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Students Are Doin’ It for Themselves

Finding funding during the down economy is a hot topic this week at Neuroscience 2011 in Washington, DC. Times are tough even for seasoned PIs, let alone graduate students. That might be why a poster here at the meeting caught my eye.
Last year, a group of neuroscience graduate students at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, decided to start a local student-run grant agency. They appealed to their university’s Biomedical Graduate Education Organization and received $10,000. They formed a student-run review committee and adopted a scoring system based on NIH’s review criteria. They invited Georgetown biomedical graduate students to apply for small grants to help them, say, learn a new technique or fund travel to a conference.

That first year, 11 students applied and 5 grants were awarded, ranging from $1,500 to $4,500. Considering the project a success, this year the group applied to the university for more funding and received $15,000. This year, 5 grants were split among 10 applicants.
The grantees aren’t the only ones who appreciate the program, says Patrick Forcelli, one of the founders of the program and co-author of the poster. Students on the review committee say the process has helped them prepare their own grant applications and recognize what agencies like the NIH are looking for, Forcelli says.