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SickKids Summer Research (SSuRe) Program

The SickKids Summer Research (SSuRe) Program provides professional and career development opportunities for undergraduate students who are working on a research project with a Research Institute (RI) scientist for the summer.

SSuRe Program Highlights

  • All undergraduate and medical students doing research with a RI scientist over the summer months are invited to participate in program activities  
  • 15-weeks from May to mid-August 
  • Weekly seminars presented by Hospital and RI scientists 
  • Career Night where students have a chance to meet research staff from across the RI 
  • Opportunity to present research projects at annual Summer Student Symposium 
  • Awards presented to select students for exceptional research projects

Eligibility, How to Apply, and Hiring Information

Expand the sections below to learn more about eligibility and how to apply for a SickKids summer student position, as well as potential hiring opportunities!

Any student who will be enrolled in a university/college undergraduate program in the fall following the Summer Program is eligible to be hired as a Research Summer Student. That includes high school students in their last year. If you are in your final year of undergraduate studies, you are eligible to be hired as a Research Summer Student so long as you will be, or have applied to be, enrolled in a university/college program in the fall. 

If you’re a high school student but not in your last year, you may be eligible to participate in the Student Advancement Research (StAR) internship program. This program, also supported by the SSuRe Program, provides Black, Filipino, and Indigenous (includes First Nations - status or non-status, Inuk, and Métis peoples) high school students with a first-hand perspective of the research underway at SickKids. 

Apply for the StAR internship online!

Apply for the StAR internship

Students interested in applying to posted positions are encouraged to apply as early as possible, as scientists receive a high volume of applications and positions are filled quickly. Positions will be posted during first week of January. You must apply directly to each posting via the method of application indicated. Neither the Research Training Centre nor the Human Resources Department will accept or forward Research Summer Student applications.  

If you would like to apply to more than one scientist, you must send individual applications to each scientist, as each scientist is responsible for selecting their own student(s). You can view our full list of scientists on our Reseachers page.


To apply for a summer position, students must submit the following directly to the hiring scientist(s) via their preferred application method (as noted in the posting):  

1. Download, complete, and submit the SickKids Summer Research Program student application form.
2. Cover letter
3. CV/Resume
4. Current university/college transcripts  
  • Official or unofficial transcripts (copies or online versions) are acceptable. Please submit electronically with the rest of your application.
  • No minimum grade point average (GPA) is required to be eligible to apply for a SickKids Research Summer Student position. However, these positions are highly competitive, so it’s to your advantage to have a strong GPA. That said, passion and genuine interest go a long way!  
5. One reference letter from an individual familiar with your skills, and best able to describe your past and/or current work/school experience (e.g. professor, high school teacher, previous employer, volunteer supervisor etc.).
  • In order to ensure that it remains confidential, the letter shouldn’t be sent to you or included in your application package. The reference letter should be emailed by your referee directly to the hiring scientist(s) with the subject line: SickKids Summer Research Reference Letter - <Candidate’s Last Name>, <First Name>.  
  • There are no specific criteria your referee should address, but you can suggest that your referee consider describing your educational background, academic performance, relevant research training or work experience, characteristics, and abilities. Your referee should also highlight your achievements to date. Make sure that you provide your referee with a copy of your application and CV to refer to when writing your letter!  
6. Any other documents required by the individual posting.

Due to the large volume of applications received, only those candidates selected for an interview will be contacted. Each scientist will conduct interviews and make final selections independent of the Research Training Centre. All candidates selected for posted positions will have been contacted by early April of each year. 

After the deadline, students are advised to contact scientist(s) directly to see if positions are still available as only candidates chosen for interviews will be contacted.

Some scientists choose not to post research summer student positions, but rather hire students by direct application. 

To contact a scientist to see if they have any open research student opportunities, please visit our full list of scientists and researchers to see who is doing research you’re interested in and contact them directly.

The U of T Student Life blog has a handy post with advice on applying for summer research positions - view the blog by following the link below.

Read Blog Post

A research summer student placement can be of any duration (with the exception of the Lunenfeld Summer Studentship and the Opportunity Summer Studentship, funded positions which must be 15 weeks) and the start dates and end dates, as well as hours per week, can be negotiated between each student and supervisor. Research Summer Students must be paid the minimum hourly rate of $14.25 + 6% vacation as of Summer 2021.

Students and their supervisors will negotiate working hours at the time of hire or start. We expect increased flexibility and variability due to COVID-19 and the Research Institute remaining at 60% capacity for summer 2021.

SSuRe Program Job Postings 

Applicants, please include the SSuRe program application form, cover letter, CV, transcript(s), and one reference letter* when applying to SSuRe program positions.  

*Your referee may send their reference letter directly to the researchers you are applying to.  

Application deadline: January 31st, 2021 

Goldenberg lab has a wide variety of computational projects. We are looking for students that are strong in computational areas, interested in machine learning. The student will be responsible for doing data analysis, researching and helping out with a project that aligns with their interest. Our PI, Machine Learning specialist and a senior member of our lab will be guiding this student or students through the projects and providing learning/mentorship throughout the summer.

How to apply  

Include a brief description on what they are interested in working on in terms of projects, what courses they have taken that are applicable, if they have worked on any projects in the past that are applicable and related papers/assignments they have submitted. 

Email: Freda Lai at freda.lai@sickkids.ca

Opportunities on various projects, including: 

  • comparative analysis of pediatric cancer drug access in East Africa
  • precision oncology policy analysis
  • value framework for pediatric health technology assessment 
How to apply  

Email: Avram Denburg at avram.denburg@sickkids.ca  

Students will work closely with graduate students and staff on ongoing studies. Their roles and responsibilities may include i) processing brain images (MRI and/or MEG), ii) participating in weekly lab meetings, and iii) conducting literature reviews, amongst other study related tasks. 

How to apply  

Email: mabbott.lab@sickkids.ca  

In this project the student will be completing a chart review on a cohort of patients with juvenile dermatomyositis, in order to help us understand patient prognosis over time. 

Detailed records have already been abstracted; the purpose of this research is to extract one additional piece of information. 

This additional piece of information is key to implementing some novel statistical models, and you will have the opportunity to interact with the research team who are developing them. 

How to apply  

Please submit a cover letter to Panagiota Vogdou at panagiota.vogdou@sickkids.ca giving the following information: 

  1. Any prior experience with chart reviews;
  2. an example of a task you performed which required close attention to detail, explaining your approach to completing the task well and checking for errors;
  3. an example of a task you performed which required perseverance, explaining how you kept yourself motivated;
  4. what you hope to learn from this position.

The student will be involved in projects focused on discovering new genetic conditions that cause severe childhood illnesses, via an undiagnosed disease program.  

They will be responsible for helping with analysis of data from whole genome sequencing, reviewing clinical information, and preparing manuscripts. 

How to apply  

Email: Gregory Costain at gregory.costain@sickkids.ca  

The student will be involved in patient-partnered research about the childhood eye cancer, retinoblastoma. Duties include, but are not limited to: research administrative tasks; mixed-method data collection and analysis; and scientific writing (i.e. reports, manuscript draft).

How to apply 

Please provide a brief writing sample (0.5 to 1 page in length) in which you describe the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR). 

Email: retinoblastoma.research@sickkids.ca  

We are looking to recruit summer students from engineering, physics, computer science, mathematics, or related fields to work in a biomedical engineering lab that is focused image-guided surgery technology. Our project themes include medical robotics, 3D printing, focused ultrasound therapy, magnetic resonance imaging, computer vision and image processing.

How to apply 

In addition to the required application materials, a concise cover letter (1 page max) that outlines learning goals, scientific interests and skills/strengths would be welcome. 

Email: Adam Waspe at adam.waspe@sickkids.ca  

The student will be involved in a project studying mechanisms of cellular differentiation in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Areas of research in the lab include phosphoinositide signaling, membrane trafficking, organelle biogenesis, mitochondrial dynamics, post-transcriptional regulation and long noncoding RNAs. Under the guidance of a more senior member of the lab, the student will perform research involving one or more of the following techniques: Drosophila genetics, fluorescence microscopy, molecular biology, and biochemistry. They will be responsible for mastering relevant laboratory techniques and background knowledge, keeping a laboratory notebook, and participating in virtual lab group meetings. 

How to apply 

Please submit a cover letter explaining your interest in the research in the lab. 

Email: Julie Brill at julie.brill@sickkids.ca  

The successful candidate will contribute to our bacterial biofilm project and assist us in unravelling the molecular basis of exopolysaccharide biosynthesis in the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. 

How to apply  

Email: Lynne Howell at howell@sickkids.ca  

Students will be involved in systematic reviews across diverse disease areas. The objective of these reviews will be to assess outcome reporting and measurement in clinical trials. This project will expose students to the complexities surrounding outcome selection, measurement, and reporting in clinical trials.

Visit the ENRICH lab website to learn more!

How to apply  

Email: Andrea Chiaramida at achiara@sickkids.ca  

In close supervision with the faculty supervisor, the student will be responsible for  conducting a systematic review, including selection of studies based on pre-defined inclusion criteria, data extraction and management, assessment of risk of bias, and data analysis.

The student will have an opportunity to work with Cochrane review management software, which is used to write reviews, including inserting characteristics of studies, inputting study data and generating comparison tables. Depending on study progress, the student will assist to prepare key components of the manuscript, including background, methods, and mock results tables. The student will be embedded in a rich and collegial research environment, including participating in research and clinical rounds. The student will have an opportunity to remain involved in the project, including submitting to present at conferences. 

Systematic review details

Systematic review of diagnostic test accuracy of ultrasound to diagnose orbital cellulitis in children.  

Periorbital and orbital cellulitis are serious bacterial infections in children that can lead to vision loss, meningitis or death. Computed tomographic (CT) scan with contrast is the current the gold standard imaging modality, yet, ionising radiation from CT scans can cause lethal malignancies. Ultrasound is an alternate imaging modality that could quickly and easily diagnose children without any associated radiation exposure. Further, point-of-care ultrasound in children who present to the emergency department is rapidly emerging as a key diagnostic tool. We plan to conduct a systematic review of the diagnostic test accuracy of ultrasound to diagnose orbital cellulitis in children with periorbital swelling. We will conduct a detailed search of several databases for both published and unpublished observational studies and randomized controlled trials on patients aged 18 years and younger with periorbital and orbital cellulitis. The primary outcome will be calculation of the sensitivity and specificity of orbital ultrasound in diagnosing orbital cellulitis. A 2x2 table will be constructed and we will also calculate PPV, NPV, positive and negative LR. Eligible studies will be evaluated for inclusion, data will be extracted and analyzed according to standard Cochrane methodology.

How to apply  

Please submit a short paragraph explaining your interest in the summer project.

Email: Peter Gill at peter.gill@sickkids.ca  

Systematic review on the utility of renal ultrasound for children hospitalized with first episode febrile urinary tract infection 

Study background

Urinary Tract infection (UTI) are common bacterial infections in children, occurring in about 1.7% of boys and 8.4% of girls before age 7 years. It is also one of the most common reasons for hospitalization in children.

Current Canadian and US practice guidelines recommend routine performance of a renal ultrasound after the first febrile UTI in children less than 2 years of age. The rationale for performing renal ultrasound is to identify genitourinary abnormalities which predispose to recurrent UTIs and for which intervention may prevent future UTIs and renal damage.

However, in the era of prenatal ultrasounds, the detection rate of serious genitourinary abnormalities is low. Furthermore, although renal ultrasound is non-invasive, false positive ultrasound results may result in unnecessary care, harms and costs. Thus, the performance of the renal ultrasound has become questioned. 

Study goal and student's experience

The goal of this systematic review is to determine the utility of renal ultrasound for children with first episode febrile urinary tract infection by determining the rate of detection of genitourinary abnormalities, prevention of future UTIs, and harms of false positive ultrasound results.

Cochrane methodology will be foundational for conducting the review. The student will work closely with the faculty supervisor, to draft a study protocol, conduct a literature search with a librarian, screen and select studies based on the pre-defined criteria, and extract and input data using Cochrane review management software. The student will assist with drafting the manuscript. The student will be part of a rich learning environment and research team who are focused on generating evidence to improve the care of hospitalized children and their health outcomes. 

How to apply 

Email: Sanjay Mahant at sanjay.mahant@sickkids.ca  

The student will be involved in adapting one of Dr. Narayanan's patient reported outcome measures (CPCHILD) to have a health specific module. Work will involve developing and designing this adapted measure, and getting feedback from healthcare professionals and patients regarding suggestions for improving the measure. This role will involve the development of the measure along with examining the reliability and validity of the measure. 

How to apply 

Email: Ashley Ferkul at ashley.ferkul@sickkids.ca  

What does the SSuRe Program curriculum include?

The SSuRe Program is here to support you from day one, from orientation and training to creating a poster to present at Symposium Day! 

Any high school or undergrad student working on a research project with a SickKids scientist over the summer months is warmly invited to participate in the SSuRe Program activities. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, where at SickKids you’re working, or how you’re getting paid — join us!

The SSuRe Program runs two research summer student-specific orientation sessions in May prior to the commencement of the program’s curricular activities — one on the second Monday of May and the other on the last Monday of May. Orientation includes a welcome address from our SSuRe Program committee chairs, information about clinical research services and research ethics, fire safety training, and occupational health services, including your occupational health appointment. You’ll get auto enrolled into the appropriate session, depending on your start date.

You’ll also get priority access to lab safety training sessions. The first sessions are held over the second week of May and the second sessions are held over the first week of June. 

If your start date does not correspond with these orientation and training dates—no problem! You’ll just attend the usual SickKids’ orientation and training, and we’ll post the orientation slides on our internal summer program pages. 

Sign up for the next SSuRe Program event on our Eventbrite page!

View SSuRe Events

Each week, a leading SickKids scientist provides a dynamic, engaging talk intended to teach you something about a different area of research happening in the hospital and research institute. By the end of the summer, you'll have a better understanding and appreciation of the key roles basic and clinical research have in advancing our knowledge of human health and disease.  

The program also runs two skills focused seminars: winning posters and effective abstracts and a “how to talk to strangers” networking seminar. These seminars will teach you how to translate your research in a way that’s engaging, easy to understand, and inspiring. You’ll get best practices on writing effective abstracts, and give you the design ideas, tools, and software suggestions you need to create dynamic, eye-catching posters—and hands-on practice and expert knowledge about how to meet and talk to new people about yourself and your research.

Follow the link below to view all upcoming SSuRe seminars!

View all SSuRe Seminars

Wondering what you might do with your science degree?

Come to Career Night to meet and network with current and SickKids Research Institute individuals who work in a variety of science careers. Learn about what they do, how they got there, and how they balance their work and home lives.  

Visit our Eventbrite page to see the date of our next Career Night!

View Career Night dates

Symposium Day gives you the full conference experience! You’ll submit an abstract, create a poster, present your work, and network with colleagues and scientists.

All non-graduate summer students doing research at SickKids are invited to participate. We’ll also choose the student with the best abstract from each of the seven Research Institute programs and invite you to give an oral presentation and a chance to win a prize! We’ll also give out prizes to the student with the best poster from each of the seven Research Institute programs.  

Start by submitting your abstract on our Eventbrite page!

Submit Abstract

Summer Research Funding Opportunities

The SSuRe Program provides $2,000 for up to 35 SickKids Research Institute scientists to support Research Summer Student salaries. The funding is generously provided from the Lunenfeld Summer Studentship.

Lunenfeld Studentships are awarded directly to the scientist and Research Summer Students supported by this funding will be required to participate in Symposium Day by submitting and abstract and presenting a poster/oral presentation. 

Your hiring scientist will let you know if you are a Lunenfeld Studentship funded student.  

In 2019, the SSuRe Program began a partnership with the Community of Support Research Application Support Initiative (COS-RASI) at the University of Toronto to help support students who are Indigenous, Black, Filipino, economically disadvantaged, or who self-identify as disabled. This program targets students who are interested in finding summer positions in health science research to help support their career development in the field of medicine.

The partnership includes support in applying to centralized positions, mentorship opportunities, access to all SSuRe Program initiatives, and, new in 2021, the Opportunity Summer Studentship. 

The Opportunity Summer Studentship is valued at $2,000 each and will be awarded to the top ten ranked applicants to the COS-RASI program.

For more information on how to apply to the RASI stream, visit the COS page on the University of Toronto website through the link below.

View COS information

For external funding information, please visit the What's New in Research page on the University of Toronto's website through the link below.

View Funding Opportunities

Frequently asked questions

Eligibility

Yes, the 2021 SSuRe program is running this year!

Yes, non-degree students are eligible to apply to Research Summer Student positions, as long as you will be going back to school in the fall. See eligibility criteria above.

If you are in your last year of high-school and entering into a college or university program in the fall, following the SSuRe Program, you are eligible to Research Summer Student positions. 

Yes, as long as you have applied to, or have been accepted into, a research degree program in the fall following the SSuRe Program, you are eligible to Research Summer Student positions. 

No, you are not eligible to be hired as a Research Summer Student. However, you may be eligible to be hired into a different research student or research staff position. Please contact the scientist(s) you are interested in working with to see if they have any open research student opportunities available. 

Yes, international students are eligible to apply to the program. However, international students will need to comply with all COVID-19 quarantine protocols in place at the time the program starts and will need to confirm with prospective PIs that they will cover the two-week quarantine with pay.

The SSuRe Program activities officially start at the beginning of May and run for 15 weeks until Symposium Day, which is held in mid-August. Depending on how much later you are able to begin work, this may not be enough time for you to conduct sufficient research for your abstract presentation on Symposium Day.  

Most students will begin on the first day of the SSuRe Program and will have ample time to work on their projects, which may put you at a disadvantage when submitting your abstract for Symposium Day. Please consider this before applying to the program. Please contact the scientist(s) you are interested in working with to ask if they would be willing to accept your application under these circumstances. 

If you are a medical student, your Research Summer Student position will begin June 1, or the first business day after June 1. 

We suggest that you limit your applications to five scientists. Send your applications to those you are most interested in and best suit your interests.

If a scientist’s name is no longer on the SSuRe Program website, they are no longer accepting applications for a Research Summer Student. They are either conducting interviews or have already selected a student.

At this time, we are not cleared to bring on new research volunteers and require all summer students to be paid at least minimum wage plus vacation. 

Of course! Please see applying to posted and unposted positions above.

All SSuRe program activities (orientation, seminars, career day, and symposium) will take place online this year over Zoom. 

Depending on your summer project, you may be working onsite or remotely to conduct your research. Please connect with your supervisor for more information.

If you will be 100% remote for the entirety of the summer, you do not need to provide proof of immunization.

However, if you are going to be doing a hybrid placement or may begin coming to work at the Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning (PGCRL) sometime during the summer if/as COVID-19 circumstances change, you will need to provide proof of immunization at the time you are onboarded. Students will not be permitted to transition from 100% remote to hybrid or in-person roles partway through the summer unless they’ve provided proof of immunization at the beginning of the summer.

During your onboarding, you will be asked to provide proof of immunization for the following: Tuberculosis (TB) status, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Varicella, Hepatitis B and Tetanus/Diphtheria/Pertussis. You will not be required to provide proof of immunization for the COVID-19 vaccine at this time.

Yes! We suggest that you limit your applications to five scientists.

Transcripts

If you do not have university transcripts available, one from high school would be acceptable. First semester marks or mid-term marks are also acceptable, if available from your institution.

If you do not have a transcript from your current year, one from your previous year would be acceptable (i.e. you are in third year but send second year marks).

Reference Letter(s)

Yes. A reference should be from someone you feel would be best able to describe your past or current work/school experience. If you are not sure if a reference letter from a particular individual would be acceptable, please contact the scientist(s) to whom you wish to apply to ask.

This is at the discretion of each scientist. Please contact the scientist(s) in advance of submitting a full application to ask.

You may address your reference letter to: SickKids Hiring Manager.

Hiring

Due to the number of applications scientists receive each year, only those applicants who are selected for an interview will be contacted by the scientist. If you have not heard about your application by the end of March, you likely have not been selected. 

No enrollment necessary! Once you’ve been offered a Research Summer Student position, you’ll complete the onboarding package sent to you by the scientist (or their delegate). From there, we’ll auto-enroll you onto our SSuRe Program newsletter mailing list—so make sure you check the email you provide in the RTC Registry! 

Due to the volume of applications received by each scientist, only applicants chosen for an interview will be contacted. We suggest you wait until after the application deadline to inquire with the scientist. If you haven't heard back by early April, it is likely that the scientist has filled the position. 

Please include the SSuRe program application form, cover letter,  CV/resume, transcript(s), and one reference letter when applying to SSuRe program positions.

Contact the RTC

Have a question? Get in touch with us today!

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