By Brittany Timmons
Mauricio Lascano, an Ohio University graduate student studying biological sciences, hopes the research he's conducting in laboratories here will benefit people thousands of miles away in Ecuador.
His goal is to improve testing methods for a parasite known to cause Chagas, a potentially fatal disease in Central and South America, and his contributions to the medical and biological science fields are supported by a $650 original work grant from the university's Graduate Student Senate (GSS).
It's the second time the senate has supported his research. A travel grant last fall allowed Lascano to attend a meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Philadelphia, where he presented part of his work. The most recent original work grant will help fund a return trip to that conference in December.
"I think GSS is doing a great job by supporting research and creative projects," Lascano said. "In the case of the travel grant, it's very important for students doing research to go show their work at these kinds of meetings and conferences."
More graduate students like Lascano will receive support from the GSS programs next school year. As she did for the current school year, Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl will add $25,000 to the initial outlay of $24,000 for GSS awards for 2008-09.
"Our concern was that with the budget problem, we would get cut off," said Nihar Shah, GSS grant committee chair. "But the provost has seen the merits of the program and is trying to support it as much as possible."
The two GSS grant programs have become increasingly competitive and beneficial in recent years, according to recipients and senate representatives.
The travel grant allows students to present their research and creative work at conferences or seminars. It also gives students a chance to attend workshops or take advantage of other professional development opportunities. The original work grant supports student research and creative endeavors by providing necessary funds for travel, lodging or supplies.
The program also provides input on how to improve grant proposals. Lascano, whose proposal was a resubmission, found this feedback to be very helpful, especially when submitting his proposal to other programs.
"The goals of the program are to first get students familiar with the grant-writing process and then to fund the small parts of the students' research so they don't have to fund their research out of pocket," Shah said. "So it is a learning experience as well as helping with funding."
Matthew Gothard, a graduate student studying interdisciplinary arts, also found the resubmission aspect of the program useful. Gothard, who is interested in contemporary opera, was awarded a GSS original work grant this past winter to attend an opera by internationally renowned composer Philip Glass. Gothard participated in a grant-writing workshop that showed him how to structure an effective grant proposal.
"GSS's interest goes beyond assisting with grant money," Gothard said. "They sort of demystify the grant-writing process."
That's essential to students interested in pursuing a career in academia or conducting research that requires extensive funding.
Students can apply for the GSS awards during fall, winter and spring quarters. According to Shah, about 50 percent of travel proposals are accepted, while the original works grants are generally more competitive because of a higher number of applicants.
"We have a high rate of declining first-time applicants because usually a lot of improvements can be made," Shah said. "However, applicants have a much higher likelihood of being funded the second time."
Many second-time applicants also apply for the Student Enhancement Award, which is sponsored by the Vice President for Research and Creative Activity, and other grants. According to Andrew Pusateri, GSS senator for the College of Education, the program is a useful stepping stone to receiving larger awards in the future.
"For students doing original work, it is usually one of the first times they have written a grant," Pusateri said. "It really helps get your feet wet as far as grants go."
Click here for more information about the Graduate Student Senate grants.