Funding Ophthalmology and Plant Biology Research


Are there visual science or clinical research ophthalmology grants out there?

Can a postdoc fellow from India apply for plant biology funds to support research here in the U.S.?

Dear GrantDoctor,

I am a recently graduated U.S. medical doctor and have become very interested in ophthalmology and would like to pursue a career in academics in the future. I have done around 2 years of immunology research in medical school sponsored by NIH and a fellowship that the medical school sponsored and have won two awards for my work. I am now looking for funding to take a year off after my internship in internal medicine to pursue ophthalmic research. What do you recommend for someone in my position? Are there visual science or clinical research ophthalmology grants out there for me?


Dear Rishi,

For a 1-year research fellowship in vision science, your best prospect might be the Fight for Sight Postdoctoral Fellowship, offered by Prevent Blindness America. Fight for Sight Fellows receive between $5000 and $14,000 for 1 year only. The deadline for submitting applications for this fellowship is March 1 of each year.

But have you considered extending your ophthalmic research for more than just a single year? If you do, you will have many more funding options, and your subsequent academic job hunt may be easier. For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has four different awards that you might interested you, but you'll need to pursue postdoctoral research for at least 2 or 3 years.

The National Research Service Award (NRSA; F32) provides postdoctoral funding for up to 3 years. In practice, you could be an NRSA Fellow for only 1 year, but be warned--leaving the fellowship before completing 2 full years will cost you! Fellows who leave early must pay back the first year's research stipend by either participating in another approved activity or by returning the cash (see the program announcement and a recent GrantsNet story)! Applications are reviewed 5 April, 5 August, and 5 December of each year, and the stipend amount varies depending on your previous postgraduate experience.

Many NIH institutes, including the National Eye Institute (NEI), sponsor two fellowship programs specifically geared for clinicians studying vision at outside institutions. Both the Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Award (K08) and the Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23) fund clinicians for 3 to 5 years. The difference between these two fellowships is the degree of patient contact--the K23 award is intended for physicians who wish to pursue research activities that involve a lot of interaction with human research participants, like running clinical trials and testing therapies, whereas the K08 funding is for more basic research on model organisms. Salary support varies, depending on the salary structure at your institution and the sponsoring NIH institute. Receipt dates for K08 and K23 applications are 1 February, 1 June, and 1 October of each year.

And if you are serious about competing for a faculty position in ophthalmology, be sure to check out the NEI Scholars Program (K22). NEI Scholars conduct research at NIH's Bethesda, Maryland campus for 3 to 4 years, then receive funding for an additional 2 years upon accepting a faculty appointment elsewhere. Imagine how attractive you will be to academic departments when you tell the search committee that you already have 2 years of grant money for your laboratory! The salary for the time at NEI is negotiable, and the maximum funding for the final 2 years of the program is $175,000 per year. Again, applications are due by 1 February, 1 June, and 1 October of each year.

Finally, there are a couple of programs that are not currently available, but you should keep your eyes open (pun intended ...). If glaucoma research interests you, check the Glaucoma Research Foundation Web site periodically for the latest information on the GRF Clinician-Scientist Fellowship Program. This program is not up and running at the moment, but more details are expected later this year. Give the GRF a call (at 415-986-3162) or send them an e-mail message (to if you'd like to be put on a mailing list. The Foundation Fighting Blindness offers 3-year Career Development Awards for the mentored training of clinician-researchers in clinical ophthalmology. Unfortunately, the foundation is not offering the awards at present, but be sure to check their Web site for updates.

Good luck,

--The GrantDoctor

Dear Pankaj,

Unfortunately, the GrantDoctor was unable to find plant-specific postdoctoral fellowships for non-U.S. citizens working in the U.S. And as a non-U.S. citizen, you are not eligible for government-sponsored postdoctoral fellowships, such as those from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

However, there are two general fellowships you should check out. Research grants from the Epply Foundation fund basic science research and are available to postdocs from any country who work at a U.S. institution. See my last column for more details. And the Life Sciences Research Foundation has 3-year postdoctoral fellowships for many areas of life science, including plant biology! Here again, applicants do not have to be U.S. citizens, but they must be working at a U.S. laboratory. The deadline for applications is 1 October of every year, and the award is $50,000 in the form of a minigrant. Salary support starts at $30,000 for the first year.

BUT if you have already finished your postdoc and are searching for a grant to help you establish your own laboratory at a U.S. institution, you have many more options!

You may apply for Standard Research Grants from the USDA's National Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program (NRI), for instance, so long as you are at a U.S. research institution. The NRI program accepts proposals on plant genomics, plant genetic mechanisms, plant growth and development, and plant biochemistry. And new faculty who are within 5 years of their appointments are eligible for New Investigator Awards in these same areas of plant biology. Deadlines vary by program area, so check the NRI Web site for the one that is best suited to your area of interest.

Funding nonbiomedical biological research is the mission of the Directorate for Biological Sciences of the NSF. One program that may be directly relevant to your research is the Plant Genome Research Program. This program funds basic plant genomics research, as well as the development of tools and methodologies for these studies. Although the deadline for this year has passed, NSF does intend to offer the program again next year; the updated announcement should be available on the NSF Web site by the end of August or beginning of September 2001.

Also, keep your eye on programs offered by the NSF Division of Integrative Biology and Neuroscience. Within this division, the Cluster for Developmental Mechanisms gives grants for work on plant development and the Cluster for Physiology and Ethology offers grants on multidisciplinary research on plant form and function. And if you are interested in the cell biological, biochemical, or biophysical aspects of plants, be sure to check out the programs offered by the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences. Non-U.S. citizens may apply for NSF funding if they have an appointment at a U.S. research institution.

And did you know that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) supports basic plant research? Because plants and microorganisms could potentially be used as renewable energy sources, the DOE wants to know more about what makes these organisms tick. Topics supported by DOE's Energy Biosciences Program include: the plant cell wall, photosynthesis, bioenergetics, and plant genomics. Officials at DOE strongly suggest that investigators submit a preapplication prior to applying to ensure that the project will fit with the program's mission. Full proposals are actually due today, 13 July 2001, so you will have to wait until next year's deadline to submit your materials. Again, awards are made to U.S. institutions and investigators need not be U.S. citizens to carry out funded research studies.

Good luck,

--The GrantDoctor

Due to the high volume of questions received, The GrantDoctor cannot answer all queries on an individual basis. Look for an answer to your question published in this column soon! Thank you!

I am a postdoc fellow from India and working in the plant biology field. Is it possible for me to apply for funds from the agencies in the U.S. or elsewhere to support my research here in the U.S.?

Thank you, --Pankaj

Follow Science Careers

Search Jobs

Enter keywords, locations or job types to start searching for your new science career.

Top articles in Careers