements, can be found on the NSERC website and on the UBC Student Services website. Watch for in-class and email announcements from the department in January for more details and deadlines.

International students can also apply to participate in research!  There are two UBC programs open to international students that provide a subsidy to the researcher so that the cost to the grant is reduced. One is the Science Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) and the other is the International Work-Learn Undergraduate Research program

International students must have a valid Social Insurance Number and must be eligible to work on campus in the summer. For questions about eligibility, please speak with an International Student Advisor.

How to Apply

  1. Read the details above and the information at the links on this page
  2. Determine which awards you are eligible for
  3. Contact potential supervisors from the Projects and Supervisors list (see below) or by approaching Computer Science faculty members you would like to work with
  4. Once you have a confirmed supervisor, submit the online application webform by the deadline stated below (the webform will become available before the deadline)
    • Before submitting, please ensure that you have read over the online guidelines, eligibility requirements, and webform instructions carefully
    • Make sure to read all of the instruction text in the webform, there may be important details noted below each field

When the department is informed of how many awards are available, a departmental adjudication committee composed of three faculty members and one graduate student will rank the applications.

If you are selected for an award, you and your supervisor will then update your webform with additional details (these fields will become available at that point). 

Deadline: February 9, 2018

New Application Requirement: all applicants will be required to apply with a confirmed supervisor. The list of projects and supervisors will be posted on this page in January, and you can use this to approach any of the supervisors listed. Please see the UBC Careers page for some additional tips.

Try to create your own research opportunity! We encourage you to contact professors you would like to work with directly to find a match. Many professors will be happy to talk to you about the opportunity to hire students at a subsidized wage. 


  • Students can complete the online application (NSERC FORM 202) on the NSERC website by clicking "System Login" or, if you are a first-time user, "Register."
  • Instructions on how to complete the forms can be found on the NSERC USRA website

For further details, please visit the UBC Student Services website or the NSERC USRA website.

Projects and Supervisors: Summer 2018

Additional projects may be added, please watch this space for updates!

Cristina Conati

How to get in touch: please email Prof Conati and Dr. Lalle if interested, and we can set up a time to talk

Predicting relevant user states via eye-tracking in intelligent user interfaces

Supervisor: Prof. Cristina Conati   - conati@cs.ubc.ca

The overall goal of this project is to devise intelligent user interfaces that can track their users’ gaze and use it to infer user states ( (e.g., user attention level, confusion, engagement, cognitive abilities) relevant to automatically personalize the interaction.

EMDAT (Eye Movement Data Analysis Toolkit) is a python library being developed in our research laboratory for analyzing user eye gaze and pupil data in terms of a wide variety of features that can be leveraged for predicting user states. We are looking for a USRA who will help  further develop EMDAT by implementing and testing additional features and functionalities for processing user gaze and pupil information. The student may also be involved in applying EMDAT for the modeling of and the personalization to  users during specific interaction tasks. The student will work closely with PhD student Dereck Toker (dtoker@cs.ubc.ca) and Postdoctoral Fellow Sebastien Lalle (lalles@cs.ubc.ca).

Karon MacLean and Paul Bucci

Project 1: Haptic Database

Many force-feedback devices are proposed in the haptic (i.e., related to touch) literature. We are interested in collecting a list of these devices, extracting their properties, and establishing the links between these devices (e.g., ancestry links). This project has many aspects and can be broken down into a narrower project depending a research student's interests. For example, we need to analyze a large corpus of 25 years of haptic literature, some of which are scanned documents, which could be good for someone interested in either Natural Language Processing or literature review.

Project 2: Haptic Pen

A "haptic pen" is a device that acts like a combination of a stylus and a force-feedback device. It's a pen that you can push around—but it pushes back. We need someone to extend an already-existing haptic I/O library/API to control this pen such that it can simulate interaction forces with a virtual environment. Some knowledge of mechatronics, machine learning, and virtual haptic environments useful but certainly not necessary. C++ and Python needed.

Project 3: Low-DOF robot construction

The CuddleBits are low-DOF furry robots designed for emotional interaction. Students will build robots and/or design emotionally-evocative behaviours. Especially needed are people who are skilled in the visual and performance arts, i.e., any of 3D design, graphic design, sculpture, clothing design, sewing, puppeteering, theatrical performance, voice acting, etc. Traditional mechatronics and programming skills not needed but are welcomed. 

Project 4: Interactive biometric emotion modelling

Using biometric sensing technologies such as electroencephalography (EEG), heart rate monitoring, skin conductance, etc., we can develop models of human emotion states. We are currently looking for students who are interested in learning how to (a) use an EEG system and related biometics to gather data; (b) run human subjects in emotional situations (e.g., playing a video game, interacting with robots); (c) building machine learning models that relate emotion states to biometric data. Expertise in either machine learning or human subjects studies required (i.e., CPSC 340 or equivalent OR CPSC 344/444 or equivalent, but both not necessary).

Ian Mitchell

How to get in touch: please email Dr. Mitchell and read the form reply explaining the process

Project 1: Numerical Software Development for Differential Equations

Cyber-physical systems are those which involve interaction between computers and the external world, and include many safety critical systems such as aircraft, cars, and robots.  Analysis of these systems typically requires differential equation models for the physical component of the system, because its state evolves in continuous time and space.  Reachability algorithms can be used to verify -- or even synthesize controllers to ensure -- the correct behavior of dynamic systems, and a variety of such algorithms have been designed for differential equation models.  The goal of this project is to demonstrate on a new example, improve the user interface of, validate the implementation of, parallelize and/or add features to one of several software packages used for approximating sets of solutions in order to demonstrate the correctness of robotic or cyber-physical systems.  The Toolbox of Level Set Methods [http://www.cs.ubc.ca/~mitchell/ToolboxLS] is a locally developed example, but others include SpaceEx [http://spaceex.imag.fr/] or CORA [http://www6.in.tum.de/Main/SoftwareCORA].  Applicants should be familiar with numerical ODE solvers (for example, CPSC 303 or Math 405) and Matlab (or SciPy).  Familiarity with computational optimization (such as CPSC 406) and/or parallel programming (such as CPSC 418) would be useful for some but not all potential subprojects.

Project 2: Collaborative control scheme design, simulation and testing for a smart wheelchair

As part of the AGE-WELL Network Center of Excellence [http://www.agewell-nce.ca] I have a project investigating techniques which would allow elderly individuals with mild cognitive and/or sensory impairments to better use powered wheelchairs.  While it is relatively easy to implement a system in which either the user or the robotics chooses the motion of the wheelchair, it is much more challenging to blend these two inputs in real-time and in a manner which is both safe and non-threatening to a cognitively impaired user.  As part of this process, the team runs user studies with the target population and their therapists in long term care centers.  Potential goals for this summer's project include ongoing prototype development and evaluation of collaboration and training interfaces and control policies, development and evaluation of learning methods for predicting behavior of the chair and/or user, data collection and analysis from real-world or virtual trials, or setting up a virtual reality workstation for trials of collaboration control policies.  Applicants should be familiar with C++, Matlab and/or Python, and will be expected to learn and use ROS (robot operating system) to program the wheelchair(s).

Project 3: Design of wheelchair control system

As part of the smart wheelchair project we have developed a prototype embedded system to interface with the wheelchair and allow remote and computer moderated control.  This summer project is focused on redesigning this prototype to reduce complexity and replace commercial products that are no longer available.  The current system uses an Arduino, a small custom analog interface board, a laptop and the old Playstation Move's navigation controller.  The goal of this project is to identify a wireless one-handed controller to replace the Move, identify a microcontroller and/or embedded microprocessor which can replace the current Arduino and accomplish the basic tasks currently performed on the laptop, and possibly replace the custom analog board, as well as packaging the solution robustly enough to survive extended user trials.  Applicants should have experience with digital and/or analog electronics and embedded platforms (such as Arduino, BeagleBoard, RaspberryPi, ...), and will be expected to learn and use ROS (robot operating system) on the software side.

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