Focus: Awards in the Sciences



What’s Your Award?AwardBubble



Made possible through a 12-year, $50 million commitment from the Amgen Foundation, Amgen Scholars allows undergraduates from across the globe to participate in cutting-edge research opportunities at world-class institutions. 17 leading institutions across the U.S., Europe and Japan currently host the summer program.

Undergraduate participants benefit from undertaking a research project under top faculty, being part of a cohort-based experience of seminars and networking events, and taking part in a symposium in their respective region (U.S., Europe or Japan) where they meet their peers, learn about biotechnology, and hear from leading scientists.

Amgen Scholars at a glance:

  • No previous research experience is necessary and you do not need to be a biology major to apply.
  • You do not need to currently attend one of the 17 host institutions to participate in the program. In fact, Amgen Scholars have represented over 500 colleges and universities to date.
  • During the program, students work full-time on independent research projects under the guidance of a research scientist.
  • Amgen Scholars have opportunities to conduct research, analyze data, present research results, network with other undergraduates with similar research interests, and develop working relationships with faculty mentors and other research staff.
  • Amgen Scholars learn how to collaborate effectively in research settings while investigating areas of research interest within a specific discipline and gaining practical skills and knowledge for both graduate study and post-graduate careers.
  • Financial support is a critical component of the Amgen Scholars Program. Please note that details vary by host institution. See each institution’s Amgen Scholars Program website for more information.


There are hundreds of NSF-sponsored REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) opportunities across the US and various territories sponsored by individual REU sponsors–colleges, universities, and research institutions that have received NSF funding to provide outstanding research opportunities to undergraduates. The process can be a mess: deadlines vary from December to May, and it can be difficult to find application information on individual opportunities (some opportunities have nicely curated websites, others have phone numbers associated with them, and sometimes neither of the above are updated) but these experiences are well worth it. Search opportunities through the link above–you’ll find everything from basic biology and chemistry projects to projects involving polar programs to cyber-infrastructure. Happy hunting!


SIP: The National Institutes of Health–the nation’s federal medical research agency–runs a Summer Internship Program (SIP) that provides a full-time biomedical research experience.  Supporting students at various levels, beginning in high-school and extending into graduate and professional school–the NIH is home to about 1100 interns each summer, all of whom are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

The NIH also runs a generous Undergraduate Scholarship for aspiring scientists who can demonstrate exceptional financial need.

Housed in the broader SIP program, you will find more focused internships, such as those offered through the National Institution of Environmental Health Sciences that focus on biomedical, molecular, and analytical techniques in related fields. You should also check out the AMGEN Scholars Program at the NIH for internships focusing on biomedical research. Note, the application does not open until mid-November.

  • Eligibility: varies
  • Award: Varies, but includes paid summer internship
  • Deadline: Early March

The NIH Postbac IRTA program (CRTA, Cancer Research Training Award, in the National Cancer Institute) provides recent college graduates who are planning to apply to graduate or professional (medical/dental/pharmacy) school an opportunity to spend one or two years performing full-time research at the NIH. Postbac IRTAs/CRTAs work side-by-side with some of the leading scientists in the world, in an environment devoted exclusively to biomedical research. The NIH consists of the 240-bed Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center and more than 1200 laboratories/research projects located on the main campus in Bethesda, MD and the surrounding area as well as in Baltimore and Frederick, MD; Research Triangle Park, NC; Hamilton, MT; Framingham, MA; and Detroit, MI


The CDC has a number of programs focusing on undergraduates including the Future Public Health Leaders Program, in which participants explore public health through seminars, workshops, and engagement in a community-based research project. Throughout the program the experience is guided by mentors from public health disciplines. The participants receive leadership training, orientation to the public health disciplines, real world work experience, and a trip to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to meet public health professionals


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Ernest F. Hollings scholarship program is designed to increase undergraduate training in oceanic and atmospheric science, research, technology, and education and foster multidisciplinary training opportunities;  increase public understanding and support for stewardship of the ocean and atmosphere and improve environmental literacy; recruit and prepare students for public service careers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other natural resource and science agencies at the federal, state and local levels of government; and recruit and prepare students for careers as teachers and educators in oceanic and atmospheric science and to improve scientific and environmental education in the United States.

  • Eligibility: sophomores (or juniors if taking a fifth year) studying biological, life, and agricultural sciences; physical sciences; mathematics; engineering; computer and information sciences; social and behavioral science; and teacher education.
  • Award: The Hollings Scholarship Program provides successful undergraduate applicants with awards that include academic assistance (up to a maximum of $8,000 per year) for full-time study during the 9-month academic year; a 10-week, full-time internship position ($650/week) during the summer at a NOAA facility; and, if reappointed, academic assistance (up to a maximum of $8,000) for full-time study during a second 9-month academic year.
  • Deadline: Late January

Department of Defense’s SMART scholarships (over 200 offered per year) offer generous scholarship support in exchange for a commitment to work for the DOD after graduation for a period of time. The Science, Mathematics And Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship for Service Program is an opportunity for students pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines to receive a full scholarship and be gainfully employed upon degree completion.

  • Eligibility: first-year through graduate
  • Award: Full scholarship
  • Deadline: Mid-December


The Goldwater Scholarship is a premier award for undergraduates preparing for careers in engineering, math, and the natural sciences. Applicants are evaluated based on outstanding academic performance and potential for careers in related areas. Pre-medical students may apply only if their career interest is research rather than clinical. Institutional nomination required. About 300 awards are given each year. CofC can nominate up to 4 students, and earning the campus nomination itself is often a competitive process with more applicants than nominations.

    • Eligibility: Current sophomores or juniors with research experience and strong mentor support.Applicants must work through the NCA office to receive internal nomination.
    • Award: Maximum of $7,500 annually, covers eligible undergraduate tuition, fees, books, and room and board(for one or two years, depending on whether student wins as a junior or as a sophomore).
    • Deadlines:
      • Internal: Early January / Late December
      • National: End of January
    • Notes: research experience will help you be more competitive, but a high GPA is essential as well: in 2013, winners had a 3.9 average GPA.


The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship is one of the most widely recognized graduate awards in the sciences, and most students in Ph.D. programs will apply for one of these awards. Importantly, undergraduate applicants are reviewed separately from graduate applicants, so these are very accessible awards. The NSF GRFP awards recognize and support outstanding seniors (who are applying to graduate school) and graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions. As the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, the GRFP has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers.

  • Eligibility: Seniors applying to graduate school and grad students in NSF-supported fields; significant research experience is expected for successful applicants. 
  • Award: Fellows benefit from a three-year annual stipend of $32,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees (paid to the institution), opportunities for international research and professional development, and the freedom to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education they choose.
  • Deadline: Early November (varies by field)


Fulbright awards are grants for one year of study, research, or English teaching assistantships in almost any country in the world; this is the U.S. Government’s premier scholarship program. About 1,000 awards are given each year, and opportunities vary by number and requirement for each country, so researching and reflecting upon the many opportunities available is absolutely essential.

  • Eligibility: U.S. citizen, holding bachelor’s degree by the time overseas project would commence.
  • Award: One-year award (though some are longer) typically covering round-trip transportation, language or orientation courses, tuition where necessary, book and research allowances, and living expenses.
  • Deadlines:
    • Internal: September 24 (subject to change)
    • External: October 14
  • Notes: Many research grants require what Fulbright calls an “affiliation.” This is an overseas research mentor who will oversee and consult on your self-designed project. You might also join a larger research project, but it will be important that your role is distinct and substantial. These awards don’t go to lab assistants. Overseas experience is not necessary. It is important to begin the Fulbright application process as soon as possible given complications around affiliations that can arise.

And so, the question arises once again….

What’s Your Award?



There’s an award out there for you–I didn’t even touch on opportunities available through the Department of Homeland Security, the Navy, and other agencies. The application processes for all of these awards are intensive, so careful planning is crucial: most of these awards require letters of recommendation, which should be requested well in advance of the deadline; most require detailed and compelling personal statements; and all require that you have carefully reflected on how your skills, interests, and experience align with a given opportunity. Fortunately, the NCA office is here to help you at each step, especially when it comes to composing and revising personal and research statements. E-mail to set up an appointment to discuss these and other opportunities available to you.

Many of you here have received locally competitive SURF or HHMI grants. The opportunities discussed here are nationally competitive opportunities–opportunities that create the kinds of connections and that come with a certain prestige that will serve you well as you move on from the College to other research and post-graduate opportunities.

Check out the NCA Blog and Awards Search site for more awards in and beyond science. Be sure to fill out an Applicant Profile form on that site if you would like me to contact you about award opportunities or to schedule an appointment. You can also access the Profile form, and get tips on all aspects of the awards application process, on the main NCA website.

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