Going the Distance: Funding your Future in Space

Artist impression of a suspected ring at the center of our galaxy. Image Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech

You are headed for the stars. Your vessel’s call sign is, “Chemistry,” “Computer Science,” “Mechanical Engineering,” or “Medicine”. If there were a spacecraft labeled, “Next stop: PhD in Physics,” you wouldn’t hesitate to get on it. You will save the oceans, explain climate change and find life on another planet.

Nothing on Earth should stand between you and your scientific future: funding least of all. The staff at Astrobiology Magazine and gURLs in space want you to have a successful mission. We want you out here with us, asking and answering important questions about the universe. To this end, we have complied a list of resources to take you far in your academic careers.

Whether you are a graduate student, an undergraduate, a current researcher or a science teacher, we have something for you to consider.

Women are still under-represented in the sciences. The resources we will be listing in the coming posts are specifically aimed at scientists of the female sort. There are additional scholarships available for cultural minorities and those from modest socioeconomic backgrounds.

Helpful tips are here as well, which apply to scientists of every gender, extraction and persuasion.

Please share this information on your favorite social media outlets. Let’s spread the word about what’s out there to help women and girls in the sciences.

Post #1: Constellations of support: how to make the best use of scholarships in the sciences

First a bit of advice. A wide variety of scholarships are available for young women pursuing careers in the sciences. Whether your passion is engineering, physics, chemistry, astronomy or biology, support can be found to assist in achieving your dream.

Caltech graduate student Jena Johnson examines a 2.415 billion-year-old rock in South Africa where evidence of an early manganese-oxidizing photosystem was found. Johnson was a recipient of The Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research in Astrobiology, which is supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute and the American Philosophical Society (APS). Credit: Caltech

It is a good idea to apply to as many scholarships as you can. If you are eligible, apply. Apply, apply, apply. Retain copies of applications in easily accessible places such as google docs or dropbox. Once you have applied to one scholarship, and written an essay or four, you will have organized almost all of the information you will need to apply to many more scholarships.

Being a finalist or a semi-finalist in a scholarship gives you the clout and confidence to apply again. Once you win one scholarship, others often follow. If you are awarded a scholarship, but circumstances intervene that prevent you from ultimately accepting the scholarship, don’t fret. The honor associated with winning will stick with you forever. It will stand out on your CV and make you an attractive candidate for further awards of all kinds, as well as research positions and other forms of employment.

Through the process of applying you get your name out there, which is an important part of making your way into any field, including the sciences.

If a career in the sciences is your future, then your future will be filled with requests for support. Funding, advising, equipment, facilities and so on: learning to ask for these essentials in an effective way is vital to your future.

Take a quick look at the opportunities in the coming posts, then take the next important step: signing up for the social networks where scholarships are advertised. If a deadline for the perfect scholarship has passed, download the application, assemble the materials, put the next due-date on your online calendar, and wait. Scholarships come around in cycles. Your turn to apply will come again. In the meanwhile, follow the institution offering the funding on facebook, google plus and twitter. Groups that support young women in the sciences also offer conferences and other opportunities to propel you into your future career.

The best thing I can offer you is this: Keep moving. Do not be deterred by perceived defeats, large or small. Physics teaches us that momentum is about movement. To become a powerful force in this universe, whatever your chosen direction, keep going and bring others with you. Remember that the mass counts, too.