Funding in academia is critical, especially for more senior graduate students, post-docs, and principal investigators. We need to secure grants, scholarships, and awards to support our research. For most fields, a lively career in academia is unlikely without a strong funding record. As a fifth-year PhD student who is planning to graduate within this academic year, I have found it (frustratingly) difficult to find funding for which I am eligible. Because of this, I will list a few opportunities that apply in such a late stage of graduate school and others that should be applied for a year or two earlier. The information for each award is linked in the title or description. I want to preface this by saying that most of these awards are for students studying neuroscience, and some of them are for underrepresented graduate students. Also, I welcome any comments or suggestions for other awards to apply for during graduate school.
Funding Options During the Late Stages of Graduate School
There are several R36 awards for graduate students involved with research in aging, mental health, drug abuse, and health services (explained in the link above). The one that I am most familiar with is the Aging Research Dissertation Award to Increase Diversity. These awards are meant to fund the dissertation research project and expect the applicant to have the necessary skills to complete the project. If the project is collaborative, the applicant should demonstrate that the skills of the team are suited for the project. There are standard due dates for this award – February 16th, June 16th, and October 16th. While there does not appear to be any scoring criteria based on the length of time left in graduate school, I recommend applying for the February 16th deadline to be able to address any feedback from reviewers. This allows for the possibility to revise and resubmit the application if you don’t get funded for your first submission.
This award is for postdoctoral training, and it can be applied for as early as 12 months prior to starting a post-doctoral position. Applicants must identify a postdoctoral mentor and work with the mentor to develop a research training plan. This award is useful for senior graduate students to help build relationships and set clear goals with prospective postdoctoral mentors.
Funding Options to Apply For Before Your Last Year
The Ford Foundation Fellowship is a competitive award for graduate students who are approaching the dissertation phase of their graduate career. The application should be submitted 1.5 years before your expected dissertation defense. Since the due date is in December, you should apply in the fall semester of your fourth year of graduate school if you plan to graduate in your fifth year. PhD candidates from various fields are eligible to apply. For this award, there is a heavy emphasis on teaching experience and community service, especially involving underrepresented communities.
F99/K00 NIH Blueprint Diversity Specialized Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Advancement in Neuroscience (D-SPAN) Award
The D-SPAN is a competitive award that secures funding for senior graduate students from diverse backgrounds. There are two phases to this award – the F99, predoctoral phase , and the K00, postdoctoral phase. In other words, the D-SPAN provides funding for the last couple of years of graduate school and up to four years of postdoctoral training. It requires developing a training plan for both of these phases. The due dates for the application are December 13th and April 15th. Similar to the R36, I would recommend applying for the December deadline 1.5 years prior to your expected graduation date. That way, you can refine the application if it is not funded during the first review cycle.
Smaller Funding Opportunities
There are several small funding opportunities for graduate students at all levels. Here are a couple for psychology students:
- APA Dissertation Award (Psychology Students)The APA Dissertation Award offers support ($1000 – $5000) for graduate students who have already defended their dissertation proposal. The deadline for this application is in the beginning September, so you should plan to defend your dissertation proposal before the September deadline. Completing this application is not as involved as the larger funding opportunities described above. I recommend that all psychology graduate students aim to submit this application during their dissertation year. At the very least, it will act as a motivator to write your dissertation proposal and set a clear plan for your dissertation project.
- APS Student Grant Competition (SGC; Psychology Students)The APS SGC also provides support ($500) for graduate students, but it is not solely offered to those at the dissertation stage. In any case, it can offer similar benefits to maintain focus on your dissertation plan and requires relatively low effort, as compared to the aforementioned larger funding opportunities.
These are just a few awards that pertain to research in neuroscience and psychology. I hope that this encourages graduate students who are approaching the dissertation phase to start planning early for funding opportunities. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the idea of just planning to finish graduate school, but we should also plan to apply for grant and scholarship applications to help support the final years of our graduate studies.
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