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Is there a source that funds graduate students to attend courses or meetings?

Have you got any suggestions as to what type of medical area needs vital research?


Dear GrantDoctor,

I wonder if you can help me with this. I am looking for a source that funds graduate students to attend courses or meetings. I would like to attend a course at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory this summer which costs almost $3000.ThanksH. P.


Dear H. P.,

For graduate students, $3000 is a lot of money and getting that much from funding agencies can be very difficult. It's not clear from your letter whether you want financial aid to travel to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in New York or whether you want money to pay for the entire course.

First of all, CSHL tells me they do not provide specific travel grants for prospective summer students. BUT you may apply for financial aid with your letter of recommendation that is part of CSHL's summer course application process. Roughly 16 students are accepted to each of these courses and the most expensive fee is $2550 for a 3-week course. Students who want to attend summer courses must submit their application by 15 March. Applicants will be notified 4 to 6 weeks later if they have been accepted.

The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) awards travel grants for minorities who are interested in the genome project. There is a caveat to the Minority Institution Travel Award Program: Prospective awardees must identify a sponsor who already holds an on-going grant, because the travel awards are only added as supplements to existing grants. The sponsor can be anyone, which includes your advisor. Like any grant, you must officially apply for these funds, and that includes getting your application in at least 6 to 8 weeks before the meeting. There are no fixed deadlines. Bettie Graham, the NHGRI program official responsible for the award, stresses applicants should clearly describe how "attending this course will help your career."

NIH's GrantsInfo officials said that an all-encompassing list of awards from every institute was not available. Search the funding opportunities of the institutes closely related to your research for more information. Travel grants of one sort or the other are awarded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

Your university or institution may also have a Graduate Student Association (GSA) that helps finance such trips. Johns Hopkins's GSA, for example, makes Graduate Student Travel Awards available to their students. Best wishes in hunting down every single one of those dollars!

--The GrantDoctor

Dear GrantDoctor,

I am currently in my final year at the University of Birmingham studying Biomedical Material Science and will be going on to do a Ph.D. in September 2000. I have not yet decided on an appropriate project to research for my Ph.D., maybe continue with the present topic or do something along the lines of studying the biocompatibility of implants. Have you got any suggestions as to what type of medical area needs vital research, preferably implants, and is there any chance of obtaining a grant for my Ph.D.?

Yours sincerely,

Gerard


Dear Gerard,

Dental research, oral biology, and orthodontics certainly are hot areas in which to pursue a Ph.D. degree. Researchers constantly evaluate the genotoxicity of different metals and titanium alloys in implants, for example. The word "implants" has taken a decidedly biological turn in today's dental circles, to encourage better biocompatibility between the prosthesis, artificial teeth, and human tissue. Tony Smith, professor of oral biology and research director at Birmingham Dental School, reveals one hot area of research involving the use of biological growth factors to naturally strengthen tissue and bone. "This is, for me, the most exciting area," Smith says. "We're trying to replicate the normal body process of healing," which in turn reduces complications that arise from the incompatibility between metallic implants and tissue. Other dental researchers, such as periodontists, are following suit, using growth factors to facilitate the healing process. They also continue to develop Gore-Tex membranes onto which living tissue can be grown.

Bioactive coatings on traditional implant materials are also a hot research topic. Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Washington State, for example, apply a bioactive calcium phosphate coating on the implant surface, which they say makes the implants last longer. The type of implant material and the way the coating is applied to the implant are all subject to new research. The PNNL researchers, for example, used a "surface-induced mineralization process" that they claim is stronger than "plasma-sprayed" coatings.

Check out the British Dental Journal , which houses a number of articles and updates on current dental practices. Last month they published studies on the career development of male and female dental practitioners, which may interest you.

Smith, who is also assistant secretary for the British Society for Dental Research, believes that funding agencies in the U.K.--the research councils, such as the Medical Research Council--are keen to develop research skills in dental and medical students and have designed specific schemes set up for studentships and grants. Some funding agencies award grants to actual departments, not individual students, so you should also search the major dental institutes and universities in the U.K. and inquire as to their funding status. Check out GrantsNet's "Wisdom" database that lists U.K.-sponsored research grants. I'm sure you are well placed to find both good projects and good sources of funding!

--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!