College of Science & Engineering

Sources of Funding

For general information on funding opportunities consult the Graduate School’s funding summary, which is available as link on the graduate school’s webpage. Western Washington’s financial aid office has information regarding scholarships, which is available at their website. The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs has information on research funding, which is available at their website.

Teaching Assistantships (TA)

See Section 8 for details of TA responsibilities, benefits and compensation.

Research Assistantships (RA)

The main distinction between a TAship and an RAship is that funding for an RAship comes from research grants acquired by your thesis advisor or sometimes from outside committee members. Fall, Winter and Spring quarter RAs are compensated much like TAs (full time = 20 hr/week). This depends upon whether your advisor allocated funding specifically for these costs in the associated grant. If an RAship does not include a tuition waiver, you may wish to apply for a partial tuition and fees waiver from the Graduate School (see Section 9.1.4). Summer RAships are typically paid at an hourly rate with an hours/week cap dictated by the advisor. At present, the minimum number of credits required for eligibility for an RAship is 2 credits, even for students that have not advance to candidacy.

Graduate Work Study

Students may be eligible for work study, but must check the indicator box on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you qualify for work study, you will serve as a graduate research assistant to faculty involved in research projects. You may be enrolled for as few as 4 credits in the quarter(s) in which you receive a work study award, as long as you have successfully petitioned the Student Employment Office. The typical award amount for work study is equivalent to approximately 15 hours of work per week during the academic year. For the Graduate School to make the best possible match between your interests/experiences and faculty research projects, interested faculty members write a brief memo to the Graduate Dean describing the research and the type of work a graduate work study research assistant would be asked to perform. Faculty may request students by name, but only students who are eligible for financial aid may receive work study awards. Receiving work study funding does not guarantee you a work study position. For more information see the Office of Student Work Experience’s website.

Graduate Tuition Fee Waiver

The Graduate School may choose to offer partial waiver of tuition and fees to full-time, non-TA graduate students. You should notify the Graduate Program Advisor of your desire to be considered for a waiver. The Biology Department will then notify the Graduate School. To remain eligible, you must maintain an enrollment of at least 8 credits during the quarter(s) in which you receive the tuition waiver, unless other arrangements are made with the Graduate School. You must maintain at least a 3.0 GPA during quarter(s) in which the award is received, and must not be on probation from a previous quarter. Also, you must be making satisfactory progress toward your degree. TAs (full or half time) are not eligible. If you later receive a TAship, the tuition waiver will be cancelled for the quarter(s) in which you received the TAship. Preference is given to meritorious students with clear need. Usually, the call for such waivers goes out in spring and, if offered, typically covers $1000 of graduate tuition.

Federal Loans

Financial need is determined by completing the FAFSA. Western’s priority deadline is posted on their website (in the past it has been February 15 for Fall eligibility). Scholarship application materials are available beginning in January in the appropriate department office, or Western’s Scholarship Center. Summer applicants needing financial aid for Summer Quarter must file the FAFSA for the current academic year. This is in addition to the FAFSA for the coming academic year, which begins Fall Quarter. After admission, summer students wishing to receive summer aid must submit the online Summer Aid Application, which is available on the Financial Aid Office website.

For details about FAFSA go to their website

External Funding

There are numerous opportunities for you to apply for external scholarships and research funds, for example, through the National Science Foundation (NSF) and many other private foundations (see also Section 9.4). The Research and Sponsored Programs Office (RSP) is an excellent resource for locating potential outside funding sources. Visit their website for more information. You are strongly encouraged to be proactive in seeking additional sources of funding. Getting a scholarship can free you from the additional commitments of TAing, leading to earlier completion of your thesis research. In addition, success in obtaining outside support looks really good on your resume, whether going on to a PhD program or a job.

Research and Travel Funding (Internal Sources)

When submitting requests for research funding, be sure to include sales tax and shipping in your budget. In addition, budget an additional 5-10% over the lowest price you have found, in case that distributor runs out of inventory or prices change between when you submit your budget and when you begin making purchases.

WWU Biology Department Funds

Research Funds

The Biology Department has limited funds to support thesis research by Biology graduate students. We try to provide a share of the pie to everyone, and in the recent past that share has been approximately $250 for each student, with the possibility of matching funds from the Biology Department Chair’s discretionary funds (see end of this section). This section details the procedure for requesting money from the department. All requests should be addressed to the Biology Graduate Committee, and sent to the Graduate Program Advisor.

  1. You must meet with the Thesis Committee and have your proposed research approved (usually in spring quarter of your first year), as evidenced by Thesis Committee signatures on a copy of your thesis proposal. If the research will be conducted at SPMC, a signed approval form from SPMC will show that the facilities, boat time, and any SCUBA support will be provided to you by the marine center. The Thesis Committee should scrutinize the proposed experimental design and data collection regimens to establish that all aspects of the research are grounded in sound science and meet all permitting requirements.

  2. At this same meeting the Thesis Committee should also examine the proposed budget as prepared by you and your thesis advisor. The proposed budget should list all expenditures associated with the research project, not merely those being requested of the Biology Department. Before signing your budget to indicate their approval of your proposed expenditures, the Thesis Committee should be certain that the budget is reasonable in view of the nature of the work undertaken and the total availability of funds.

  3. You must forward to the Biology Graduate Program Advisor a copy of your thesis proposal and proposed budget (showing the total cost of the research and the total amount requested of the Biology Department), both signed by your Thesis Committee

  4. The Biology Graduate Committee will consider the request relative to all other requests and to the amount of money available for graduate student support in the department budget. This committee will recommend to the Department Chair the amount to be granted to you, and for what purposes. This recommendation and one copy of the request will be kept in your departmental file.

  5. No costs may be charged to the Biology Department funds without the approval of the Biology Graduate Committee and the Department Chair. You assume the financial risk for any expenses incurred before the budget request is approved.

Requests are acted upon as they are received; allow at least 2 weeks for action. You will be notified when the Graduate Committee has reached a decision, and what amount was approved. The procedure for spending Biology Department money is complex, so you should spend some time with the Biology Fiscal Specialist as well, learning the procedures before actually spending any money.

Travel Funds

The Biology Department has limited funds for partial support of graduate student travel that will enhance the professional development of students. Examples include: attendance at a professional scientific meeting to present results of thesis research and attending workshops to learn new skills that will benefit your research. This section details procedures to be followed when requesting travel money from the department. All requests should be directed to the Graduate Committee at least 6 weeks prior to the dates of travel.

  1. If support is requested for presenting a paper at a meeting, you should forward to the Biology Graduate Program Advisor the abstract that was approved by the faculty advisor and submitted to the organizers of the meeting. If the request is for funds to attend a workshop, you should submit materials describing the workshop. In both cases, you should provide the following additional information:

    1. Name of meeting/workshop

    2. Dates and location of meeting/workshop

    3. Description of expected benefits

    4. Estimated cost of travel (registration, transportation, lodging)

    5. Method of transportation (car pools are encouraged)

    6. Other sources of support

    7. A letter from the faculty advisor describing the benefits that the student would get attending the meeting/workshop

  2. The Biology Graduate Committee will consider the request relative to all other requests and to the amount of money in the department budget. The committee will recommend to the Department Chair the amount to be granted. This recommendation and one copy of the travel request will be filed in your departmental folder.

Matching Funds from the Chair

Once you are awarded Biology Department research funds (up to $250) or travel funds (up to $150) by the Biology Graduate Committee, you may also request a match from the Department Chair’s discretionary matching funds. You can request such a match only once (i.e., either for research funds or for travel funds, but not both). Thus, your maximum departmental funding (including matching chair funds) is $650: $250 research, $250 matching research funds from chair, and $150 travel. Graduate students seeking matching funds from the chair should write a letter of request directly to the Department Chair, and should include with this letter a copy of their signed thesis proposal and budget.

WWU Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (RSP)

RSP “Grants In Aid of Research” assist graduate students in accomplishing their thesis work and can be requested for equipment, computer software, consumable items, travel, etc. Awards are confined to activities or equipment that are central to your thesis work and which are not available to you through the Biology Department. The maximum grant is $1,000, which may be applied for and awarded more than once. The specific deadline for application, during Spring quarter, is announced each year by RSP. For more information see their website.

Ross Travel Grant

Graduate School funds are available to support travel for graduate students to present papers at professional meetings and conferences. Preference is given to national and international level meetings rather than regional meetings. The grant covers the amount equivalent to the minimum airfare or other public transportation cost to the conference city, with a maximum of $500 granted to any single applicant. Ground transportation, lodging, per diem and registration fees are generally not covered. Flight reservations MUST be booked through the official WWU travel agent. Contact your departmental administrative assistant for travel related information (Deadlines are Oct 1, Dec 15, March 15, and May 15). For more information see the Ross Travel Grant website.

Undergraduate Research

Graduate students may seek the help of undergraduate students in carrying out both field and lab work related to their thesis research. Often there are undergraduates looking for ways to fulfill Biol 395 credits, complete work study hours or gain scientific research experience through volunteering. Once “hired”, undergraduate assistants work on some aspect of the research project (e.g. sample collection, sample processing, field assistance, data entry) for a pre-established number of hours per week. You should speak with your advisor to pursue such an arrangement.

Research Related Funding (External Sources)

The Biology Graduate Program web site has a web page where funding opportunities are listed. You should check this list for potential funding for your thesis research, and consult with your advisor in preparing proposals for such funding.