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How to find small-medium sized funding grants for student research projects?

To provide some brief background, I am a High School student and part-time researcher at UC Santa Cruz's Chemistry & Biochemistry Department. My lab's primary focus is on the novel functions of nanomaterials and their optical-electronic properties.


The goal of my research project is to explore functional nanometer sized clusters of transition metal and characterize their morphology/structure/composition. In terms of applications, the long-term objective is to design a catalyst that will speed up the kinetics increasing the overall efficiency of a hydrogen fuel cell, with a focus on studying how changing the properties of the catalysts will affect the overall ORR activity.


More than anything, I want to perform research on a level worthy of reference and publishing, to further the field chemistry, no matter how small. However, the two major problems I'm faced with:


  1. Funding doesn't seem to exist for High School researchers, even though there is strong evidence to support that "active" experimental research improves a student's education and increases retention rates for pursuing STEM.
  2. Although I have access to a wet lab and equipment, for which I'm grateful. There still exists funding restraints on the amount of resources my PI can expend on expensive characterization techniques.


My question is, if a student has proven their competency as a researcher and has publishable data, then how do you propose they go about seeking small to medium-sized funding grants? I reason, that with all the competitive science fairs (e.g. ISEF, Siemens, Google) there exits some type of funding model to support this type of ad-hoc research.

6 Replies

Faisal Memon
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Faisal Memon Entrepreneur
iOS Department Technical Lead at Citrix ShareFile Quick Edit
There are a couple of approaches I'd like to suggest.

Firstly, I would prepare a grant proposal.
This will allow your plans to be compared on a factual basis against other proposals. You should work on the basis that the most valuable ideas always get funded. Your job is to demonstrate the value.

Secondly, there should be academic leadership at the hosting lab. They should have been in grant funding situations and could help it progress to get in front of the right people. Partnering is always a good idea when you cannot do it yourself. For example, reach other to other researchers (say PhD. students) and think about a combined effort. That may overcome the 'High School' element that is novel in terms of funding vehicles not recognising that.

Thirdly, you could approach adjacent people who had similar kinds of dilemma. Why not look up https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_D%27Aloisio whom I do not know but I suspect could offer cogent advice and be sympathetic as he also bootstrapped from a young age.
Doug Dykaar
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Doug Dykaar Advisor
Ultimate supreme executive chairman at DifTek Lasers Inc.
You need to get supported by Shaowei. It's his job (with your help).
Michael Barnathan
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Michael Barnathan Entrepreneur • Advisor
Co-Founder of The Mountaintop Program, Google Alum
Agreed with the others that your best bet is to ally with a senior researcher at your institution. They'll have the knowledge and experience to help you get a grant for the project, and having a senior researcher on the application (even if not PI) will also lend credibility to it.

Another approach, given publishable data, is to write up and publish what you already have. Relevant publications will also assist in future grant applications.
David Croson
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David Croson Advisor
Business/Economics Professor, Venture Advisor and Investor
Any researcher with a current NSF grant can apply for an REU supplement (Research Experiences for Undergradutes.) They are straightforward to get with a well-defined research plan. Note that "Undergraduate" does not mean only people enrolled in a Bachelors' program; you are not disqualified, although your proposal will certainly need to have intellectual merit.

Once you get into the world of competitive grants, however, a little perspective is in order. About 5x as much grant money is applied for than is granted, and it often takes a year or more betwen beginning a grant proposal and being able to start funded research. This is unlikely to fit with your timeline. You (and your PI) are better off pitching the university for the support.
Hadi Maghsoudiganjeh
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Hadi Maghsoudiganjeh Entrepreneur
Materials Engineer
The best advice is to ask your PI to try apply for funding. There are many different resources that university professors can apply for. Now, if for any reason, you want to apply independent, and you think you have a strong idea, you can apply for SBIR. I can help you more in detail. Message me if you want.
Nancy Fulton
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Nancy Fulton Entrepreneur
Media Funding, Marketing & Monetization
FoundationCenter.org lists thousands of grants of all kinds. It's very up to date, provides information about the grant maker, lists past grants they've made, etc.
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