Mobility, Coming and Going


Dear GrantDoctor,I am a British citizen currently working as a senior research associate in a U.S. laboratory. I am in the midst of negotiating a move back to the U.K. toward the beginning of 2005, in order to establish my own lab, basic research of which will focus on developmental biology. I will have done 7 years of postdoctoral studies at that time. I would like to know which grants/fellowships I am eligible to apply for.Many thanks,Kim

Dear Kim,

Everyone acknowledges that working and training abroad can be a great experience, valuable to both the researcher and to science, with benefits for better communication, richer collaboration, and broader expertise.

Yet working and studying abroad have their down sides. Many young researchers feel that working abroad takes them out of the loop, that they miss out on opportunities that are not internationally advertised or widely disseminated. Some young scientists even feel that some of the more conservative European institutions discriminate against those who have trained overseas, even when these scientists have received the best training. There is, no doubt, some truth to these suspicions.

The European Commission has attempted to address these and other issues, including a dramatic projected European shortage of scientists, via the "Marie Curie Actions" (check out its sophisticated Web site), which offers, among many other programs, repatriation grants for scientists who wish to return to Europe. There are (at least) two sets of programs under the MC actions that you are likely to be interested in: individual fellowships and the "return and reintegration mechanisms."

It doesn't matter where in Europe your new lab will be; if you're a citizen of an E.U. nation working abroad, and you'll be moving back to accept a position at a European laboratory, you qualify for a "training or mobility action," to borrow some "Marie Curie Action" jargon (which the GrantDoctor, who specializes in North American programs, admits to finding very confusing).

"The most substantial part of the funding," reads a fellowship handbook, "goes towards covering the expenses related to the researcher and the project. The researcher receives allowances to cover monthly living expenses, the costs related to travel and the mobility as well as a career exploratory allowance. Likewise, the host will manage the contribution for expenses directly related to the execution of the project by the research." Fellowships are for up to 2 years, although my sources tell me that they can be extended under certain circumstances. Specific funding rates aren't published, but a program administrator told me some weeks ago that the overall rate is about 20%, although it varies from program to program. You sound like an ideal candidate, so hurry; the next deadline is 18 February 2004.

Of the "return and reintegration" mechanisms, the "international reintegration grants" are, I think, the ones you ought to be looking at. The next deadline is 15 January 2004, but don't worry, there's another deadline in mid-April. These grants provide a modest pot of money to help returning scientists get started in their new positions.

Because I don't know much about the European scene, I turned to some of our European Next Wave colleagues for suggestions. Kirstie Urqhardt, our European editor, and U.K. Editor Babette Pain, who hails from France, are far more knowledgeable about European funding than I am, and both agreed that the Marie Curie Actions were a good place to start. They had some other suggestions, including the Wellcome Trust, which offers a series of career-development grants, and the Medical Research Council (Kirstie: "Looks like the Career Establishment Grants ought to be spot-on"). The Human Frontier Science Programme (HFSP) Young Investigators' Grants are good if you can round up a couple of collaborators. The British Society for Developmental Biology is another possible funding source.

Be well,

The GrantDoctor

Dear GrantDoctor,I am an international undergraduate student seeking admission to a Ph.D. program in chemical engineering at a U.S. university. My enrollment is fully dependent on financial aid. There is a "preference order" to be stated in the application form for the type of financial aid to be received:Graduate FellowshipNonresident Tuition FellowshipResearch AssistantshipTeaching AssistantshipDiversity FellowshipI'm supposed to indicate which sources of support I prefer. Kindly guide me through their details and benefits and which may be best suited for me.Thank you,Prashant

Dear Prashant,

Generally speaking, as a foreign national you will not qualify for a "graduate fellowship"--the first category--because most of these are limited to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. You probably also will not qualify for a "diversity fellowship," because these are, generally, reserved for citizens and permanent residents from underrepresented groups. Hence the second category: "nonresident tuition fellowship." This is probably a special fund offered by your institution to provide remission of tuition costs for foreign students; I suspect that it covers only tuition, and that you would still need another source of support, like a teaching assistantship, to pay your living expenses. You should, however, seek information directly from your institution.

This leaves two choices: teaching assistantships and research assistantships. These are normally funded with institutional funds and research grants and carry no citizenship or residency requirements. English-proficient foreign-national science trainees in their first 2 years of graduate school are likely to be offered a teaching assistantship instead of a research assistantship, because their lack of experience and training tends to limit their effectiveness in the research lab and because the amount of service required for a teaching assistantship (typically 20 hours/week or fewer ... often much fewer) is less than for a research assistantship. Research assistantships typically kick in after the second graduate-school year. Most research advisers require full-time labor in the lab in return for a research assistantship, which is typically paid out of precious research-grant revenues. This works fine once your coursework is finished (or nearly finished), as long as you're getting paid to do your Ph.D. research--the usual situation.

To summarize: Request a nonresident tuition fellowship first, then a teaching assistantship. The minimal service requirement will leave you plenty of time to focus on your coursework. After a couple of years, once you've selected a topic and a lab for you Ph.D. research, a research assistantship becomes a very good deal, because you'll get paid for doing your dissertation research full time.

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!

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