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Graduate Studies

NSERC Postgraduate Scholarships – Doctoral

Canada Graduate Scholarships – Doctoral (CGS D) and the NSERC Postgraduate Scholarships – Doctoral (PGS D) programs provide financial support to high-calibre scholars who are engaged in an eligible doctoral programs in the natural sciences or engineering. This support allows these scholars to fully concentrate on their studies and seek out the best research mentors in their chosen fields. There is a single application and review process for the CGS D and the PGS D programs. The top-ranked applicants are awarded the CGS D (tenable only in Canada) and highly ranked applicants in the next tier are awarded the PGS D (tenable in Canada and abroad).

NSERC Doctoral Scholarship (CGS/PGS) Q&A Session

August 31, 2023, 1:30 – 3:00 p.m.

NSERC Virtual Scholarship Webinar Link

NSERC’s Q&A sessions are supported by a series of informational videos available on the NSERC YouTube channel (updates for 2023 are currently in progress). Participants should watch these videos in advance and come to the Q&A session with specific questions in mind:

Playlist – Scholarships & Fellowships program application tutorials (English) 
Liste de lecture – Tutoriels sur la présentation de demandes aux programmes de bourses (French)

Key Dates

  • Monday, October 2, 2023, 11:59 p.m. – NSERC On-line System deadline
  • Early October 2023 – Quotas  competition processes given to departments by Associate Dean
  • Thursday, November 2, 2023 at 12:00 noon – Recommended Candidates due to SGS from departments or Associate Deans.
  • No later than Tuesday, November 21, 2023 8:00 p.m. – McMaster will submit the selected applications to NSERC and inform the applicants of the internal results.

Value & Duration

Canada Graduate Scholarship-Doctoral Program – $35,000 per year for 3 years

NSERC Postgraduate Scholarships-Doctoral Program – $21,000 per year for 3 years

NSERC’s Assigned Quota to McMaster:  48

NSERC provides national quotas to universities for the number of Recommended Applicants that can be submitted to the national NSERC competition.

 Note: All applicants registered in a degree program at a Canadian university during the 2023 calendar year (January 1, 2023 to December 31,2023 ) must apply through that University even if they intend to pursue their studies at another institution. Students who were registered at McMaster during the above mentioned dates MUST apply through McMaster’s Internal NSERC Doctoral competition. For students not enrolled at McMaster in 2023, they can use CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC’s simplified flowchart to clarify where they should submit their application.

NOTE: Failure to submit an application through the correct channel will result in an application being rejected.


To be eligible to apply, you must

  • be a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident of Canada or a Protected Person under subsection 95(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (Canada), as of the application deadline
  • have completed no more than 24 months of full-time study in your doctoral program or the PhD portion of your joint professional undergraduate/PhD program (such as MD/PhD, JD/PhD, DVM/PhD) by December 31 of the calendar year of application if previously enrolled in a graduate program
  • have completed no more than 36 months of full-time study in your doctoral program by December 31 of the calendar year of application if enrolled directly from a bachelor’s to a PhD program (without having completed or enrolled in another graduate program)
    • direct-entry applicants must be enrolled in their doctoral program at the time of application
  • have completed no more than 36 months of full-time study in the PhD portion of your joint professional undergraduate/PhD program (such as MD/PhD, JD/PhD, DVM/PhD) by December 31 of the calendar year of application if you have not previously enrolled in another graduate program
    • if you have not previously completed or enrolled in another graduate program, you must be enrolled in your joint MD/PhD program at the time of application
  • have completed no more than 36 months of full-time study in your joint program by December 31 of the calendar year of application if enrolled in a joint graduate program (such as, MA/PhD, MSc/PhD, MBA/PhD)
    • if you fall into this category, you have access to the 36-month window whether or not you were previously enrolled in a master’s program

Number of months

Eligibility for CGS D is based on the number of months of full-time study, including summer months, toward the degree for which you are requesting funding by December 31, 2023. Two terms of part-time study count as one term of full-time study.

Note: The agencies count all studies toward the doctoral degree for which funding is requested, whether or not they were completed at the degree-granting institution.

Fast-track and joint programs

Fast-track: If you were registered in a master’s program and subsequently transferred to a doctoral program (fast-track), the months of study completed are calculated starting from the date on which you transferred into the doctoral program.

Joint programs: If you are registered in a joint program and a master’s degree is obtained as part of the program (for example, MA/PhD, MSc/PhD), the months of study are calculated starting from the date on which you are officially registered in the joint program (including the master’s portion of the program).

If you are registered in a joint professional undergraduate/PhD program (such as MD/PhD, JD/PhD, DVM/PhD), only the months of study in the PhD portion will be counted.

Other restrictions

  • You can submit a maximum of one scholarship or fellowship application per academic year to either NSERC, CIHR or SSHRC. Should more than one application be submitted, the eligible application submitted first chronologically will be retained. Nominations to the Vanier CGS program and applications to the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships program do not count toward this limit (other exceptions may apply to CIHR internships)
  • You cannot have already received a doctoral-level scholarship from NSERC, CIHR or SSHRC (does not apply to CIHR Fellowships)
  • You cannot hold a tenure or tenure-track appointment concurrently with your CGS D award

Program of study

An eligible doctoral program must include a significant research component that leads to the completion of a thesis, major research project, dissertation, scholarly publication, performance, recital and/or exhibit that is merit/expert-reviewed at the institutional level as a requirement for completion of the program.
Joint programs with a professional degree (e.g., MD/PhD, DVM/PhD, JD/PhD, MBA/PhD) as well as clinically oriented programs of study, including clinical psychology, are eligible if they have a significant autonomous research component as described above.

Black student researchers

The Government of Canada has deployed additional funds to increase direct support for Black student researchers. CGS D applicants who self-identify as Black and provide consent to be considered for funds targeted towards specific groups may be selected to receive this funding. Each agency has a limited number of additional CGS D awards reserved for this initiative.

For more information, consult the Frequently asked questions about the new Black scholars funding.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Considerations in the Research Process

In order to address systemic barriers that limit the full participation of all talented individuals, NSERC aims for the proportion of short-listed and funded applications from those who self-identify as members of underrepresented groups to be at least similar to the proportion of applications received from these groups.

NSERC is acting on the evidence that achieving a more equitable, diverse and inclusive Canadian research enterprise is essential to creating the excellent, innovative and impactful research necessary to advance knowledge and understanding, and to respond to local, national and global challenges. This principle informs the commitments described in the Tri-agency statement on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and is aligned with the objectives of the Tri-agency EDI Action Plan.

For more information consult the Equity, diversity and inclusion considerations at each stage of the research process section of the NSERC guide on integrating equity, diversity and inclusion considerations in research web page.

Person profile

Personal identification number (PIN)

All NSERC applicants have received, or will receive, an NSERC PIN. Refer to your PIN each time you apply for an award and in future correspondence with NSERC. If you have not previously applied to NSERC, leave the field blank and a PIN will automatically be assigned to you by the online system. If you have previously applied to NSERC and do not remember your PIN, contact the online services helpdesk. If you have your PIN, log on the NSERC online system. Then, go to the eConsole web page, select Maintain user profile under Account management and enter your PIN. It will then appear on the Person profile page of your application.

Note: Your NSERC PIN is different from your application ID. Every application created and submitted is assigned a unique application ID while your NSERC PIN remains the same.

Collection of self-identification data

Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) strengthen research communities and the quality, social relevance and impact of research. Self-identification data provides information on the diversity of the population applying for and receiving agency funds. This data is important for monitoring our programs and informing measures to increase EDI among all those involved in the research enterprise. You are asked to complete two sets of self-identification questions prior to submitting your application: a self-identification questionnaire, whose data is used for general statistical purposes and additional consent questions, whose data may be used to improve equity in funding outcomes and/or to identify recipients for targeted scholarship and fellowship funding opportunities.

Self-identification questionnaire:

Self-identification data is collected as part of the application process and is not seen or used either by the NSERC selection committee members or by your references. You will not be able to submit your application if you have not completed the self-identification questionnaire. If you did not complete the questionnaire when you created your account, you can find it by returning to the eConsole web page and selecting Maintain user profile under Account management.

Self-identification statement:

Institutions are permitted to recommend an unlimited number of applications from self-identified Indigenous* student researchers to the PGS D program above their application quota. To be considered for this, Indigenous student researchers must provide consent within the application form to share this information with their institutions and NSERC.

Additional consent questions:

  • To address systemic barriers that limit the full participation of all talented individuals, NSERC aims for the proportion of short-listed and funded applications from those who self-identify as members of underrepresented groups to be at least similar to the proportion of applications received from these groups. This rebalancing of proportions is only used as needed, and only for meritorious applications. Underrepresented groups may include women and gender minorities, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, members of visible minorities/racialized groups, and members of 2SLGBTQI+ communities. If you consent to your self-identification data being used in this way, you must indicate this in the application form.
  • To be considered for programs or additional funding targeted at underrepresented groups (for example, the NSERC and L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science supplement, additional support for Black scholars, etc.), you must give your consent to use your self-identification data in the application form

* “Indigenous peoples” is a collective name for the original peoples of North America and their descendants. “Aboriginal peoples” is also often used as a synonym. For the purposes of this program, NSERC uses the Canadian Constitution Act, 1982 definition of Aboriginal peoples as including the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.

Special circumstances (optional attachment)

Describe any special circumstances that have had an effect on your performance or productivity. This includes delays in disseminating research results due to health problems, family responsibilities, parental leave, disabilities, trauma and loss or other applicable circumstances. Explain any gaps in the chronology of your experience (including relevant employment). This section can also be used to describe the impact of COVID-19 on any aspect of the application. Describe any special circumstances that may have delayed, disrupted or interrupted studies or research, or otherwise affected the performance on which the assessment for funding will be made.

The description of special circumstances should include the following information as needed:

  • The duration of the delay/interruption and if applicable a percentage of reduction in workload.
  • A clear description of its impact, including if relevant, the type of research contribution impacted (for example, publications, data collection, presentations, etc.).
  • For delays relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, specify the impacts and how they relate to your particular circumstances (for example, lab access, equipment delays, family responsibilities, etc.). Explain what you did to adjust or compensate in response to these impacts.

Note: You should avoid identifying other individuals in this section.

The selection committee members are asked to recognize delays and assess the quality of your performance and productivity during your active period (that is, excluding the period of special circumstances). If your supervisor is unable to provide you with a report on the applicant, you may use this section to provide an explanation.


If you are registered in a degree program in the fall session of the year of application, you must provide a transcript that demonstrates registration in your program.

Transcripts are a mandatory requirement to demonstrate eligibility. Applications that do not adhere to these instructions and guidelines may be rejected.

A complete application includes a copy of all up-to-date official transcripts and proof of registration, where applicable. NSERC will not accept transcripts and proofs of registration submitted under separate cover. Incomplete applications may be rejected.

  • Up-to-date transcripts are defined as official transcripts dated or issued in the fall session of the year of application (if currently registered) or after the last term completed (if not currently registered). As new or ongoing studies may not have been completed at the time of application, up-to-date transcripts may be missing new entries or grades.
  • Official transcripts are defined as transcripts issued by the institution’s registrar’s office. Transcripts from other sources, such as those printed from the student’s account on the institution’s website, are not official.
    • Official electronic transcripts issued by the institution’s registrar’s office are considered to be official transcripts and should be submitted in PDF format.
    • Opening and scanning a paper transcript will not render the transcript unofficial
  • Proof of registration is defined as a document that confirms the status of your current registration in a program. It is only required in cases where the transcripts do not provide sufficient information related to your current program of study or number of months of registration.

In addition:

  • If your institution does not provide transcripts, you must provide additional documentation as described in the Additional supporting documents section below.
  • If you have transcripts written in a language other than English or French, you must provide a certified English or French translation.
  • Paper transcripts and proofs of registration must be scanned (black and white recommended) and saved as a single PDF file.
  • You must include only one copy of the legend (for each transcript). Do not scan the legend multiple times.

It is your responsibility to ensure that your transcripts are complete and legible once uploaded. This is particularly relevant for transcripts with security features in place to prevent duplication. In all cases, you are responsible for ensuring that your application is complete by reviewing and previewing the final version of the online application before it is submitted to NSERC. Updates to your application package will not be accepted after submission.

  • You must include transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate studies.
  • All programs of study listed in the Academic background section of the application, even if not completed, must be accompanied by transcripts.
  • If a transcript includes transfer credits from another institution, the grades for these credits must be shown. If the grades are not shown, the original transcript from the other institution must be included in the application. This includes international exchange programs. Exception: Canadian college and CEGEP transcripts are not required (even if they contain transfer credits).
  • If you started or are registered in a degree program in the fall session of the year of application, you must provide a transcript that demonstrates registration in your program.
    • If your transcript does not demonstrate registration and your institution cannot provide transcripts demonstrating current registration in the program, you must provide additional documentation as described in the Additional supporting documents section below.
  • If your doctoral transcript does not indicate the session or term in which you started your doctoral program (if applicable), you must provide additional documentation as described in the Additional supporting documents section below. This information is required to confirm your eligibility. Refer to the Eligibility section of the PGS D program web page for more information.

McMaster internal deadline: Monday, October 2, 2023, 11:59 p.m.

Applications are prepared and submitted by students in the NSERC On-line System by the internal deadline set by McMaster. Students will not be able to submit their applications to the NSERC On-line System until all their required tasks are completed, including referee letters of support.

A complete application package includes the following:

  • Application profile
  • Personal profile
  • Addresses
  • Academic background
  • Academic, research and other relevant work experience
  • Awards
  • Proposed location(s) of tenure
  • Scholarship or fellowship information
  • Theses completed or in progress
  • Keywords and research subject code
  • Equity, diversity and inclusion considerations in the research process
  • Outline of proposed research (attachment; two pages)
  • Bibliography (attachment; five pages)
  • Justification for eligibility of proposed research (optional attachment; one page)
  • Contributions and statements (attachment; two pages)
  • Special circumstances (optional attachment)
  • Transcripts and proof of registration (attachment)
  • Reports on the applicant

Helpful links

Canada Graduate Scholarships – Doctoral Program (CGS D)
NSERC PGS Doctoral
NSERC application instructions
Frequently asked questions
NSERC On-line System login page

NSERC Contact Information

For all inquiries please contact:

SGS Contact Information

Selection criteria

Expandable List

Indicators of research ability and potential:

  • Quality of research proposal
    • specific, focused and feasible research question(s) and objective(s)
    • clear description of the proposed methodology
    • significance and expected contributions to research
  • Relevant training, such as academic training, lived experience and traditional teachings
  • Research experience and achievements relative to the applicant’s stage of study, lived experience and knowledge systems
  • Quality of contributions and extent to which they advance the field of research. Contributions may include: publications, patents, reports, posters, abstracts, monographs, presentations, creative outputs, knowledge translation outputs, community products, etc.
  • Demonstration of sound judgment and ability to think critically
  • Demonstration of responsible and ethical research conduct, including honest and thoughtful inquiry, rigorous analysis, commitment to safety and to the dissemination of research results and adherence to the use of professional standards
  • Enthusiasm for research, originality, initiative, autonomy, relevant community involvement and outreach

The ability or potential to communicate theoretical, technical and/or scientific concepts clearly and logically in written and oral format

Indicators of relevant experience and achievements obtained within and beyond academia:

  • Scholarships, awards and distinctions (amount, duration and prestige)
    • Academic record:
    • Transcripts
    • Duration of previous studies
    • Program requirements and courses pursued
    • Course load
    • Relative standing in program (if available)
  • Professional, academic and extracurricular activities as well as collaborations with supervisors, colleagues, peers, students and members of the community, such as:
    • teaching, mentoring, supervising and/or coaching
    • managing projects
    • participating in science and/or research promotion
    • participating in community outreach, volunteer work and/or civic engagement
    • chairing committees and/or organizing conferences and meetings
    • participating in departmental or institutional organizations, associations, societies and/or clubs

NSERC Scholarships and Fellowships Information Session: Resources