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Paul Brack, PhD Chemistry, Loughborough University
Funding for Conferences, Travel, and Career Development
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I completed my PhD in the Department of Chemistry at Loughborough University in 2017. I was fortunate to receive a fully funded studentship from the EPSRC to support me in my studies. However, knowing the competitive nature of the academic world, and the need to complete my PhD with not just a thesis - but also to evidence of my ability to win funding and communicate my research to national and international audiences - I set about trying to win bursaries and additional funding.

The largest grant I was awarded was from the SCI (https://www.soci.org/)- an organisation I first came across as a placement student at a pharmaceutical company. Details of what I used the Scholarship for can be found here (https://www.soci.org/news/awards/scholars/graduate-scholar-interview-paul-brack). Those who are undertaking a PhD in a subject area which comes under the umbrella of one of the SCI interest groups (which cover the vast majority of the fields of science and engineering) could be eligible, and I got a flavour of the breath of topics this organisation covers on through their website. The application included questions on my motivation for applying and my career and research aspirations, and I sent in references from my PhD supervisors.

I was also fortunate to receive several fieldwork and travel grants over the course of my PhD from other bodes. Several came from the Royal Society of Chemistry, the famous learned society familiar to all chemistry undergraduates! For example, I received a grant from the RSC Energy Sector Knowledge-Exchange Bursary Scheme to partly fund my attendance at a conference in Dubai, and I also received similar support to attend conferences in London and Edinburgh. These grants were only available to RSC members, and typically required the completion of a short form outlining why I felt I needed the funding, what I intended to do with it, and how much I required. Some travel grants could be applied for simply through a learned society or conference website, rather than to the organisation centrally. In addition, I also received funding via a similar route on several occasions from the (now defunct) Solar Fuels Network Travel Grants programme.

While I did suffer some rejections, I was typically successful in my applications, especially for travel grants. In my experience (which included organising a couple of conferences myself during my PhD) these are often undersubscribed. Applying to multiple sources to obtain funding for a particular activity can be beneficial; for example, if you have already secured funding from one organisation for a conference registration fee, it can be much easier to win a grant from another organisation to fund travel.

I am very grateful to all the organisations who provided funding to enable me to complete and enrich my doctoral studies.

Paul was won of the winners of the 2017-18 Alternative Guide Prize draw, winning a prize of £100. Congratulations! If you would like to apply to our next prize draw, you can do so here.

 

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