Hidden pot of money for academic conferences

Scholarly work isn't cheap, but resources are available to offset the costs

By Riley Martinez | October 25, 2023 8:00pm
Students who apply for the Student Development Fund can be awarded up to $1000 per academic year to help pay for the expenses of academic research conferences and business projects.
Media Credit: Natalie Gordon / The Beacon

Last summer, junior environmental science major Tommy Garcia was busy collecting data for research. Garcia planted temperature gauges in various locations in North Portland to better understand the temperature differences between neighborhoods that have access to green spaces and those who don’t. 

Now, Garcia will present that research at the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) conference in Santa Cruz, CA in October. 

But the costs of attending a conference aren't cheap. That’s why Garcia took the advice of his instructor — Assistant Professor of Biology Molly Matty — to use the Student Development Fund (SDF) to ease the expense. 

As of this year, students who apply for the SDF can be awarded up to $1000 per academic year to help pay for the expenses of academic conferences and associated costs. All students are welcome to apply. This money must be used for academic work; it cannot be withdrawn for personal use. 

Here’s how it works: First, a student contacts a faculty sponsor — typically a professor in their department with whom they have a strong relationship — to submit an application on their behalf. Students aren’t required to be engaged in research with that faculty sponsor to access the fund.

“I have six students who work in my research lab. But of the students I’ve supported with the Student Development fund, one of them was not anything more than a student in the class,” Matty said. 

Graphic by Riley Martinez

Then, the application will ask for the relevant school (College of Arts and Sciences, for instance), the conference’s start date, a description of the funding request and an expense breakdown. The breakdown may include travel costs, food, lodging and conference registration.   

Applications are approved by the Dean’s Office and Assistant Provost. 

While all students can use it, the SDF lies somewhat off the beaten path. A brief description of the fund and the link to the application are located on the resources page of the UP website. But apart from that, information about the fund seems to travel by word of mouth.

Like many students, Garcia didn’t know about the fund until Matty said something. 

“If she hadn’t brought that up, I probably wouldn’t have actually gone into it and done the research because I just didn’t have the funding,” Garcia said. 

What’s more, on account of limited funds, faculty are encouraged to only sponsor two to four students per academic year. But exceptions aren't unheard of.

“I’ve only been here one year and I have supported eight students,” Matty said. “So there is wiggle room because I don’t think every faculty member is submitting these because I don’t think every student knows about it.” 

Additionally, there’s another way students can secure funding from the University — this time, to help offset the costs of research specifically. 

Students interested in conducting semester-long research with a professor can use the Provost’s Initiative. Like the SDF, applications are submitted by a faculty sponsor. For summer research through the initiative, students receive a stipend and on-campus housing. Faculty are compensated either $1,000 or $1,500 depending on their experience with undergraduate research. 

Applications for the Provost’s Initiative for spring 2024 close Oct. 27. Students can talk with their professors to learn more about how the SDF and Provost’s Initiative can support their academic work. 

Riley Martinez is Copy Editor for The Beacon. He can be reached at martinri24@up.edu.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story listed an incorrect deadline and inaccurately stated what the Student Development Fund can be used for. While the Student Development Fund can be used for the conference students present research at, it cannot be used for the research or research materials.