Grants & Awards

Cottrell Scholar Awards

How to Apply



Eligible applicants are tenure-track faculty members at U.S. institutions whose primary appointment is in a Bachelor's and Ph.D.-granting department of astronomy, biochemistry, biophysics, chemistry, or physics, but not in a school of medicine or engineering. For the 2014 proposal cycle, eligibility is limited to faculty members who started their first tenure-track position anytime in calendar year 2011.


Cottrell Scholar awards are for three year projects in the amount of $75,000 for the entire project. An amount of $5,000 is set aside to cover travel expenses related to attendance at two Annual Cottrell Scholar Conferences. Budgets are not required; hence, there is no budget page in the proposal. Funds from Cottrell Scholar awards can be used at the discretion of the Scholar for most direct costs, with limitations only on the range of acceptable expenditures. There is no provision for indirect costs or overhead, faculty salaries, tuition, or for routine institutional services.  Funds from an award may be used to support both the educational and research projects of the Cottrell Scholar.


CSA proposals reflect the philosophy of the university scholar, a scientist who conducts cutting-edge research and fully embraces teaching excellence and student learning. To be successful, applicants must demonstrate a strong commitment to undergraduate education and high prospects for becoming a national leader in their field of research. Proposals consist of both educational and research plans, and they are only accepted on the provided forms. Submissions must conform to guidelines and directions, and need to be endorsed by the institution. Potential applicants begin the online submission process by completing the online eligibility quiz. If eligible, applicants gain access to a web page containing the Cottrell Scholar Award application packet and instructions for electronic submission. The 2014 deadline for proposal submission is August 15, 2014.

The educational plan should identify a significant problem in undergraduate science education and offer a feasible strategy to address it. Main criteria for evaluating the educational plan include: (a) the potential impact in undergraduate science courses; (b) the applicant’s commitment to education excellence; (c) the originality of the proposal; (d) assessment of the proposed educational plan; and (e) the suitability and sustainability for the institutional setting.

The components of a successful educational plan will vary widely. Prior accomplishments, especially as they relate to undergraduates in both instructional and research laboratory settings, enhance the case for the applicant's commitment to education. Employing new techniques such as web-based instruction and cooperative learning can enhance a proposal, but should be connected to clearly stated educational goals and objectives. The strongest proposals will include appropriate references to the rich science education literature demonstrating the applicant's familiarity with what has already been accomplished, and will describe an approach to assessment of the educational plan. Projects that deal solely with graduate education or outreach and are not focused primarily on undergraduate science education will not be considered for an award.

Successful research plans identify a problem of high scientific significance and offer an original, creative and feasible approach to its solution. The research plan may or may not offer a new scientific thrust for the applicant. Often the proposed research addresses an area of work that is already being pursued by the applicant and for which external support and published results have been obtained. Consequently, existing support does not hinder an application. Winning proposals must convince reviewers that the applicant is pursuing an important independent program of research that is already having, or is likely to have, high impact in their area.


Proposals are first scrutinized internally to assess the quality of the educational plan. Only submissions with truly unique educational plans aimed at improving undergraduate science education are further considered and sent out to external evaluators. Award recommendations are made by the Science Advisory Committee.




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