Grad Hack: Grantwriting

By Kate Sweeny, PhD, University of California, Riverside

Grantwriting can be both super important and quite daunting.  After all, you’re asking a group of people who have never even met you to give you a lot of cash.  We asked Kate Sweeny, Associate Professor of Psychology and Graduate Grants Coordinator at UC Riverside, to give us some tips on how to go about getting grant funded and here’s what she said:

1. First and foremost, apply to funding opportunities early and often. Grantwriting is a skill that gets easier with practice, and you can't get funding if you don't apply!

2. Most applications require letters of recommendation, and professors tend to be very busy. Request your letters as early as possible, and don't be afraid to remind your letter-writers a few times before the deadline.

3. For most students, the earliest opportunity to apply for funding is the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. The fellowship is quite prestigious, and it typically fully funds 3 years of your graduate training. We encourage all eligible students in our PhD program to apply. The application requires letters of recommendation, a research plan, and a statement of personal experience, relevant background, and future goals.

4. Later in your training, you can apply for NIH National Research Service Awards (NRSAs), either at the predoctoral or postdoctoral stage. Because they're funded by NIH, the proposed project needs to have clear potential to benefit public health; otherwise, they fund quite a broad array of research. These proposals involve both research and training components, and my best advice is to spend just as much time on the training proposal as the research proposal.

5. Lots of other sources of funding are out there; it just takes some time and effort to hunt down ones that are a good fit for your background and research area. In my department, I serve as the Graduate Grants Coordinator, which means I maintain a database of funding opportunities that might be relevant for our students. If your department doesn't have someone to do that, you could volunteer!