Funding & Reimbursement

The fun things always seem to require money, and astronomy conferences, workshops, and observing runs are no exception. Here is some advice for easing the financial burden. The webmaster offers many thanks to Brandon and Pey Lian Lawton for gathering this information.

The following grants, scholarships, and fellowships are valuable sources of funding that graduates may apply for in our department. Keep in mind that international students are ineligible for many of these. There are many graduates in the department that have some of these grants, so be sure to ask for help in the application process if you need it.

External Grants and Fellowships

NASA One Stop Shopping Initiative (OSSI) and Student On-Line Application for Recruiting interns, fellows, and scholars (SOLAR) Launchpad

Deadline varies, see below schedule

NASA offers a single portal to apply for a range of internships, fellowships, and scholarship opportunities offered by NASA Mission Directorates and Centers.

Deadline Action
November – February Submit Fellowship Application for Academic Year 2010 – 2011
Submit Internship Application for Summer 2011 Session
February Begin to receive offers for Summer 2011 Session
February – May Submit Internship Application for Fall 2011 Session
May Begin to receive offers for Fall 2011 Session
June – October Submit Internship Application for Spring 2012 Session
October Begin to receive offers for Spring 2012 Session

 

 

NASA Graduate Student Researchers Program (GSRP)

Deadline March
Starts in May and runs 1 year with a chance of renewal for 2 more years for a Ph. D. (1 more year for a Masters)
NOTE: International students are ineligible for the NASA GSRP fellowship.
 
The NASA GSRP is a fellowship awarded to a select group of graduates every year. The award is typically for $27,000 a year with an additional $3,000 for adviser discretionary funds. The discretionary funds may be spent on supplies for research such as books; however, it’s more typical for the money to be spent on travel to professional conferences. Computers can not be purchased with the discretionary funds. Awardees are expected to submit a series of reports documenting their progress and spend 10 weeks at their NASA center.

The process for applying to this fellowship can be time consuming, therefore, it’s recommended that graduates applying for this fellowship prepare well in advance. In particular, you must find a researcher at a NASA institution who will collaborate with you and act as your GSRP adviser.

First time applicants are required to submit:

  • A five-page project proposal with an additional abstract
  • A budget
  • Official undergraduate and graduate transcripts
  • Letter of recommendation from the student’s adviser
  • A signature form signed by student, student’s adviser, and NASA adviser

 

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP)

Deadline November
Starts in April and runs for 3 years
Fewer grad students are awarded the GRFP. The award is typically for $30,000 a year with an additional $10,500 cost-of-education allowance and also includes access to the TeraGrid supercomputing network. This award is intended for new graduate students, so students who have completed 1 year of graduate study are ineligible. Once you have been awarded the GRFP, you may not apply for it again.
Applicants are required to submit:
  • A series of essays (Personal statement, previous research experience, proposed plan of research) each no more than 2 pages and an optional Program Eligibility essay no more than 1 page
  • Official undergraduate and graduate transcripts
  • 3 reference letters

Previous award winners (namely Laura Mayorga, Carlos Vargas, and Kenza Arraki) have put together a guide for applying.

 

New Mexico Space Grant Graduate Research Fellowship

Deadline March
Starts in September and runs year with a chance of renewal for 1 year
NOTE: International students are ineligible for the NASA GSRP fellowship.
The NM Space Grant is a common source of funding for grads in the astronomy department here at NMSU. The award is $10,000 over the course of two semesters and graduates may receive up to 2 years of funding via Spacegrant. The award is offered in the Fall and Spring; therefore, graduates can apply in either semester. Spacegrant often is used as summer salary for students if they are already teaching in the Fall and Spring. The application is less rigorous than the NASA GSRP; however, a short presentation of your research is required every year for recipients. These are usually low stress presentations given in the Sugerman Space Grant Building on campus.SpaceGrant goes directly into your account without the department’s being notified. It’s yours, personally, and you are taxed for it as income. There are no restrictions on how you spend this money, so you can spend it on tuition, computers, programs, rent, food, alcohol, and even chenille chickies. This means there are no grounds for an adviser to tell you how to use the money. If, for instance, they say they will not pay you for the summer and that you should use Space Grant as summer salary, at that point you are effectively self-employed and can do whatever you want.

New Mexico Space Grant Research Enhancement Grant

Deadline December (Notice of Intent), February (Proposal due)
Starts in September and runs 1 year
NOTE: International students are ineligible for the NASA GSRP fellowship.
The award is typically for $25,000 a year provided by NASA EPSCoR. To our knowledge, no one has been awarded the Research Enhancement Grant, but this is regretfully due to lack of applications. The process for applying to this fellowship is time consuming, so it’s recommended that graduates applying for this fellowship prepare well in advance. Letters of Intent should include the title of your proposed research program and a short summary description of the work involved. Like the NASA GSRP this grant requires the support of a NASA researcher. It may be tough to find someone with appropriate interests, or they may be busy with other projects, so begin looking for a NASA representative as soon as you decided to apply for this grant.

Applicants are required to submit:

  • A five-page project proposal (along with Cover Page, Table of Contents, and 250 word abstract)
  • Budget
  • Letter of support from a NASA Field Center or Mission Directorate

 

Carnegie Observatories Graduate Research Fellowship

Deadline April
Starts date flexible (mid-Summer/Early Fall) and runs for 1 year with a chance of renewal for 2 additional years
This Fellowship provides a stipend to graduate students interested in carrying out all or part of their thesis research under the supervision of a Carnegie Staff member in residence at Carnegie. It includes a stipend of $29,000 to cover housing and living expenses. Applications are encouraged from grad students doing research in observational astronomy, theoretical astrophysics, or instrumentation development. Major areas of research include cosmology and the distance scale, physics of active galactic nuclei, searches for massive black holes, galaxy formation and evolution, galaxy groups and clusters, intergalactic medium, star formation, supernovae, star clusters, and nucleosynthesis and chemical abundances of stars. Coursework and qualifying exams (orals) must be completed prior to arriving at Carnegie.

Applicants are required to submit:

  • Essay describing current research and proposed project
  • Statement of previous research and summary of current research
  • Carnegie Staff member sponsor
  • 3 letters of reference
  • Letter of approval from our department head
  • Official transcript
  • CV

 

Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid of Research

Deadline March and October
Starts in May and December and runs 1 year
The Sigma Xi GIAR awards up to $1,000 to students from all areas of the sciences and engineering. Designated funds from the National Academy of Sciences allow for grants of up to $5,000 for astronomy research and $2,500 for vision related research. Students use the funding to pay for travel expenses to and from a research site, or for purchase of non-standard laboratory equipment necessary to complete a specific research project. Note that this grant will not pay for computers or conference travel, but does help with travel to and from research sites such as observatories or to work with collaborators.
Also, dues paying members of the Sigma Xi or those students whose advisers are dues paying members will get a much greater consideration for the award. Therefore, be sure to ask your adviser if he/she is a dues paying member.

AAS International Travel Grant

Deadline January and June
Starts in February and runs to July, starts August and runs to February
The AAS offers an NSF-funded travel grant to international meetings. The application form requires that you submit a price quote and airline for your plane ticket. This grant works like getting money from ASNMSU: you are reimbursed based on receipts you submit after the conference. You must also submit a ‘final report’, a description of the subject content of the meeting, summary of benefits of attending, description of your participation in the meeting, and meeting attendance information (if available).

Grants for IAU Symposia and Regional IAU Meetings

Deadline depends on meeting
There are travel grants for you to attend an IAU Symposium or Regional IAU Meeting. Procedure and deadlines will be announced by the meeting organizer.

NMSU Funding

Astronomy graduates frequently attend conferences, travel to observatories, go on job interviews, and many other prohibitively costly endeavors in the effort to further their careers. To help cover some of these expenses for graduate students, the University has many potential funding sources. The following road-map is generally how graduates should look to recover some of their money. Note that these options are equally valid for international students as well.

 

Your Adviser

The first step any graduate student takes in understanding their funding starts with their adviser. First, speak with your adviser to understand the expected budget and how much money you may need to ask from the remaining sources of funding. Depending on the adviser you may be able to get all of the necessary funding through them or through your own personal grants or fellowships. Also, ask your adviser about their nominating you for any of the following Graduate School awards:

Award Deadline Description
Graduate Research Enhancement Grant November NMSU pays your salary because you’re awesome! This is a curious award in that they pay 100% your first year, 66% your second year, 33% your third year, and nothing after that. Also, you have to write a report and give a 15 minute presentation each year.
Graduate Assistant Tuition Fellowships April You don’t pay tuition because you’re awesome!
Alumni Outstanding Graduate Student Awards October You get a certificate of commendation from the Alumni Association for contributions to graduate life and the community.
Outstanding Graduate Assistantship Awards April You get $2000 ($1000 each semester) because you’re awesome at teaching or research!
Mike Watts Outstanding Leadership March, April You get $2000 ($1000 each semester) because you’re awesome at leading and helping people! You can self-nominate (deadline in March) or get nominated by the faculty (deadline in April).
McNair Graduate Assistantships April You get a salary for a year and the department promises to pay your salary for the next year because you’re awesome!
NM HED Fellowship April, November If you are a non-white male, you get half a salary for up to 4 years because you’re awesome! This award requires that you work as a half-time TA.
Diversity Graduate Assistantships April If you are a non-white male, you get a salary for a year and the department promises to pay your salary for the next year because you’re awesome!
Merit-based Enhancement Fellowships April You get $4000 ($2000 each semester) because you’re awesome at research or teaching!
Preparing Future Faculty 10 hour Graduate Assistantship Awards April If you are a non-white male, you get a salary for being a quarter-time TA, teach a class, and attend workshops because you’re awesome at teaching!

 

Astro Department Awards

The Astronomy department offers several awards for research, teaching, and outreach. Nominations may be submitted by faculty and students, and self-nominations are also accepted. Encourage your friends to nominate you for these awards!

  • Zia Award (yearly) for research awesomeness
  • Pegasus Award (yearly) for teaching awesomeness
  • Rappaport Award (bi-yearly) for public outreach awesomeness or completion of an exceptional observational research project
  • Murrell Award (yearly) for research or professional development awesomeness

 

Graduate School Conference Travel Award

The Graduate School has small Conference Travel Awards that can be used on top of any money from ASNMSU, GSC, advisers, etc. The amount varies: up to $150 for in-state travel, up to $350 for out-of-state travel, and up to $600 for international travel. You can get this award multiple times, but the total of the Conference Travel Awards you receive can’t be more than $600 during your time at NMSU. These awards are limited in number and typically run out well before the end of Spring Semester, so it’s highly recommended that you act early submitting the forms for this award.

Applicants are required to submit:

  • a form with signatures
  • a letter from your adviser
  • proof that you’re attending the conference (registration receipt or conference proceedings listing your poster/talk are sufficient)
  • “supporting funds from the department/academic college”, which can mean the department offers as little as $20

Submit your application at least a month before the conference and then get reimbursed for your expenses. To get reimbursed submit your receipts to the astro department secretaries; do not send your receipts to the grad school.

 

Arts & Sciences Conference Travel Award

The College of Arts & Sciences also provides funding for travel to conferences, meetings, and workshops. They say their awards give between $500 and $1000, but this is to be used only for travel expenses. You can only get this award once every two years, and it doesn’t prevent you from asking for money from other sources (like the Grad School, ASNMSU, GSC, or the department). Deadlines are mid-semester, so March 1st for Spring semester.

Applicants are required to submit in electronic form to jbrown at nmsu.edu the following:

  • application stating importance of conference, benefit to student, nature of the presentation (poster, talk, dance, etc.), whether you were an invited speaker or not, and whether the presentation is part of your collaboration with peers or mentors
  • signature of department head on your application “acknowledging awareness that the student will be presenting/performing at a conference workshop or meeting. Heads may state in an attachment whether the department is also giving funds for travel. A match or contribution is not required.”
  • proof that your poster/talk/dance was accepted for presentation (either your confirmation email or the page of the program with your listing)
  • proof that you attended the conference (conference receipt is good)
  • budget clearly showing travel expenses

 

Associated Students of New Mexico State University (ASNMSU)

ASNMSU is the student government here at NMSU. Every year, graduates and undergraduates pay ASNMSU hundreds of thousands of dollars in student fees. In exchange, ASNSMU uses these student fees for many shared services such as the activity center, career placement center, Aggie Shuttle, counseling, cultural activities, child care, and many others. One way to get our student fees back is to request money for travel, conference fees, transportation, etc. To do this, you are required to have a graduate senator to write a bill for you and then you shepherd the bill through various meetings (explained below). Your conference or travel must take place after the passage of the bill, so this process must be done well in advance of your trip. It can take upwards of more than a month to learn if your bill has passed.

The ASNMSU Financial Procedures Guide is given out every Fall and the AGSO President and Treasurer must attend these meetings if we’re going to get any funding. They give out three documents: Financial Procedures, Quick Guide to Funding, and Privileges of Student Organizations.

Comments on what is and isn’t funded by ASNMSU:

  • Individual and groups may attend conferences. Generally, ASNMSU will fund everyone who presents at a conference and only two additional people who aren’t presenting. If the trip is something like AAS where many students may attempt to attend the conference and want money from ASNMSU, it’s a good idea to have one person take care of a bill for all of the students (rather than every student submitting their own bill).
  • Share hotel rooms. ASNMSU likes to use hotels rooms efficiently, four people to a room, and would not fund three rooms for three people. Also, in order to get money from ASNMSU for hotels, men and women cannot share a room.
  • Advisers are not covered. ASNMSU uses student fees to fund students, not advisers.
  • Per diem and food are not covered. ASNMSU does not provide a per diem and won’t pay for food.
  • Foreign travel is funded. For travels outside of North America, you will need two bills: one for U.S. expenses and one for foreign expenses. This means you end up needing twice the number of community service hours.

Some guidelines in obtaining money from ASNMSU:

  • Plan ahead. Do not wait to the last minute to submit a bill! It can take more than a month to get a bill past the senate and signed by the ASNMSU President (who has ultimate veto power on any bill). Your bill will not be passed if your trip occurs before your bill is passed. It is suggested that you start the process at least two months prior to your trip. Also, leaving more time allows you opportunities to use the remaining funding sources should your bill fail to pass. Watch out for Summer events. ASNMSU does not meet in the summer. Therefore, if your trip takes place in the summer, please plan well ahead of time and discuss all due dates with your senator before the Spring semester ends.
  • Ask a senator. You must ask a graduate senator to sponsor a bill for you and submit it to the senate. You will need to provide some information to them, such as the dates and locations of your conference, and you’ll have to estimate the cost of any tickets, hotel rooms, taxis, etc.. We’ve found Senators Charlene Shroulote and Hank Strevel to be helpful and reliable. However, you should be proactive and keep asking them if they need any more information or need you to attend a meeting.
  • Plan all types of transportation into the bill. ASNMSU can cover transportation costs in the bill, but be sure to always ask for a receipt if you want to be reimbursed. Also, ASNMSU reimburses for mileage ($.50/mi) for any driving you do, even if it’s only to and from the airport. They also reimburse for airport parking.
  • Be clear about whether or not you are getting GSC funds. Unless you say otherwise ASNMSU assumes that you’re getting some GSC money and takes it off the total of the bill.
  • Have your community service forms ready. There are two ways to have community service: for every $3,000 requested each person must have 5 hours of community service in the past 180 days (that’s 180 days not counting holidays or summer/winter breaks), or 25% of AGSO members must do 2 hours on-campus and 2 hours off-campus. The second way confuses everyone because different grad students do hours at different events. The Community Affairs chair (who makes the final decision) strongly prefers 5 hours per individual for every $3,000 requested. You have to hand in your community service forms to the Community Affairs chair before you go to the Community Affairs meeting. Make sure you or your senator turns the forms in on time. This meeting will be scheduled when you work with your graduate senator to submit the bill. In order to know who in AGSO did which events, be sure to ask the AGSO Vice-President for all public service event paperwork and make copies of them. Need community service hours? Check out your options on the Observatory & Outreach page.
  • For those who aren’t presenting something at the event: You also need to have a signed letter from your adviser which must include your name, the conference info (name, location, date, number of concurrent sessions), and your reasons for attending.

Your bill must make it through four meetings: Community Affairs Committee, Rules Committee, Finance Committee, and the Senate. You are only required to attend the first, Community Affairs, which ensures that your outreach hours satisfy the bill’s requirements. Come prepared to give a brief description of the event, why you want to attend, and a description of your community service. While you are not required to attend the Senate meeting, where the final vote on your bill is done, it is highly recommended. Reasonable bills that have made it that far nearly always get passed if a representative is present. Again, be prepared to give a brief description of the event to the Senate.

  • If the bill does not pass the senate, it dies. You should consult with your Senator for advice on different alternatives. You will be responsible for all expenses you proposed for in the bill. This is a rare occurence, and if it does occur it may be more efficient to seek other means of funding as described in the remaining sections.
  • If the bill passes, it will be sent to the ASNMSU President for approval. The ASNMSU President has two weeks in which to approve or veto the bill. If the President approves the bill, the funds will be transferred into your ASNMSU account by the Comptroller’s office after verifying the matching funds. If the President vetoes the bill, no funds will be transferred unless the ASNMSU Senate overrides the veto by a two-thirds vote.
  • Save all receipts. In order to get reimbursed for the expenses listed on the bill, you must have receipts.

After your trip how do you get your reimbursement? The more organized you are, the faster you will get your reimbursement. If you dump a pile of receipts on their desk, you will only get a headache.

  • Call the Accountant to check the paperwork. Save yourself some time and call the Acountant’s Office (6-4415) to ensure the bills are signed and ready to go. Ask them explicity if they have a copy of your bill (provide the bill number) and if it has been signed by the president yet.
  • Take copies of the receipts to the Accountant. Do not give receipts to your senator. Receipts must be turned into the Accountant’s Office in ASNMSU headquarters within Corbett Center Student Union. Call the Accountant’s Office (6-4415) before you walk over, though; tell them you are bringing receipts for reimbursement and explicitly ask if they will still be there by the time you arrive.
  • Provide conversion rates for any receipts that aren’t in US dollars.
  • You may also need credit card statements. Sometimes the comptrollers ask to see proof that you paid your receipts (weird, huh?). For example, a slip of paper on official letterhead from the conference saying that you attended and were charged the registration amount is insufficient; you must also bring a credit card statement showing that you did, indeed, pay registration.
  • Airline reimbursement requires your itinerary as well. Even if you present your boarding passes and receipt for your airline ticket, you will only be reimbursed if you also show your itinerary (weird, huh?).
  • You will need to provide starting and ending mileage to get reimbursed for driving.

 

Graduate Student Council (GSC)

The GSC is a group within ASNMSU that exists to help graduate students get funding. They also host the Graduate Research and Arts Symposium (GRAS) each year. The GSC funding guidelines can be accessed from the GSC website; however, be sure to ask the AGSO GSC Rep. about funding procedures to make sure that your knowledge is up to date. Keep in mind that the GSC requests that graduates attempt to get money from ASNMSU before the GSC. The reason is simply that ASNMU has more money in the pot, and the GSC can quickly run out of funds by graduates seeking funds at the last minute.

You can get GSC funding to attend a conference regardless of whether or not you present at the conference, but you can only receive funding from the GSC once a semester. For each individual request for funding, that person must attend at least two GSC meetings (the meeting during which the funding is requested and another meeting after that). The GSC can retroactively refund a conference that occured up to 90 days before the funding request. Anyone getting money from the GSC must present at GRAS.

For an application with one individual: if you’re requesting <$200, then the GSC will give you $200 or less. If you’re requesting >$200, then the GSC will give you 50% of your costs but won’t give you more than $500. For an application with 2 or more people, the total amount the GSC will fund is $1000.

You can apply to both ASNMSU and GSC for funding: ASNMSU will fund 0.49*(total – GSC funds). Since you can only apply for GSC funding once a semester, use this option for your most expensive trip.

You must submit your application to the GSC 3 weeks prior to your departure (or by the second to last GSC meeting before your departure, whatever is first). Please read the application guidelines carefully: if you don’t provide all of the requested information, your funding request may be denied. Also, make sure your cost estimates are accurate: if your cover letter specifies a certain amount for hotel or airfare, you should provide receipts for that amount. If you didn’t spend at least 90% of any GSC money allotted to you in a previous semester, the GSC may not fund your request. Your application must include the following:

  • Funding Appropriation form (don’t leave blanks!)
  • Community Service forms showing that each individual on the funding request has completed 3 hours of community service. The GSC consideres community service as expiring after 120 days (not counting holidays or summer/winter breaks).
  • Cover letter explaining exactly what the funding will be used for (airfare, lodging, etc.), where the student is traveling, what conference/event the student is attending, why the student is attending, and dates of travel
  • Official conference program, itinerary, or announcement OR a letter from your adviser/collaborator stating where you are going for research and your dates of travel
  • Receipt for registration for each person (if applicable)
  • Hotel information (including room rate, number of people per room, etc.) (if applicable)

After your trip how do you get your reimbursement? The more organized you are, the faster you will get your reimbursement. If you dump a pile of receipts on their desk, you will only get a headache.

  • Call the Accountant to check the paperwork. Save yourself some time and call the Acountant’s Office (6-4415) to ensure the bills are signed and ready to go. Ask them explicity if they have a copy of your bill (provide the bill number) and if it has been signed by the president yet.
  • Take copies of the receipts to the Accountant. Do not give receipts to your senator. Receipts must be turned into the Accountant’s Office in ASNMSU headquarters within Corbett Center Student Union. Call the Accountant’s Office (6-4415) before you walk over, though; tell them you are bringing receipts for reimbursement and explicitly ask if they will still be there by the time you arrive.
  • Provide conversion rates for any receipts that aren’t in US dollars.
  • You may also need credit card statements. Sometimes the comptrollers ask to see proof that you paid your receipts (weird, huh?). For example, a slip of paper on official letterhead from the conference saying that you attended and were charged the registration amount is insufficient; you must also bring a credit card statement showing that you did, indeed, pay registration.
  • Airline reimbursement requires your itinerary as well. Even if you present your boarding passes and receipt for your airline ticket, you will only be reimbursed if you also show your itinerary (weird, huh?).
  • You will need to provide starting and ending mileage to get reimbursed for driving.

GSOs that want money for a group (rather than an individual) requires “points” in addition to the standard community service. These points come from attending GSC meetings and having officers on the board. For each AGSO funding request, the AGSO GSO Rep. must attend at least two GSC meetings during which the funding is requested and another meeting after that. This is usually not an issue, however, because we require the AGSO GSO Rep. to attend every GSC meeting.

 

Deadlines for Individuals Deadlines for GSOs
Fall Next to last GSC meeting of Fall Semester Last meeting of GSC Fall Semester (may be submitted as early as second GSC meeting of Fall Semester)
Spring Next to last GSC meeting of Spring Semester Next to last GSC meeting Spring Semester