Find Your Own Funding

Many societies, private foundations, government agencies and even some larger journals provide funding opportunities for students. This may be in the form of studentships, travel awards to attend conferences or travel awards to conduct research or outreach projects. However, for the most part, it is up to you to find out what funding is available to help you conduct or share your research; funding agencies aren’t going to come looking for you!

Tip # 1: Start looking for funding EARLY!

The majority of summer studentship funding deadlines occur between January and early March; if you wait until April to start looking for summer funding you may be too late. In addition, if you are looking for travel funding to attend a conference or conduct research at another location, many agencies require that you apply months in advance of your expected travel date. Few funders, if any, will give you money for expenses incurred before you apply for funding.

Related to this tip – read the applications instructions well in advance. This will allow you to plan for potentially time-consuming requirements such as obtaining reference letters or university signatures. The Faculty of Medicine signature process can take up to one week so do not plan to get your application form signed the day before the deadline!

Tip #2: Be prepared to spend time searching

Unfortunately typing “summer funding for MD students” into a search engine is not going to get you very far, so be prepared to put in some search time. Start by making a list of the major societies, journals, foundations, funding agencies etc. in your area of research (or related to your specific project). Think both specific and broad – e.g. if you were studying the physiological mechanisms of diabetes you could look at the juvenile diabetes foundation (specific), and the Physiological society (broad). If you aren’t sure where to start ask your supervisor and/or research team members which groups would be appropriate; graduate students, residents, research assistants and post docs on your team can be good sources of information. Be sure to include any funding agencies that support your supervisor’s work. Most funders expect their grantees to acknowledge their financial contribution in publications and presentations, so you may also find some good leads by reading the acknowledgments section of journal articles that match your area of research. Other medical schools maintain lists of funding opportunities, so check them as well to make sure you haven’t missed any.

Sit down and conduct a thorough internet search to determine if any of the prospects on your list offer appropriate funding competitions. Check their websites carefully; funding competitions, especially smaller ones for student summerships, aren’t always obvious and you may need to do some digging. Some sections to look in include Research, Fellowships, Students/Trainees, Funding, and Grants. In addition, keep your eyes open for new prospects while conducting your search. For example, if you notice that a particular journal is produced by a specific society/agency, add the society/agency to your list and be sure to investigate their website too.

Tip #3: Know what opportunities exist to have others help you with some of the work

Sign up for e-bulletins, newsletters, RSS feeds from funding agencies/societies/etc. in your study area or follow them on Twitter, Facebook or their Social Media platform of choice…. and make sure you review the information you receive on a regular basis to ensure you don’t miss any opportunities. Of course if goes with out saying that UBC MD students should be reviewing the biweekly Student Research News e-bulletin – I do try to do some of the work for you! You can also seek out websites/databases that consolidate potential funding opportunities for you.

Bonus tips specific to travel funding

  • Ask your Department(s)/Division/Centre/Research Group if they sponsor any travel awards – some do but they aren’t always effectively advertised.
  • Check if the conferences you plan to attend offer any travel awards. Some conferences may also offer a partial refund of registration fees if you become member of a related society or volunteer at the conferences (e.g. to assist with AV or registration etc.).
  • Check if the societies/journals/etc. affiliated with your chosen conferences offer any travel awards.
  • Note that many societies only run travel competitions one or twice per year (and you need to apply prior to travel) so start looking as soon as possible.