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, 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 so that you can 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 expect to get your application form signed the day before the deadline!

Tip #2: Be prepared to spend time searching

Unfortunately, typing “summer funding for 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 organizations would be appropriate; graduate students, residents, research assistants and post docs on your team can be excellent sources of information. Be sure to include any funding agencies that support your supervisor’s work. Most funders expect successful grantees to acknowledge their financial contribution in publications and presentations, so you may also find leads by reading the acknowledgments section of journal articles in your area of research. Similar to the FoM Office of Research, other units and universities also maintain lists of funding opportunities, so check them as well to make sure you haven’t missed any – e.g. if you want to work in another city or province over the summer, look at the listings compiled by the local universities/institutions.

Next, 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 ResearchFellowships, Students/TraineesFunding, 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, and 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 it goes without 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 a 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 once or twice per year (and you need to apply prior to travel) so start looking as soon as possible.
  • The UBC Medical Undergraduate Society (MUS) often runs a travel competition for UBC MD students in March. MD students should check with their class president or the MUS VP Academic for details.