Funding

Private funding for early-career researchers

Foundations, nonprofits and other groups support both basic research and studies of specific diseases
Elizabeth Stivison
Sept. 4, 2020

My last academic careers column was about government funding for early-career scientists, particularly National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation grants for Ph.D. students, postdocs and new faculty members. This week I looked into grants offered by foundations, nonprofits and other private sources.

Many of these funders have changed their program schedules or halted funding altogether this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am including programs that have paused with the hope that they'll resume next year. 

Organizations for specific diseases or topics

There are so many cause-specific organizations that fund students, postdocs and early-career researchers that I can’t list them all here. If your work is applicable to a medical condition, it is worth looking into the groups dedicated to that condition to see if they offer early-career grants.  Some examples follow:

Howard Hughes Medical Institute

HHMI might be most famous for its investigator program for established researchers, but the institute also offers early-career awards. Its faculty scholars program, in conjunction with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Simons Foundation, is for tenured or tenure-track faculty with fewer than 10 years post-training (postdoctoral positions count as training). The grant is for five years, and the program includes mentoring.

Sloan Foundation

The Sloan Foundation offers an early-career award for tenure-track faculty in several fields, including molecular biology and neuroscience. Academic departments must make the nomination. This is a two-year award.

Burroughs Wellcome 

Burroughs Wellcome offers early-career grants in various fields. In particular, it offers the Career Award for Science at the Interface for postdocs transitioning to faculty positions. This award is for people whose Ph.D.s are not in biomedical fields but who are working on biological questions through an informatics, physics or mathematical lens.

Burroughs Wellcome also offers the Career Award for Medical Scientists, which is open to physician-scientists committed to careers in research.

Life Sciences Research Foundation 

LSRF funds postdocs within five years of their Ph.D. The award includes all the life sciences and lasts for three years.

Helen Hay Whitney Foundation 

HHWF funds researchers in basic biomedical sciences in the final year of their Ph.D. or within one year of starting their postdoc. The award covers three years.

Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund 

This foundation supports postdocs studying cancer and with up to one year of experience post-Ph.D. or M.D.

The Ford Foundation 

This philanthopy offers a fellowship for postdocs in all science fields. It also offers a predoctoral fellowship.

Grants focusing on diversity

HHMI: The Hanna Grey Fellows program is for postdocs from underrepresented groups.

L’Oreal for Women in Science: Don’t be fooled into thinking a makeup brand can’t fund serious science. L’Oreal funds women postdocs in STEM fields and recognizes five outstanding women researchers every year. L'oreal funds postdocs all over the world through its American and international programs.

Burroughs Wellcome: The Postdoctoral Enrichment Program funds postdocs from underrepresented groups for three years.

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Elizabeth Stivison

Elizabeth Stivison is a postdoctoral researcher at Vanderbilt University studying inositol signaling and a careers columnist for ASBMB Today.

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