NSF 101: Graduate and postdoctoral researcher funding opportunities

By Eleanor Johnson

The U.S. National Science Foundation supports research opportunities and provides stipends for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and scholars.

There are multiple ways to find these programs, including the funding search on NSF’s website and the NSF Education & Training Application, which is growing its list of opportunities for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars.

To help begin your search, opportunities for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers are listed below. The principal investigator, or PI (a researcher who oversees a project), is often listed on these grants, along with their graduate students or postdoctoral researchers.

Graduate Student 

While funding for graduate students is often included in a PI’s research proposal, the following opportunities are also available for early career researchers. 

  1. Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Awards/Grants (DDRI/DDRIG)

    These programs help fund doctoral research in a variety of fields to help provide for items not already available at the academic institution. The funding provided cannot be used for items such as, but not limited to, tuition, stipends, textbooks or journals. The monetary amount listed in each DDRI/ DDRIG section does not include indirect cost associated with the project. The doctoral student should be listed as a co-PI on the grants with their advisor listed as the primary PI.
  • Archaeology Program- DDRIG: This program supports doctoral laboratory and field research on archaeologically relevant topics, with the goal of increasing anthropologically focused understanding of the past. Awards provide funding up to $25,000 per awardee.  

  • Arctic Science Section DDRIG: The Arctic Sciences Section offers opportunities for DDRI proposals in the following programs: Arctic Social Sciences supports research in any field of social science. Arctic System Science supports projects that address the relationships among physical, chemical, biological, geological, ecological, social, cultural and/or economic processes to advance our understanding of the Arctic system. Arctic Observing Network supports projects focused on scientific and community-based- observations; development of in situ or remote sensors and automated systems; design and optimization of coordinated and scalable observation networks; and management of Arctic Observation Network data, data accessibility and data discovery. Awards provide funding up to $40,000 for a maximum of 3 years. 

  • Biological Anthropology Program- DDRIG: This program supports research on human and non-human primate adaptation, variation and evolution. Awards provide funding up to $25,000 for up to two years.  

  • Cultural Anthropology Program- DDRIG: This program supports research that is focused on cultural anthropology research, including topics such as: Sociocultural drivers of anthropogenic processes (i.e., deforestation, urbanization); resilience and robustness of sociocultural systems; scientific principles underlying altruism, conflict, cooperation, and variations in culture and behaviors; economy, culture migration and globalization; kinship and family norms. Awards provide funding for up to $25,000 for up to two years.  

  • Decision, Risk and Management Science DDRIG: This program supports research on decision, risk and management sciences. This includes research in the areas of judgement and decision making; decision analysis and decision aids, risk analysis; perception and communication; societal and public-policy decision making; and management science and organizational design. Awards are for a maximum of 12 months. 

  • Economics DDRIG:This program provides funding for research focused on improving the understanding of the U.S. and global economy from macroscale to microscale, including all field of economics such as macroeconomics, microeconomics, econometrics, economic theory, behavioral economics and empirical economics.  

  • Human-Environment and Geographical Sciences Program- DDRI: This program supports basic scientific research about the nature, causes and/or consequences of the spatial distribution of human activity and/or environmental processes across a range of scales. The program welcomes proposals for empirically grounded, theoretically engaged, and methodologically sophisticated, generalizable research in all sub-fields of geographical and spatial sciences. Awards may not exceed $20,000 in direct costs. 

  • Linguistics Program- DDRI: This program supports research on human language, including syntax, linguistic semantics and pragmatics, morphology, phonetics, and phonology of individual languages or in general. Awards provide up to $12,000 for a maximum of two years. 

  • Dynamic Language Infrastructure- DDRI: This program supports research on building dynamic language infrastructure, which includes describing languages; digitizing and preserving languages; and developing standards and databases for analyzing languages. Provides funding up to $15,000 for up to two years. 

  1. Graduate Research Fellowship Program

    This fellowship supports full-time master's or doctoral students earning their degree in a research-based program focused on STEM or STEM education. Students are the primary submitter for the fellowship. Fellows will be awarded a $37,000 stipend and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance for three years of the five-year fellowship. For tips on applying, see our previous NSF 101 article on the fellowship program

  2. Non-Academic Research Internships for Graduate Students (INTERN) Supplemental Funding Opportunity 

    This supplemental funding opportunity is for graduate students funded by active NSF grants. PIs may submit for up to an additional six months of funding to allow students to participate in research internship activities and training opportunities in non-academic settings, such as the following: for-profit industry research; start-up businesses; government agencies and national laboratories; museums, science centers, and other informal learning settings; policy think tanks; and non-profit institutions.

    Students must have completed at least one academic year of their program. This funding request may not exceed $55,000 per student for each six-month period. A student may only receive this opportunity twice.

    In addition to the general INTERN opportunity, there are two topic-specific INTERN opportunities: 

  • Non-Academic Research Internships for Graduate Students in Geothermal Energy Supplemental Funding Opportunity: This opportunity is provided by NSF in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. It maintains the same funding levels and requirements as the general INTERN program; however, funding may only be used for gaining knowledge, skills, training and experience in geothermal energy and technology.  

  • Research Internships for Graduate Students at Air Force Research Laboratory Supplemental Funding Opportunity: This funding opportunity is for students supported on an active NSF grant to intern at a Air Force Research Laboratory facility. AFRL has several potential technology directorates available for students at locations across the U.S.: Aerospace Systems (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio), Information (Rome, New York), Materials and Manufacturing (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio), Directed Energy (Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico), Munitions (Eglin Air Force Base, Florida), Sensors (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio), Space Vehicles (Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico), 711th Human Performance Wing Training (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio). 
  1. Mathematical Sciences Graduate Internship

    This summer internship is for doctoral students in mathematical sciences through a partnership between NSF and Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education. It provides students who are interested in academic and non-academic careers with the opportunity to learn how advanced mathematics and statistical techniques can be applied to real-world problems. Participants in the internship will receive a stipend of $1,200 per week during the 10-week internship. In addition, there is travel reimbursement for up to $2,000 for those who live more than 50 miles away from their hosting site. 

  2. NSF Research Traineeship Program

    Graduate students can apply for this traineeship through their institutions, if available. These topics can range across the scientific spectrum. Current projects can be found by state

  3. Research Experiences for Graduate Students Supplemental Funding

    These awards provide additional funding for graduate students with mentors who have an active NSF grant. Currently funding is available through the following programs:  

Postdoctoral Scholars 

  1. Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellowship

    This fellowship supports research investigating a field within astronomy or astrophysics for up to three years. The stipend is $75,000, with a fellowship allowance (i.e., expenses for conducting and publishing research, fringe benefits) of $35,000. 

  2. Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowship

    This fellowship supports postdoctoral fellows in atmospheric or geospace sciences. Atmospheric science includes topics such as atmospheric chemistry; climate and large-scale dynamics; paleoclimate climate; and physical and dynamic meteorology. Geospace science focuses on aeronomy, magnetospheric physics and solar terrestrial research. This fellowship provides up to 24 months of support. The stipend is $70,000 per year, with a fellowship allowance of $30,000.  

  3. Earth Science Postdoctoral Fellowship

    This program supports the study of structure, composition and evolution, the life it supports and the processes that govern the formation and behavior of Earth’s materials. Researchers are supported for up to two years at the institution of their choice, including institutions abroad. The stipend is $65,000 per year, with a fellowship allowance of $25,000 per year.  

  4. Mathematical and Physical Sciences Ascending Postdoctoral Research Fellowships

  5. This program supports postdoctoral fellows performing impactful research while broadening the participation of members of groups that are historically excluded and currently underrepresented in mathematical and physical sciences. This fellowship can last between one and three years. The stipend is up to $70,000 per year, with a fellowship allowance of $30,000 per year. 

  6. Mathematical Sciences Postdoctoral Research Fellowships

    This fellowship has two options:  

  • The Research Fellowship provides full-time support for any 18 months within a three-year academic period.  
  • The Research Instructorship provides a combination of full-time and half-time support over a period of three academic years, which allows the fellow to gain teaching experience.

    Both options receive up to $190,000 over the fellowship period. The full-time stipend is $5,833 per month and the part-time stipend is $2,917 per month. In addition, the fellow will receive $50,000 in two lump sums ($30,000 in the first year and $20,000 in the second year) for fellowship expenses.  
  1. Ocean Sciences Postdoctoral Research Fellowships

    This fellowship supports research in topic areas such as: biological oceanography, chemical oceanography, physical oceanography, marine geology and geophysics, ocean science and technology.

    This two-year fellowship with a stipend of $67,800 for the first year and $70,000 for the second year, with a fellowship allowance of $15,000 per year.  

  2. Office of Polar Programs Postdoctoral Research Fellowships

    This fellowship supports postdoctoral research in any field of Arctic or Antarctic science. This two-years fellowship, with a stipend of $67,800 for the first year and $70,000 for the second year, with fellowship expenses of $15,000 per year.  

  3. Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology

    The Directorate of Biology offers a fellowship for postdoctoral researchers in one of three areas: 

  • Broadening Participation of Groups Underrepresented in Biology. This area requires a research and training plan that is within the scope of the Directorate for Biology and that enhances diversity within the field.  
  • Integrative Research Investigating the Rules of Life Governing Interaction between Genomes, Environment and Phenotypes. This area aims to understand higher-order structures and functions of biological systems. Research should use a combination of computational, observational, experimental or conceptual approaches. 
  • Plant Genome Postdoctoral Research Fellowships. This area has a broad scope and supports postdoctoral training and research at the frontier of plant biology and of broad societal impact. Highly competitive proposals will describe interdisciplinary training and research on a genome wide scale.

    The fellowships are for 36 months and have a stipend of $60,000 per year, with a research and training allowance of $20,000 per year. 
  1. SBE Postdoctoral Research Fellowships

    This fellowship supports postdoctoral research in the social, behavioral and economic sciences and/or activities that broaden the participation of underrepresented groups in these fields. Funding is up to two years and has two tracks available:  

  • Fundamental Research in the SBE Sciences. This track supports research focused on human behavior, interaction, social and economic systems. 
  • Broadening Participation in SBE Sciences. This track aims to increase the diversity of post-doctoral researchers in the social, behavioral and economic sciences. In addition to the research proposal, these applications should also answer the question: “How will this fellowship help broaden or inform efforts to broaden the participation of underrepresented groups in the United States?”

    The stipend for this program is $65,000 per year (paid in quarterly installments) and the research and training allowance is $15,000 per year. 
  1. SBIR Innovative Postdoctoral Entrepreneurial Research Fellowship

    This fellowship supports postdoctoral researchers at start-up companies through the Small Business Innovation Research program. By recruiting, training, mentoring, matching and funding these early-career scientists, this fellowship addresses the need of doctoral-level expertise at small, high-tech businesses. The base stipend is $78,000 per year with optional individual health and life insurance, relocation assistance (company dependent), professional conference travel allowance, and professional development funds.  

  2. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education Individual Postdoctoral Research Fellowship

    This fellowship is for postdoctoral researchers to enhance their research knowledge, skills, and practices of STEM education research. If the fellowship is granted, the fellow is expected to remain affiliated with the host organization and PI sponsoring them. The fellowship can last up to two years with an annual stipend of $70,000, with fellowship expenses of $15,000.  


  1. CyberCorps® Scholarship for Service

    This program is for students earning their associates, bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in cybersecurity. A stipulation of the program is that the recipients must work after graduation in a cybersecurity mission of the federal, state, local or tribal government for an equal amount of time as the scholarship's duration. It will provide full tuition and fees plus a stipend of $27,000 per academic year for undergraduates and a stipend of $37,000 per academic year for graduate students, in addition to a professional allowance of $6,000 for all levels. 

  2. NSF-NIST Interaction in Basic and Applied Scientific Research

    This supplemental funding request is for NSF-supported researchers to collaborate with researchers at a National Institute of Standards and Technology facility. It can be used for travel expenses and per diem associated with on-site work at NIST. It is available for NSF-supported PIs, co-PIs, postdoctoral scholars, graduate and undergraduate students and other personnel associated with the research. PIs should contact their NSF program director for their award before applying. 

This extensive list shows the ways in which NSF helps train the next generation of STEM researchers. If you are interested in learning more about any of these programs, reach out to contacts listed on the award webpages.  

If you are interested in awards for high school students, undergraduates and post-baccalaureate scholars, check out our previous NSF101 for more information! 

About the Author

Eleanor Johnson headshot
Eleanor Johnson
AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow

Eleanor earned her BS in Biology from Wittenberg University and her Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Kentucky, after which she applied for the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship. She was placed as a Communication Specialist with the Science Policy & Communications team in the Office of Legislative & Public Affairs at the National Science Foundation.