Find Funding as an Early-Career Educator by Building on Small Successes

Sept. 6, 2017

As a new faculty member, I’m ready to soak up all of the wisdom about finding funding for biology education activities and research I can. So far, I’ve heard that it boils down to persistence, choosing the right grant program, and building on small successes.

En route to ASMCUE 2017 in Denver,  the lady sitting next to me on the plane warned that I should try “not to have your head explode” while attending the conference. I didn’t really succeed in following her advice.

Strategies for Getting Funded

On my first day at ASMCUE, I attended a series of talks about strategies for seeking funding. In a packed room of mostly early-career individuals, I was completely amazed. Dr. Nathan Reyna stunned the audience by relaying stories about awards totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding for undergraduate research to his small, primarily undergraduate university—not the sort of institution typically known for receiving lots of grants. These are the important points he emphasized:

  • Making undergraduates the central component of the grant.
  • Being persistent.
  • Selectively applying to relevant grants to ensure that your project is a great fit for the grantmaker’s request for proposals (RFP).

Attending talks by Dr. Julie Reynolds as well as Dr. Nancy Boury and Dr. Samantha Parks also imparted some great wisdom around strategizing for education grants:

  • Find small funding sources at your home institution as a proof-of-concept, then use your outcomes to compete for larger, multi-year grants from major funding institutions.
  • Start with small-scale projects like conference travel, course redesign, or smaller educational research projects.
  • Consider partnering on a project with a more experienced colleague who’s managed grants in the past.

Whether you’re seeking a grant from a campus group or a national organization, the importance of poring over the RFP can’t be overstated. As Dr. Boury and Parks said, “read it, then read it, then read it again, have someone else read it… then have breakfast with it.” 

Applying what I learned, I’ll be focusing on small, relevant grants and looking for diverse funding sources on and off campus. My goal will be to demonstrate successful outcomes and build these up into greater impact (and larger grants).

So, to the lady from the plane, my apologies. I was inspired by these ASMCUE speakers who generously shared their stories and strategies for seeking—and receiving—grant funding, especially at smaller universities. While my head didn’t explode, my mind was definitely blown.

Want more strategies for seeking funding? See our post on writing a great grant proposal

Written by Rachel Yoho, Ph.D.
Dr. Rachel Yoho is beginning her first year as a faculty member and excited about jumping into this new experience of teaching and seeking research grant funding. She is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. 

Author: Contributor

The Education Board's mission is to educate individuals at all levels in the microbiological sciences. It supports both student and faculty development through fellowships, online publications, conferences, workshops, and institutes, and networking opportunities.