Finding Funding for Supplies in STEM

The great thing about studying STEM in graduate school is that there is plenty of funding out there. You just need to find it – and October is crunch time for that search. A lot of fellowships and grants have deadlines toward the year’s end, even though decisions usually aren’t sent out until the end of the spring semester. I’ve also seen some deadlines in summer, so you could really spend a lot of time crafting applications. One thing I have found particularly challenging is finding funding for supplies in STEM. Here’s what I’ve learned while looking for my hypothetical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

The King Air pilot was happy to answer my questions on training requirements – it turns out you need to be continuously trained when your job is to fly INTO the storm, and not out of it!

1 You Can Borrow Equipment

Sometimes other universities will let you use their research equipment for a fee, which is cheaper than purchasing brand new equipment and is great for short-term uses. Above is the University of Wyoming’s King Air research aircraft, which was used in the CHEESEHEAD intensive atmospheric science field campaign sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

2 Funding is Nice, but Did You Hear About Free Instruments?

Call them crazy, but some scientific instrument manufacturers will actually give away their products. One such example is the Grant A. Harris Fellowship funded by METER Environment, which gives away instruments needed for measuring soil-plant-atmosphere interactions. These opportunities are few and far between, so definitely consider it if you stumble upon one in your field.

My summer intern made a cup anemometer to measure the wind speed of this storm. The wind speed got so high it broke the anemometer. Making instruments is an option nonetheless.

3 Schools and Organizations Will Buy You Instruments

To continue my previous note about instruments, if you know what you want and the cost is less than $1,000, chances are you could apply to one of the small grants offered by some schools or organizations for that purpose. One example of this is the Grants in Aid of Research offered by Sigma Xi, a well-known scientific research honor society.

The cost of this flux tower was definitely not under $1,000, but it was funded by someone!

4 You Don’t Have to Apply for Everything

Funding is important but writing out multiple different drafts of proposals and writing application essays can take a lot of time, which means less time to actually do research or write your thesis. I find the best way to manage this issue is to apply to targeted, relevant opportunities.

5 Stay Positive and Determined

It’s hard not to get “senioritis” when you’re finishing one degree and moving on to the next, especially when you’re on application 3 or 4 and you feel like there are 1,000 more in front of you all with little to no chance of success. Still give the fellowships or grants that you apply to your best effort.

6 Check Your Email

Obviously you should search online for funding opportunities, but nothing beats emails that go out to specific department listservs. Those funding options are catering to people in your field, so you probably are already a good fit for the position.

man in white dress shirt sitting on black rolling chair while facing black computer set and smiling
Photo by bruce mars on

7 Be Open to New Possibilities

Before this semester, I only sought out funding opportunities that were directly related to my field of study. I thought working in the same field as the grant was required. Despite my prior belief, there are some grants that aim to support people in a diversity of fields. Give yourself a chance at unexpected opportunities.

Hope that helps. If you aren’t in graduate school, was there ever a time in your career where you had to apply for funding? Say, to open a small business or start a club? Let me know in the comments! Have a great rest of your weekend, Jess 🙂

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