Funding Your PhD Workshop

Hello and welcome to another video from the University at Buffalo Office of Fellowships and Scholarships. Today we will be talking about finding funding during your PhD program, including application tips, searching for funding, and major external awards for PhD students. This presentation is intended for students who are already in a PhD program and are looking to fund their research or dissertation. If you are planning to apply to a PhD program, watch our funding for graduate school video first.

The PhD journey is long and there are several stages involved. When doctoral students are first entering into a program, the main sources of internal funding from universities are teaching assistantships (TAs), research assistantships (RAs) and graduate assistantships (GAs). TAs, RAs and GAs are jobs that require a time commitment of approximately 20 hours a week. Once you are accepted into a program, you can apply for different awards at different stages in the research process such as research funding, dissertation year awards and post-doctoral fellowships. Always think a couple of steps ahead of where you are now, and keep track of awards that you find now so you can come back to them later. If you plan to stay in academia, remember that you will be writing grants throughout your career. Finally, faculty members can be a great resource and you can talk to them about where they get their funding.

Here are some application tips for applying for awards during your PhD. Highlight your strengths but know that no recipient is perfect. Most applicants are extremely strong in one area and relatively weak in another. Also, putting together a strong application takes time. You will need to reflect, write and revise your application. You should begin preparing eight to 12 months in advance of the deadline. The odds of success can be low, depending on the award that you are applying for. However, there are many benefits of applying even if you don’t receive the award. You will learn about yourself, formulate your personal vision and become a better writer.

Now, we will talk about a couple major awards offered by the U.S. government for graduate study funding. The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP) provides funding for a research-based master’s degree or PhD. NSF funds many areas of research in engineering, the hard sciences and non-clinical social sciences. You can apply as a graduating senior, recent alum, or first or second-year PhD student. The program includes a stipend of $34,000/year for up to three years along with a $12,000 cost-of-attendance allowance to your university that covers tuition and fees. This fellowship allows you to focus on your research without the burden of teaching. There are two pieces of the application: a personal, relevant background and future goals statement, and a graduate research plan statement. Students are evaluated based on two criteria: intellectual merit and broader impact. There are various deadlines in October according to discipline and the Office of Fellowships and Scholarships offers workshops in the spring and summer to help students learn about NSF and begin preparing their applications. Note: Applicants must be U.S. citizens.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) fund several awards, including the National Research Service Award (NRSA). The primary purpose of the NRSA is to ensure the training of a diverse pool of pre- and post-doctoral independent research scientists to address the U.S.’s biomedical, behavioral and clinical research needs. F30 awards are individual fellowships for pre-doctoral training which lead to the combined MD/PhD and other dual clinical/research degrees. F31 awards provide pre-doctoral students with supervised research training in specified health-related areas leading toward a research PhD. Finally, F32 awards provide post-doctoral research training in order to broaden students’ scientific background and extend their potential for research in specified health-related areas. Current funding opportunity announcements can be found [on the NIH website]. Applicants submit applications through UB’s Office of Sponsored Projects Services. Make sure to contact Sponsored Project Services before starting the application process.

Do not worry, there are awards for students in the social sciences and humanities. For example, the Humanities Centers Initiative (HCI) supports humanities institutes, faculty and graduate students in their commitment to public engagement. The Public Humanities Fellowship is a year-long, $8,000 fellowship that offers advanced humanities graduate students a chance to explore the public application of their scholarly interests. It includes training in the methods of the public humanities, networking, and professional development and each fellow in the cohort of 18 designs and implements a public humanities project in collaboration with a community-based partner. You can contact the Humanities Institute at UB for more information.

Some awards are specifically geared toward women. The mission of the American Association of Women (AAUW) is to advance gender equity for women and girls through research, education, and advocacy. The national AAUW organization is one of the largest funders of women’s graduate education. Awards from the AAUW Buffalo branch are open to women who are from the Western New York (WNY) area or who are studying at a college or university in WNY, and there are awards for both U.S. citizens and international students. Two awards offered by the AAUW are the Catalyst for Change Scholarships for undergraduate and graduate student women who have demonstrated activism in line with the AAUW mission, and Olga Lindberg Scholarships for graduate students. The deadline to apply for AAUW awards is in January.

There are also some awards that are also open to international students in addition to U.S. citizens. You can find more information about these and other awards open to international students [on our website]. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) offers grants and scholarships for undergraduates up through faculty members to study or conduct research in Germany. The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS)/Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellowships [no longer available] support advanced graduate students in the humanities and social sciences in their final year of PhD dissertation writing. Chateaubriand Fellowships are grants for PhD students in the humanities, social sciences or STEM fields to conduct research in France.

Here at UB, the Graduate Student Association (GSA) Mark Diamond Fund provides grants to graduate students for research expenses related to their thesis or dissertation. PhD students may apply for up to $3,000, Master of Fine Arts (MFA) students may apply for up to $2,000, and master’s students may apply for up to $1,500. We advise interested students to sit on a panel to see what makes a competitive application. There are deadlines for the Mark Diamond Fund in the fall, spring and summer. For more information, email

Dissertation-year funding is available from many foundations, the government and UB. They include the International Dissertation Research Fellowship (IDRF) for graduate students in the humanities, the National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grants (NSFDDRIG) for students in fields such as archaeology, anthropology, geography, sociology, and political science, and the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Dissertation Grant for graduate students in education.

Finally, here’s how to begin your search for PhD funding. First, watch our searching for awards YouTube video, then use the Find Funding page on our website. You can search by the award name in alphabetical order, by level of study (so whether you are a sophomore or PhD student), by the application deadline, or by the category. We list awards for students in STEM, the social sciences, the humanities, and awards for study or research abroad. The find other awards tab contains links to other universities’ search engines and other useful UB webpages. When searching in another university’s search engine, look for awards that do not require you to be an enrolled student at the institution. The Sponsored Programs Information Network (or SPIN) is a search engine for faculty, staff and students to find research funding. [To use SPIN,] first, create an account [then] look for videos on how to set up searches in the tools section and make sure searches are set to individual, not institutional. You can email any questions to

Now that we have talked a little bit about funding your PhD, here is how you can connect with the Office of Fellowships and Scholarships for more information and support during your scholarship journey. Contact us via phone at 716-645-9100 or via email at Our on-campus office is located in 24 Capen Hall. Let’s get social! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter @UBFellowships, LinkedIn or YouTube. Or, find us on the web. You can also make an appointment with one of our advisors on our website. On the bottom of this slide, you can see Office of Fellowships and Scholarships Director Elizabeth Colucci, who works with students on general graduate awards and STEM awards. Assistant Director Megan Stewart works with students on general undergraduate awards and international study awards.

Thank you for watching this presentation and check out the other videos on our YouTube channel!