2000-01 Hunt Grant Research Report
Funding Undergraduate Research
Harold Takooshian, PhD
Richard S. Velayo, PhD
Vincent Prohaska, PhD
Lehman College, CUNY
How can college students fund their research, internships, and other psychology projects? This question often arises on college campuses across the USA today, for a number of reasons. First, psychology has emerged as the number one undergraduate major (Chamberlin, 2000), with over 67,000 baccalaureates awarded yearly in the USA (Murray, 1996). Second, the curriculum for this major increasingly requires empirical research (Brewer et al., 1993), to the point where "every psychology student should do research as part of their undergraduate experience" (Nodine, 2001). Third, many undergraduates know the importance of empirical research for acceptance into competitive graduate schools in psychology (Takooshian, 1993). Fourth, undergraduates are encouraged to do hands-on research for increased career success (Landrum, 2002), self-confidence (Sadowski, Flagler, Dowd, Ball & Collins, 2002), and personal growth (Carmody, 1998). It is no surprise that each year literally hundreds of Psi Chi and other undergraduates go well beyond their course work, to present their research at conferences, or publish it in the Psi Chi Journal of Undergraduate Research or other journals (Thomas, Rewey, & Davis, 2002).
Yet research can be expensive. Not many students have much money left to cover research expenses (supplies, equipment, conference travel, etc.) after stretching to pay for tuition, books, and living expenses. So where can students most easily find funding to do high-quality research? Sadly, this funding question is hardly addressed even in some of the finest guidebooks for students, such as Appleby (1997) or Landrum, Davis, and Landrum (2000).
One exceptional resource appeared in the Psi Chi Newsletter of Fall 1993--a single page that cumulated 52 good (and otherwise hard to find) sources of funding for student researchers (Bockert, 1993). Yet this unique list is limited in a few ways: (a) it is simply unavailable to all but a few who have back issues from 1993; (b) it is dated, and (c) it focused only on APA divisions and state associations--to the exclusion of foundations, corporations, and other groups.
Here, a 2001 Psi Chi/Thelma Hunt Grant let us three collaborate on an updated and expanded listing of sources for students (particularly undergraduates) to fund their research, internships, travel, and related projects. This is in two parts: (a) This article gives a capsule overview of available funding; (b) a separate, Web-based roster names specific sources and contact information (www.psichi.org/awards/list.asp). This overview is based on our interviews with funding specialists of diverse expertise, as well as perusal of websites, books, and unpublished reports.
Types of Funding
From the outset, it is useful to distinguish different types of funding. Susan Sharoma of the Foundations Center notes that unlike a general scholarship or fellowship, a grant is money given for a specific project. A grant is given before the research, unlike a prize, honor, or award given after the research is completed. Unlike a grant, a loan requires payback, and an internship requires some form of service. (Our review excludes information on traditional scholarships and fellowships, which is already amply available in bookstores, in libraries, and on the Internet. But along with grants, we also include awards and prizes, since these are closely related to grants, and can give the financial and spiritual impetus for follow-up research.) Some grants are also "targeted" to specific recipients or projects--such as minorities (Minority Undergraduates of Excellence [MUSE]), or research in Los Angeles (Haynes Foundation) or New York (Astor Foundation).
It is also useful to distinguish indirect from direct grants. Student researchers often receive funds indirectly, through a grant given to their school or professor for this purpose. For example, dozens of students each year receive $2,500 to do summer research through National Science Foundation (NSF) grants given to selected schools. In contrast, direct grants go right to the student. Indirect grants are far more common today, since grant-makers are more inclined to give grants to faculty or schools than directly to the individual students, so student researchers are wise to seek out faculty with indirect grants as an alternative to applying directly for their own. (Our focus here is only on direct grants to students, not indirect grants through faculty or schools.)
Types of Sources
Grants to students and others come from three very different sources--government, nonprofit, and private.
Government. "The U.S. government is by far the single largest source of financial aid to students" (S. Sharoma, personal communication, February 14, 2001). Several federal agencies offer extramural research grants for psychology--NSF, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Research Council (NRC), and the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA). Luis Zayas, an expert on government funding, notes that only a small percentage of these funds is open to students--such as the NRC minority dissertation grants, NIH predoctoral fellowships, NSF predoctoral grants, or Fulbright student grants. Students can conveniently access these through www.nsf.gov, or www.iie.org (for Fulbrights) and similar websites, but virtually all government grants given directly to students are limited to the graduate or even doctoral level, not to undergraduates.
Nonprofits. The USA is blessed with a variety of generous nonprofit organizations--foundations, professional associations, and community groups. Of 57,000 foundations in the USA, only 4,200 award funds directly to individuals, but these funds to individual scientists and artists total a hefty $468 million annually. Fortunately, foundations are highly organized, so it is easy to consult one source--the Foundations Center--for quick access to the wide array of funds. In fact, the New York-based Foundations Center has libraries in many U.S. cities, its superbly indexed database is online (www.fdncenter.org), and many schools own its book and CD-ROM, Foundation Grants to Individuals. Several professional groups also fund psychology student research. The more visible ones are Psi Chi (www.psichi.org), the American Psychological Association (www.apa.org) and its student group, the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS), about half of APA's 53 divisions and state psychological associations, and the American Psychological Society's Student Caucus (APSSC). Less obvious are the countless related associations, such as the American Association for Marital and Family Therapy (AAMFT), the American Educational Research Association (AERA), Sigma Xi, the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi), and the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR). These too are geared mainly to graduate students, but undergrads are sometimes eligible, and one group, Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS), is now extending awards to high school psychology researchers. APAGS used to print a useful booklet listing APA-related grants in conjunction with APA's Melton Library (APAGS, 1999).
Private. Each year corporations and other profit-making organizations such as Microsoft and Pfizer give millions in research grants, typically through their community relations, research and development, or marketing departments. One expert in this area, Scott Horton, notes this source is far too large to be ignored. Private grants may be large, available with little red tape, and quite open to student researchers, but they are especially challenging in a few other ways. There is no central registry or uniform guidelines, so individuals are "on their own" in approaching each organization and its contact person one at a time. Corporations' prime motive is usually proprietary and value-added rather than philanthropic ("How can your research benefit us?"), so their goal is typically bottom line, especially during times of recession.
Local funds. While using the Internet to find student research funds, we were surprised to uncover a fourth major source: local funds. There were 11,000 local student grants and awards, most of them given internally by schools. Upon reflection this made sense to us, and is a source not to be overlooked. Most colleges seem to have research institutes, small-grant programs, or awards named for distinguished alumni, and many psychology departments have a budget for mini-grants, "best paper" competitions, and/or "top student" awards. Though these local funds are too limited in eligibility to be fully included in our roster, the alert student or faculty advisor should not forget to check within their department and school, including the school's grants office.
In sum, our review of direct funding of undergraduate research can be summarized in these points: (a) It is much needed, given the acceleration of undergrad research today. (b) Sadly, funding that is scarce for faculty research, is more scarce for graduate students, and most scarce for undergraduates--based on the mistaken assumption that undergraduates are not involved in publishable research. (c) Happily, there are scores of good (if scattered) sources for direct funding for undergraduate research, if students or their mentors know where to look--within APA, other groups, foundations, and the private sector. (d) The group that is number one by far in the direct funding of undergraduate research today is Psi Chi, in both the number and total volume of its programs--with research grants, prizes, and travel awards topping $130,000 per annum--not to mention its conferences and two publications serving student researchers. (e) Since APA divisions and other groups like Psi Chi routinely limit their funding to student members, it is wise for students to join in advance a group or two that may fund their work. Fortunately, such organizations invite students to join at sharply discounted rates, and offer generous funding to these few savvy undergraduates.
Appleby, D. (1997). The handbook of psychology. New York: Addison Wesley Longman.
Appleby, D., Keenan, J., & Mauer, B. (1999, Spring). Applicant characteristics valued by graduate programs in psychology. Eye on Psi Chi, 3, 39.
Bockert, D. P. (1993, Fall). Awards, honors, prizes, and grants available to students. Psi Chi Newsletter, 19, 40.
Brewer, C. L., Hopkins, J. R., Kimble, G. A., Matlin, M. W., McCann, L. I., McNeil, O. V., Nodine, B. F., Quinn, V. N., & Saundra (1993). Curriculum. In T. V. McGovern (Ed.), Handbook for enhancing undergraduate education in psychology (pp. 161-182). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Carmody, D. P. (1998, Spring). Student views on the value of undergraduate presentations. Eye on Psi Chi, 2, 11-14.
Chamberlin, J. (2000, February). Where are all these students coming from? Monitor on Psychology, 31, 32-34.
Koch, C. (2002). Student grants and awards: Why and how? Unpublished report, George Fox University.
Landrum, R. E. (2002, Winter). Maximizing undergraduate opportunities: The value of research and other experiences. Eye on Psi Chi, 6, 15-18.
Landrum, R. E., Davis, S. F., & Landrum, T. A. (2000). The psychology major: Career options and strategies for success. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Murray, B. (1996, February). Psychology remains top college major. APA Monitor, 27, 1, 42.
Nodine, B. F. (2001, April 21). The value of undergraduate research. Presidential address presented at the meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association, Washington, DC.
Sadowski, G., Flagler, D., Dowd, K., Ball, J., & Collins, L. H. (2002, Winter). Finding opportunities to get involved in research: Some advice from the students' perspective. Eye on Psi Chi, 6, 28-29.
Takooshian, H. (1993, Spring). Involving students in report-worthy research. Psi Chi Newsletter, 19, 4.Thomas, J., Rewey, K. L., & Davis, S. F. (2002, Winter). Professional development benefits of publishing in the Psi Chi Journal of Undergraduate Research. Eye on Psi Chi, 6, 30-35.
Acknowledgments. We gratefully thank several folks who kindly shared their expertise with us: Susan Sharoma, librarian for the Foundations Center; Jennifer M. Horvath, APAGS Program Coordinator; Sarah Jordan and Keith Cooke of APA Division Services; Scott Horton of Fordham's Development Office; Professor Luis Zayas of Fordham; Professor Chris Koch of George Fox University; Patricia Zahregian of Pace University; and Elizabeth Cartier of Fordham University. Not least of all, we thank Psi Chi for its dedicated promotion of student research, and its Thelma Hunt Grant that made this project possible.
Richard S. Velayo
ABOUT THE AUTHORS: The three authors are known as mentors of student researchers on their campus, and for developing regional and national programs to encourage student research.
Harold Takooshian earned his PhD at City University of New York with Stanley Milgram. He has taught at Fordham University since 1975, where he received Psi Chi's Denmark National Faculty Advisor Award (1988) and Cousins National Chapter Award (1993). Since 1997 he is also the director of the Fordham Institute, dedicated to involving undergraduates in behavioral research--through mentoring, internships, and small grants.
Richard S. Velayo earned his PhD at the University of Michigan with Wilbert McKeachie and Carl Berger. He has taught at Pace University since 1994, where he chairs the Pace University Undergraduate Psychology Conference each spring, and advises the chapter that received Psi Chi's Cousins National Chapter Award (1999).
Vincent Prohaska earned his PhD at the University of Chicago. He has taught at Lehman College, CUNY since 1990, where he is the Psi Chi faculty advisor and, since 1995, chair of its Psychology Department. He was the recipient of Lehman's 1997 "Teacher of the Year" Award, and the Psi Chi Denmark National Faculty Advisor Award (2001) and Cousins National Chapter Award (2001).
Spring 2002 issue of Eye on Psi Chi (Vol. 6, No. 3, pp. 34-35), published by Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology (Chattanooga, TN). Copyright, 2002, Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology. All rights reserved.