FAQ

Does proposed research have to have biomedical applications?

No. The HHMI grant program aims to support faculty-mentored undergraduate research in all areas of the biological sciences and other disciplines as they relate to biology. The proposed research need not have biomedical applications. Research that addresses basic scientific questions is emphasized, rather than clinical or applied research.

Do applicants have to be majoring in the Biological Sciences?

No. Any undergraduate student at the University of Maryland, College Park may apply, provided they meet the minimum GPA, credit and course requirements and are proposing to engage in faculty-mentored research in biology or a related discipline. In the past we have awarded fellowships to students from the A. James Clark School of Engineering, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences and School of Public Health, in addition to Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. 

Do faculty mentors have to be in the Biological Sciences?

No. Mentors can be in any department. The research they propose to supervise must be in the biological sciences or a related field, however.

Can a faculty mentor have more than one Maryland-HHMI fellow at a given time?

Yes. Each proposal is evaluated on its own merits and the qualifications of the applicant. Several mentors have had more than one Maryland-HHMI Undergraduate Research Fellow in their laboratory at the same time, although given the small number of fellowships awarded this does not happen frequently.

Must the research proposal be based on the student's original idea?

It can be, but it is not required. It is up to the faculty mentor and student to work out how much input the student has into the design of the research project. Many students pick their projects from a selection of projects proposed and designed by the mentor. Students with previous research experience may have a larger role in conceiving and designing projects. 

Can I use the fellowship to do off-campus research (e.g., at NIH, Walter Reed, etc.)?

The fellowships are intended to support research mentored by our campus faculty. In most cases, the research is conducted on campus. In some instances the primary research site of the faculty member is off campus. In such cases, the student may conduct his/her research at that site. 

How many fellowships are awarded?

We aim to award about 10 fellowships per year. 

What are the most important factors in determining which proposals get funded?

The most important factor in making funding decisions is the quality of the research proposal. The proposal is reviewed by at least two faculty reviewers who rank applications based upon the clarity, feasibility and scientific importance of the proposed research and the academic aptitude of the applicant. Successful proposals contain a clear description of the research methodology to be used and significance of the proposed work for advancing knowledge in the field. The student's academic and research record is also factors into the decision. Applicants who have a strong academic record and evidence of previous research experience (especially those who have already established a productive working relationship with their proposed mentor) are more likely to receive fellowship support because these factors bode well for the successful completion of their proposed project. 

If I fail to get funding the first time I submit an application, can I submit a revised application for the next competition?

Yes. After funding decisions are made, unsuccessful applicants may request a summary of the reviewer comments. This should aid them in preparing their revision. The Associate Director is also available to meet with applicants to help them prepare a more successful application. 

What are the most common reasons that proposals don't get funded?

Some of the most common reasons are:

  • The applicant does not meet the minimum GPA, credit, or course requirements
  • Research methods are not described (or so poorly described that it gives the impression that the applicant does not understand the techniques to be used)
  • The proposal is confusing, disorganized, or vague
  • There are few references to other relevant research and little evidence that the applicant understands how the proposed project will extend current knowledge in the field
  • The proposed project is not feasible (e.g., too much work is proposed or the research depends on the success of an unproven technique)
  • The proposed project lacks significance (e.g., replicates past work in the lab, is solely descriptive rather than hypothetico-deductive, is a screening project or "fishing expedition", is training in techniques only)

Are the fellowships renewable?

Yes. After the first year of funding, applicants may renew these awards one or more times for periods of up to one year, until they graduate. The deadline for requesting a renewal is the regular application deadline (February 15). The amount awarded to continuing students depends on the funds available and may be less than the amount of the first year's award.

How is the stipend paid?

Your stipend award is earmarked for your use. You will be paid at an hourly rate of $10.00 for each hour that you report working on your project (up to a maximum of 20 hours per week during the academic year and 40 hours per week during breaks from school, so long as you have funds remaining). You keep track of your hours worked on an electronic time sheet (http://www.timesheets.umd.edu) that must be submitted at two-week intervals. 

If I use up my stipend before the end of my fellowship term can I get more funding?

No. The amounts awarded are calculated using an average of 10-12 hours per week during the academic year and about 30 hours per week during the summer. If you work more hours than this, you may run out of funds before the end of your fellowship year. Once the stipend account is out of funds the only way to get more HHMI fellowship funding is to apply for a renewal at the time of the next competition. 

I have received a fellowship but am now considering changing research topics and/or mentors. Do I have to give up my fellowship?

No, as long as you find a new research mentor and continue to do research in the biological sciences or a related field. You do not need to prepare a new proposal. Please contact the HHMI Director if you are considering such a change.