Postgraduate Funding for University Students through Grants from Charity | GradFunding



Salman Malik, PhD Engineering, University College London
Funding for Research Expenses and Conferences

I am final year Ph.D. candidate at University College London (UCL) in advanced materials engineering within the department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering. I have a background in biomedical engineering, with a specific focus in Biomaterials an have previously completed a BEng, MSc and MRes prior to beginning my doctoral research. Although I have been fortunate to have these fully or partially funded, I needed further funding to support additional academic activity and outreach work.

I received several grants and project awards from my university to support conference travel and project support, but I still needed additional funding, and finding this proved tricky at first. I came across ‘The Armourers & Brasiers Gauntlet Trust’ through a list of funders provided by the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) and although I lacked experience in applying for external sources of funding, it was the first ideal candidate to ‘give it a go’ with nothing to lose. The application process was fairly straightforward stating the expenses need (i.e. conference travel), the breakdown of expenditure and also a supervisor reference. Collectively the application process wasn’t very daunting but I lacked confidence and belief in my ability to secure financial support from these external bodies. Through commitment, effort and time, the grant was a success and the funds were used for conference expenditure. Not only did this support my trip but additionally enabled me to present my research at my debut international conference. The trust kindly requests a post-conference report which is simply a brief story stating how I gained from the trip with the trust’s support and generally covers an explanation of the conference overall.

Realizing the opportunities out there, I went on my own funding journey to see what was available and joined several societies related to my research field and topic. Most if not all research councils/societies/charities offer grants and funding for travel opportunities throughout the Ph.D., so I successfully managed to secure several small travel grants subsequently funding numerous international conferences, from societies such as the ‘Institute of Physics’ (Student Conference Fund Award), the ‘C R Barber Trust Fund Award’, the ‘Andrew Carnegie Research Fund Award’ from the ‘Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining’ (IOM3) and also the Aerosol Society, covering the ‘Early Career Scientist Travel Award’. For all these awards, there was a common application process amongst them all in what they ask for from the applicant. Typically, a research statement explaining the need for the funds and how they will be used, a breakdown of the expenses and also a reference from your supervisor in support of your application.

Although applying for funding can lead to many rejections, it is generally a valuable asset to have as a trainee academic. Applying for grants has been intimidating although charities have made it easier to secure funds through other means making it more flexible to secure funds through the more ‘non-traditional routes’. I only realized this later during my research however most early career academics should use all available resources to fund their travels, fees and subsistence costs. Maintenance costs at University can be extremely difficult and therefore self-funding trips is impossible although the charities have enabled me to boost my academic profile in addition to my development as a junior researcher.

My case has been specifically for travel grants although charities are very dynamic and broad in the range of activity they can fund, they tend not to be limited to one aspect and realize that research is not just a single dimension and has a range of other activities that require support. Charity funding is a powerful source and can lead to incredible things during education and an individual’s career. The ‘Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding’ is the most unique source to date that I have come across and is the bible of charity funding for those looking to support their studies and personal career goals. I would like to thank the GradFunding team for their support and encourage others not to underestimate the range of support available through charities. The support the GradFunding team has provided will provide partial support for the next stage in my career to support a Masters in Enterprise where I can realize my dream of truly understanding research commercialisation and eventually apply this to my own business one day.