Erickson Discovery Grant applications open for undergraduates

Sean Yoder
October 21, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Erickson Discovery Grant applications are open for summer 2021 funding. Applications can be found here at InfoReady and Penn State students have until Jan. 24 to apply.

The Erickson Discovery Grant program provides $3,500 toward expenses of a student-initiated independent project. Student projects of all kinds are welcome: the arts, engineering, humanities, sciences and social sciences. Projects should primarily be the student’s own work, but they can be related to the supervising faculty member’s research or scholarly interests. Grants can be used to cover living expenses and project costs.

“While many opportunities seem to have been reduced during our fight with COVID-19, the opportunity to be curious and seek meaningful understandings has never been greater,” said Alan Rieck, associate vice president and associate dean for Undergraduate Education. “This program provides means for summer exploration of questions born out of curiosity.”

Malaria and wildfire

More than 60 Erickson Discovery Grants were awarded for summer 2020 and nearly all grantees were able to complete their experiences despite restrictions placed on them due to COVID-19.

Huntur Woodard, a senior biology major at Penn State York from Hanover, Pennsylvania, used the summer and an Erickson Grant to focus on literature searches, reviews, marker identification and writing while lab work was restricted due to COVID-19.

Huntur Woodard working in field lab

Huntur Woodard worked in the field lab at Hopland, California, in 2019. In summer 2020, he used an Erickson Discovery Grant to fund continued remote research during the pandemic.

IMAGE: Provided

Under the direction of Anne Vardo-Zalik, associate professor of biology, Woodard’s research looks at the genetics of the lizard population and malaria parasite in a particular area in California both before and after a wildfire. Woodard explained that in 2018 a wildfire burned more than half of the Hopland Research and Extension Center in Hopland, California. This site has been studied for more than 40 years.

“This project will provide more information on how malaria is affected by wildfires and how much of an impact the wildfires actually have on native species in California,” Woodard said.

His advice to fellow undergraduates writing funding proposals is to communicate with their mentor and go through multiple drafts.

“When applying for anything, especially funding, it is extremely competitive and the very best you can create is needed,” he said.

Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Mentoring can assist with applications

Students looking for help with their Erickson Discovery Grant application materials should visit Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Mentoring or email urfm@psu.edu. URFM will provide feedback, but materials must be submitted at least two weeks in advance of the Jan. 24 deadline.

URFM will offer an “Erickson Discovery Grant 2021 Bootcamp,” in the form of drop-in advising on Monday, Nov. 16. URFM, the Search Bar and Penn State Learning Writing Center will answer questions and look over project proposals. The boot camp is cosponsored by University Libraries and Penn State Learning. Registration is required.

Further questions about Erickson Discovery Grants may be directed to Alan Rieck at 814-863-1864 or ajr83@psu.edu.

The program is named in honor of Rodney A. Erickson, the 17th president of Penn State, and sponsored  by Penn State Undergraduate Education.

Penn State Undergraduate Education is the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at undergrad.psu.edu.

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Last Updated October 22, 2020