Photo by Jasleen Grewal

Tips and Tricks

January Update for Graduate Students

January 08, 2016

Happy new year! This month, we're starting the 3 Minute Thesis competition, and we're offering a number of presentation skills workshops to help you compete. Plus: Fun research contests from SSHRC and NSERC.

Awards and Funding

GSS Professional Development Grants
Apply by March 1, 2016
, for travel occurring between April 1 and July 31, 2016.

Graduate Studies Excellence Awards
We want to know about your amazing graduate supervisors, leaders and staff! Awards nominations now open.

Undergraduate Student Research Awards
If you're working with promising undergraduate students, we've opened the undergraduate research awards.

External Awards

External Awards with no deadlines 

  • Youth Education Assistance Fund, for young adults who have spent time in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development or a delegated Aboriginal agency (See also Youth Education Bursary)
  • Mitacs Globalink Research Award, up to $5k for study in Brazil, mainland China, India, Mexico, Turkey or Vietnam. No application deadline, but
    Mitacs recommends applicants submit applications by February 5, 2016, for projects starting in Summer 2016.

Awards Timelines 
We recommend scanning ahead because it takes time to prepare your awards applications and request letters of recommendation. 

See our Spring Awards Timeline page.


Bonus tip: Keep a running list of awards that you can apply for in your personal calendar. Even if you've missed this year's deadline, it will probably come up again next year and then you'll have more time to get your application in.



Job and Volunteer Postings

SFU Temp Pool and Student Temp Pool
SFU's Temp Pool and Student Temp Pool provide employment opportunities for SFU students. See also all SFU job postings, updated every Tuesday and Thursday.

$100 USD for American Students
The Embassy of the United States
is conducting a study to learn more about the experiences of American students at Canadian higher education institutions. If you are a currently enrolled American student and would like to earn $100USD to participate in a 90 - 120 minutes focus group, register at one of the links below:

Jobs Roundup

Volunteer Roundup

Mitacs Accelerate Paid Internships
Many internships posted here: You can also set up your own internship, paid at $10–15k per term.

SFU Student Ambassador Volunteers
SFU's Student Ambassador Program is open for applications from students. Ambassadors get a few perks in return for short-term volunteer work.


Student Jobs 
Many student jobs come up with very short notice, so we only have enough time to post them to the graduate students' facebook group.  

Professional Development

3 Minute Thesis Competition Open Now!
SFU's annual 3 Minute Thesis competition will take place in February and March, and signups are open now on MyInvolvement.

Grad caucuses: You can also apply for up to $750 funding from the Graduate Student Society to organize a departmental heat — you allocate the amount that goes to event costs and to prizes for students.


NEW! Presenting with Impact workshop series
Can you communicate your research in a way that inspires your listeners? Granting agencies and employers value communication and knowledge translation skills and we've developed this series to help you level up your abilities. Participation in these training sessions may be eligible for SFU's Co-Curricular Record — plus we guarantee that they will help you feel more comfortable at your thesis defence.

  • Presenting with Impact: Finding the Story in Your Research
  • Presenting with Impact: Hooking and Engaging Your audience
  • Mitacs: Practice your Presentation Skills I
  • Presenting with Impact: Playing Your Way to an Impactful Presentation
  • Presenting with Impact: Practice Makes Perfect
  • Mitacs: Practice Your Presentation Skills II
  • Teaching and Learning Centre: Presenting without Panic
  • Presenting with Impact: Making the Most of Your Visuals 


Research Bazaar

Research Bazaar
Python, R, LaTex, GitHub, Data Visualization, Research Communication, GIS, Data Management, Text Scraping, Social Media, QDAS ... sound interesting? You'll be able to get equipped with the digital skills and tools required to do your research better, faster, and smarter at the Research Bazaar, February 1–3, 2016. (Registrations closed to grad students only until January 11, 2016.)

Vancouver Institute for Visual Analytics Student Workshops
$25 membership gets you into a free 8-week student workshop series.

The Changing Face of Grantsmanship: Lessons from the field with Joy Johnson
What is the best way to secure research funding? What are granting agencies looking for? And what are they going to be looking for tomorrow? In this session, Joy Johnson, SFU’s Vice-President, Research and former Scientific Director for the Institute of Gender and Health at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research will speak about the past, present and future of the research grant landscape. This talk will include tips and strategies to help graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in all fields plan and pursue their research careers. January 26, 12 noon–1:30 pm, LIB 7200, Bennett Library, Burnaby campus. Read more and register for this event.  

Rethinking Success after Grad School: Jennifer Polk, #fromPhDtoLife
Dr. Jennifer Polk is visiting SFU on January 21st! Two inspiring and eye-opening seminars have been organized to hear from Dr. Polk, a history-PhD graduate turned illustrious entrepreneur who blazed her way into an exciting "alternative" career helping PhDs launch meaningful careers during and after graduate school.  

  • Afternoon seminar, 1–3 pm, Burnaby campus
  • Evening seminar, 7–9 pm at Harbour Centre

As seating is limited, please register for this event. 

Research Commons Space & Workshops
The Research Commons is a spacious working area in the Bennett Library (7th floor), where graduate students can work on their research and writing in the company of other graduate students. (Link for door code.)

Mitacs Step Workshops
Mitacs workshops are in high demand among students in all disciplines. They are free one and two-day intensive training for grad students and postdoctoral fellows, fully catered. These two workshops are on offer at Burnaby campus this term: 

Also, you can attend any session that Mitacs offers in BC — not only the ones held at SFU. See list of all upcoming workshops & register (click on BC tab). Note that Mitacs workshops are open to graduated grad students for two years after graduation.

APEX Professional Photo Shoot
Looking to boost your online presence? Get a free personal portrait taken by one of SFU's official photographers. These photos are clean, sharp and great for building or updating your LinkedIn profile, Twitter handle, professional blog or whatever tools you are using to project your professional image. You're also welcome to bring props for your photo if you want to! January 13, 12:30–2:30 pm at Creative Services (Burnaby campus). Please register using myInvolvement.


APEX Certificate Program
Thinking about your career? Not sure how to approach potential employers or build your network? Trying to understand how the skills and knowledge you're building in grad school will translate in the professional world? The APEX Certificate Program is a free program for grad students. Come to an info session in January to find out if the program will work for you:

  • January 6, 12 pm @Burnaby 
  • January 7, 9:30 am @ Surrey

Register for an info session.  

APEX Professional Development Calendar  
A full list of all professional development opportunities is updated regularly on our website. 

You can also add it to your personal SFU Connect calendar. (Instructions are at the bottom of the page.)


President's Dream Colloquium on Engaging Big Data
Reservations now open for the free public lectures in this series.

  • Sasha Issenberg, Author and Journalist
    Tuesday, January 12, 2016
  • Dr. Surajit ChaudhuriScientist and Managing Director of XCG (Microsoft Research), Tuesday, January 19, 2016
  • Pat HanrahanProfessor at the Stanford Computer Graphics Laboratory, Cofounder and Chief Scientist of Tableau, Founding member of Pixar, Wednesday, February 3, 2016
  • Sheelagh CarpendaleProfessor of Computing Science 
    University of Calgary, Canada Research Chair in Information Visualization, Tuesday, February 23, 2016, 3:30pm, Surrey campus
  • Colin HillCEO of GNS Healthcare, Tuesday, March 8, 2016
  • Chad Skelton, Award-winning Data Journalist and Consultant, Tuesday, March 22, 2016

SFU Scientific Programming Study Group
Weekly meetings for peer-facilitated study-sessions on topics from Python for DNA sequence analysis, plotting and statistical analysis of environmental data in R, automating repetitive tasks with the shell, general best practices in coding, using tools such as Git and Github to collaborate effectively with others, and much much more.

SFU Festival of Learning in May 2015
You're invited to be a part of the SFU Festival of Learning. The activities that they're looking for include performances, debates, book launches, readings, lectures, tours, discussions, displays and talks. Events must be free and appealing to a wide variety of audiences. Deadline for proposals: January 31, 2015 at 11:59 pm.

Events around Campus (See even more listings)

Events around Vancouver


Tips and Tricks

Research Contests
There are three major research communication contests this month — and international students are eligible to enter! If you're not ready to enter these contests this year, we encourage you to take some of the workshops in the Presenting with Impact series and enter your department's heat in the 3 Minute Thesis competition. Developing your communication skills will lead to future career success.


SSHRC Storytellers

SSHRC Storytellers Challenge
$3000 prize for each of the top 25 storytellers — and SFU grad students have placed very well in the last two years of the competition, including at the very top last year.

Science Action

NSERC Science Action!
Fifteen cash prizes worth up to $5000

Science Exposed

NSERC Science Exposed
$2000 prize for the best research image


Coast Capital Venture Prize
Graduate students have won in both of the last two years. Prizes of over $30,000 in cash and in-kind prizes.

Celebration of SFU Authors
For anyone who was published in 2015 as an author, co-author, editor or illustrator. Submissions by February 9.

Online Resilience course for Grad students
Resilience is a survival skill, and there's a free course on Canvas on Bouncing Back as a Graduate Student: Building Resilience and Supporting Your Well-being.

Free Microsoft Office
All SFU students can install Microsoft Office for free.
(Adobe Creative Suite is also available for university-owned computers — could work for labs.)

Confirmation of Enrollment Request
If you need a confirmation of enrollment letter, you can do it yourself through GoSFU.

Open Access Fund
If you're publishing in an Open Access journal, the SFU Library has an Open Access Fund that graduate students can access.

SSHRC Storytellers Challenge
Each year, 25 finalists are selected to receive a $3000 cash prize and specialized training in research communications. SFU grad students have placed well in both years of this competition.

You Need a Budget Tool
YNAB is Now Free for College Students.

Contest Roundup

Reading Roundup

Want More Academic Readings?
If you're planning a career in academia, you're eligible for a free subscription to University Affairs.


Leaves for Graduate Students
Two significant regulation changes for graduate student leaves will begin in Spring 2016:

  • graduate students in a per unit fee program will need to be continuously enrolled unless they have been granted a leave of absence (nothing has changed for graduate students in per-term fee programs)
  • two new categories of leave have been created (personal leave, academic break) and the leave of absence fee has been eliminated for all types of leave

For more details on these changes, please read Graduate General Regulations 1.4.3 and 1.8.4 and see more details and forms at our website.

International Graduate Students

Are you a new international graduate student looking for transitional support for life in Vancouver and intercultural friendships with other SFU students? The International Mentorship Program, offered by International Services for Students, connects new graduate students with senior graduate students. Go here to request a mentor.

Free International Teaching Assistants Seminar (refundable deposit required)
Wednesdays or Thursdays, starting at the end of January. Go here to register (before space runs out).

EAL/ESL Support Services for Graduate Students 
If English is not your first language and you would like to improve your written and spoken proficiency, we've put together a roundup of free support services available at SFU

Social Insurance Number
New international employees will need a Social Insurance Number to get paid. Find out how.

Medical Insurance Reminder for New International Graduate Students
New to SFU this Spring? Pick up your Guard Me card from International Services for Students (MBC 1200). You will need to opt out as soon as you apply for and obtain coverage under the BC Medical Services Plan (this may be you if you arrived in BC in Fall 2015). Go here to learn more or here to review frequently asked questions.   
If you have questions, please contact

New Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)
Canada has a new entry requirement ( eTA ) for foreigners traveling to Canada by air. This entry requirement will become mandatory on March 15, 2016. 

Find out if you need an eTA and how to get one now. Upon approval, the eTA is valid for five years or the expiry date of your passport whichever comes first.   If you are a U.S. citizen or you currently hold a valid Temporary Resident Visa (entry visa), you will be exempt from this new eTA entry requirement. 

New students: If you have any questions about getting settled in Vancouver or at SFU, you are welcome to contact Jackie Amsden, our International Graduate Coordinator, at or drop by the Maggie Benston Centre, Room 1500.



Indigenous Graduate Students

SAVE THE DATE — 14th Annual Indigenous Graduate Student Symposium: March 4 & 5, 2016, UBC Longhouse
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Pamela Palmater, Associate Professor & Chair in Indigenous Governance, Faculty of Arts, Ryerson University.

Learning from Knowledge Keepers of Mi’kma’ki
Cape Breton University has opened up a free Indigenous learning course with topics such as Indigenous Governance for the Future, Understanding the Truth & Reconciliation Commission and Indigenizing the University

Weekly Big Drum and Talking Circle
All students welcome, MBC 2296, Thursdays, 3–4:30 pm. Session cancelled on January 29. Please contact if you have any questions.

Winter "Feasting the Ancestors" .
January 21st 5:30pm-7:30pm. Location TBA. After the food is done, students will have the opportunity to share with their peers in a non-formal manner what stage they are in with their research and receive peer feedback. If you have any questions or want to r.s.v.p. please email

SFU Sweat lodge
We're looking for volunteers to help during our sweatlodge work day. We will be working to clear the space and build the lodge. Date: t.b.d. If you are interested you can contact

Indigenous Knowledge Keeper's Speaker Series
Cherokee Elder Dr. Lee Brown will be speaking January 18, 5-7:30 pm, 131 West Hastings. Email Shivani at to register.


Graduate Students in the News

Is Airbnb taking too many rental homes off the market?
Karen Sawatzky, Urban Studies master's student, was interviewed on News1130 and by Global News.

Off to Rio Olympics!
Danielle Lappage defended her master's in Criminology last term, and will be going to the Olympics in Rio this summer to compete as a wrestler.

Refugees starting new lives in B.C. good for economy
Eric Adebayo and Ricardo Meilman Lomaz Cohn, PhD students in the Department of Economics of Simon Fraser University found that Syrian refugees that will arrive in BC will boost our local economy by $563 million.

MBA Student Spotlight: Getting to know Lawrence Ives
Lawrence Ives was profiled in Vancity Buzz.

Editorial: Locate supervised injection sites where they are needed
Ehsan Jozaghi, PhD Alumnus, wrote an editorial for the Georgia Straight.



Dates and Deadlines

CORRECTION: We made an error on this date in your email. The execmption request deadline was January 11, 2016.
Deadline for submitting a U-Pass BC Exemption request for Spring 2016 (Note: Students taking a course at UBC under the Western Deans' Agreement will be charged for two U-Passes if they don't submit an exemption request.)

Friday, January 15, 2016    

  • End of Bursary application period (bursaries are awarded based on financial need; international students are eligible)
  • Opting out of Dedicated Fee Groups (see GSS website for more information)

Monday, January 18, 2016

  • Last day for graduate students to enroll through self-service (late enrollment deadline) Last day to drop with 100% refund of tuition and ancillary fees. If you were eligible for the January U-Pass BC, there is no refund of the January U-Pass BC but you will be refunded for the February–April U-Passes.
  • Last day to change from credit to audit grade basis Grad tuition and fees (including co-op practicum fees) are due and payable. A 2% penalty will be calculated and posted to your student account every month.
  • Last date to opt out or change your coverage in the Graduate Health Plan (only if you started school in January)

Monday, January 25, 2016
Last day to drop with no notation on transcript

Friday, January 29, 2016

  • Early Completion submission deadline of Thesis at 4:00 pm
  • Only applicable to new international students: Last day to opt out of Guard.Me@SFU (see medical insurance deadlines)

Saturday, January 30, 2016

  • Last day to drop with a 75% refund of tuition. No refund of ancillary fees and January U-Pass BC.
  • Last day for receipt of grades deferred from the fall term

More dates and deadlines

Health plan deadlines

Degree Completion this Term?
If you think you will be completing your degree this term, please go ahead and Apply to Graduate.

It doesn't cost any anything for you to apply, and if you don't complete your degree requirements, we just cancel the application, and you can re-apply in the future.

(It's much trickier to add you to the graduation list after the graduation application deadline.)


Grad Students Facebook Group 
Advice and support, movies, free food — plus last-minute job postings and awards alerts: 
(SFU email ID required to join)