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Funding Opportunities for Science and Engineering Graduate Students

Students in front of the Spilker Engineering and Applied Sciences Building

Students in front of the Spilker Engineering and Applied Sciences Building

Graduate students in science and engineering fields may find several sources of tuition (and in some cases stipend) support while taking classes in public policy. This guide is provides information about, and links to, four different opportunities. Additional opportunities very likely exist, and we will add them as we become aware of them.

Stanford Graduate Interdisciplinary Fellowship

Support includes: three years of tuition and stipend

Description: Stanford’s Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education (VPGE) offers fellowships on a competitive basis to outstanding doctoral students pursuing interdisciplinary research. Although there are no fellowships specifically earmarked for public policy, your dual interests in science or engineering and public policy make you particularly competitive for this award. Funding from the SIGF should give you more freedom to choose your own course of study, including courses in public policy.

What to do: Learn more on the SIGF website and apply by the deadline (typically in March).

Diversifying Academia, Recruiting Excellence (DARE)

Support includes: two years of TGR tuition and stipend

Description: If you are interested in pursuing an academic career in science, engineering, or science and technology policy, you may be eligible for funding through the Stanford VPGE’s DARE program. The program targets “Stanford advanced doctoral students who want to investigate and prepare for academic careers and whose presence will help diversify the professoriate.” The website explains that diversity is defined to include, but not be limited to:

  • underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities
  • first-generation college students
  • women in fields such as natural science and engineering
  • gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students
  • students with disabilities
  • others whose backgrounds and experiences would diversify the professoriate in their academic fields.

Whereas SIGF is intended for earlier graduate students, DARE fellowship support is intended for advanced graduate students. Thus, you can in principle win both. However, note that students are only eligible to receive DARE support after they complete their core degree requirements; this means that you would not be able to use this funding to complete your public policy degree requirements. Nonetheless, any form of support from a source other than your PhD advisor should give you some additional freedom to explore public policy in your final years of your PhD research. Additionally, there is nothing preventing a student on DARE support from subsequently being admitted to the public policy program and completing a public policy degree.

What to do: Learn more on the DARE website and apply by the deadline (typically in March).

National Science Foundation (NSF) Broader Impacts

Support includes: two years of TGR tuition and stipend

Description: PhD students in science and engineering fields may be able to work with their PhD advisor or other faculty member in their PhD program to gain support from the NSF. All NSF research proposals must explain their potential for broader impacts, meaning “the potential to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes.” Broader impacts include:

“full participation of women, persons with disabilities, and underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); improved STEM education and educator development at any level; increased public scientific literacy and public engagement with science and technology; improved well-being of individuals in society; development of a diverse, globally competitive STEM workforce; increased partnerships between academia, industry, and others; improved national security; increased economic competitiveness of the United States; and enhanced infrastructure for research and education.”

Your combination of technical and policy training is an excellent example of a “broader impact,” and therefore is worthy of support through an NSF research grant. Your PhD advisor may not automatically think of your dual training as a potential “broader impact,” but if asked, he or she may be glad to include a short discussion of this dual training and a request for tuition support along with a research proposal that he or she is already planning to submit.

What to do: Talk with your advisor about writing in tuition support and a short statement of how your training in science and technology policy constitutes a “broader impact.” Bear in mind that many scientists and engineers struggle to articulate the “broader impacts” of their research (especially for basic research), and your interest in public policy may help your advisor make the case for funding. Accordingly, you should present this possibility as a win-win opportunity.

To make a strong case, you might also propose enrolling in a directed reading course (PUBLPOL 298) or research project course (PUBLPOL 309X) in which you would work with an appropriate faculty member to explore a policy question related to the research that your PhD advisor is proposing to the NSF. Your other studies can then be framed as supporting the research that you pursue in the independent study or research project course.

Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF)

Support includes: student loan repayment

Description: The PMF is an excellent opportunity for graduates of the public policy program which also provides for up to $60,000 in student loan repayment. The PMF is a leadership development program that provides students with a two-year appointment in a federal agency, specialized training, and the opportunity to continue in government at the completion of the program. Students who graduate with a Masters in Public Policy and a degree in science or engineering are particularly attractive candidates for a PMF. One public policy graduate successfully applied for and completed the program, confirming our expectation that graduates of the public policy program should be very competitive for the PMF.

What to do: Learn more about the PMF program and the student loan program, and then apply through the PMF website.