Grants & Awards

Cottrell College Science Awards




Institutional Requirements
Applications will be accepted from faculty members at public and private institutions of higher education in the United States. The applicant’s home department must offer at least the baccalaureate, but not doctoral, degrees in the applicant’s discipline. The institutional commitment to research is an important consideration in evaluating the potential of the proposal.

Faculty Requirements

The principal investigator must have a faculty appointment in a department of astronomy, chemistry or physics, or, if from another department, propose research that significantly overlaps with research in one of these three disciplines. Faculty who have had a previous CCSA award, or whose appointment is in a department or school of engineering or medicine, are not eligible. At the time of application the applicant must be within the first three years of his/her first tenure-track appointment, and within 12 years of receiving his/her doctoral degree. Applicants are allowed to submit a maximum of two proposals in the three-year period and only one proposal per proposal cycle. Applicants submitting their first proposal to the CCSA program must be in their first or second year of faculty appointment.

While the program is intended primarily to assist early career faculty often seeking their first external funding, applicants may hold other grants when multiple sources of support are clearly needed for full effectiveness. There will, however, be cases in which funds sufficient for the research are received during the evaluation period. In such cases, a CCSA proposal to RCSA should be withdrawn. Such cases should always be discussed with a Program Director.


The total funding requested from RCSA is $40,000.  An institutional matching contribution to the project of $15,000 is required for all applicants. CCSAs provide for only those direct expenses necessary for the conduct of the proposed research and within the five budgetary categories described below. While these awards are designed to provide primarily summer support, continuation of the research throughout the academic year is expected. Budgets should be tailored to individual circumstances. Awards are approved for two years with a single, one-year extension possible to expend remaining funds.

What is Funded

  • Equipment: computers and specialized permanent equipment costing more than $1,000.
  • Supplies: (up to $6,000/year) small equipment, chemicals and other materials essential for the proposed research.
  • Student stipends: up to $4,000 may be requested for summer employment for each student involved in the research program. Students are expected to work fulltime for 10 weeks during the summer.
  • Faculty stipends: A summer stipend of up to $9,000 may be paid to the principal investigator based on eight weeks of direct participation in the project. Stipends should be prorated for shorter periods. Institutional matching funds may be used to bring the stipend above this level.
  • Travel costs limited to $2,500 per year may be requested to use facilities not available at the home institution, or for other purposes clearly necessary to accomplish the research. Arrangements should be made at the closest and most convenient site.

The institutional portion of FICA and Medicare on faculty and student stipends that are actually paid (up to 7.65 percent) may be included in the budget. Please note that most students fall under the IRS Student Exemption to FICA taxes.

What is Not Funded: Any items other than those that are specifically included in the five budget categories listed above, for example:

  • Faculty or student academic year stipends
  • Postdoctoral stipends
  • Graduate student stipends (M.S. or Ph.D.)
  • Overhead, indirect costs and fringe benefits of any type beyond FICA/Medicare.
  • Student tuition and housing
  • Secretarial assistance, routine office supplies and telephone charges
  • Books, journals and publication costs
  • Travel expenses to scientific meetings
  • Service or use charges for equipment or facilities at the home institution

Institutional Matching Funds

An institutional matching contribution to the project of $15,000 is required for all applicants. The matching funds may be provided in any combination of the five allowed budget categories (equipment, supplies, student stipends, faculty stipends, travel to conduct research) that are allowed for RCSA funds. Start-up funds may not be used as matching funds nor may funds from other grants or awards to applicant. Institutional support in other categories (i.e., academic year time release, equipment maintenance, student housing, etc.) is not accepted as part of the institutional match but may be listed on the budget page under “Additional Support.”

Application Process

All applicants are required to submit a pre-proposal that is reviewed by RCSA scientific staff to determine the fit of a specific submission to CCSA programmatic guidelines. The application process is initiated by completion of the online eligibility quiz. If the applicant and institution meet the program requirements, the applicant is directed to a webpage that contains online submission information and pre-proposal forms. Applicants with succesful pre-proposals are invited to submit a full proposal and given access to a webpage for online submission. Samples of the preproposal and full proposal can be viewed below. 

View a sample of the pre-proposal here

View a sample of the full application here


Both applicant and institution should ensure that a proposal conforms to program guidelines, and that applications are submitted on the online forms provided by RCSA. Multiple proposals from a single investigator will not be accepted. There is however, no limit on the number of proposals submitted from the same institution.

Proposal Evaluation

The primary criterion for funding in the Cottrell College Science Award program is to add to fundamental scientific knowledge in the three core disciplines (Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy) and hence, applied research without a significant fundamental component is not funded. "Applied research" is interpreted as any type of research aimed at developing new technology, methods or techniques, or the applications of methods and techniques to topics in disciplines other than the three core disciplines, and includes areas such as science education, social science, environmental remediation studies, geochemistry, pharmacology, pharmaceutical sciences, nutrition and food science, and the type of biomedical research typically conducted in Schools of Medicine or Biomedical Engineering Departments. In addition, except for biochemisty, most research in the life sciences is excluded, including physiology, ecology, cell biology and genetic studies. If unclear on whether a particular research area fits programmatic guidelines, please contact program directors Silvia Ronco ( or Richard Wiener (

Applications that conform to guidelines are reviewed by Foundation staff and by external reviewers who are experts in the field of the proposed research, selected in part from names submitted by the applicant. The proposal, including reviewer and staff comments, is evaluated by the Foundation's Science Advisory Committee, which makes the recommendations on funding. After the RCSA  Board of Directors approves the funding recommendations, successful applicants and their institutions are notified of awards.

Since the awards are based upon developing both faculty and institutional capacity for research, funds that cannot be used by the principal investigator in a manner consistent with the proposed plan of research must be returned to the Foundation.

Additional Program Requirements

The main goal of the CCSA program is to help establish long-term, externally funded sustainable programs of research. Thus, before the start of the second year of the two-year award, all awardees are required to attend the CCSA annual conference, which includes a proposal preparation workshop and facilitates networking among PUI faculty. The expectation is that at the end of the conference all attendees have a finalized draft of a proposal for submission to a federal funding agency. 

In addition, all awardees are required to submit a research proposal to a federal funding agency before the two-year CCSA grant ends.


The Cottrell College Science Award program may be revised at any time.





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