Thursday, October 4, 2007

MIT Energy Initiative Announces Call for Proposals for "Seed Fund Program" for MIT Research

The MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) has announced a call for proposals for the MITEI Seed Fund Program, a research fund set aside by MITEI to provide seed financial support to early stage MIT energy research projects.

The "Seed Fund Program" will be accepting proposals biannually over the next five years (the initial time frame of MITEI).

Next Spring (application deadline this Fall), the Seed Fund Program will be funding 5 seed projects $100-$200K for 1-2 years and five (let's call them "zygote") projects (junior faculty only) at $40K that are expected to be finished by the end of the summer (10 months).

Application deadline is Nov 13.

To put this in context, a graduate student researcher costs ~$100K per year on average. (this is a rough number, some students who focus on literature analysis/computation can be as low as ~$50K/year, whereas some students doing equipment heavy experimental research can be as high as $150K/year)

Assuming the average distribution per call for proposals (twice a year for 5 years) is $150K/year for the "seed projects" and $40K/year for the "zygote projects", this comes out to a distribution of ~$1.9M/year (I don't know the exact details on whether most of the seed projects will be one year or two years so this is rough).

$1.9M/$100K = 19 full graduate students per year every year for the next 5 years. NOT TOO BAD.

I wish that an MIT MS student or UROP would take on the challenge of trying to quantify how many graduate students on campus are currently working on energy research and how much research money MIT is currently getting for energy research. Without such statistics, it is very difficult to 1.) put numbers such as those above in context (i.e is this a 5% bump or a 20% bump?) and 2.) how well are we doing going forward in getting more energy research funding through MITEI and MIT efforts to get more funding from existing sources?

Tiffany Groode, MIT Energy Club member and soon to be Mech Eng PhD alum, performed the definitive MIT Carbon Emissions Study for her master's thesis and this now appears to be THE de-facto official data for MIT, so this is definitely possible - an ideal project for a TPP or ESD'er....

If a go-getter MIT student interested in doing this, I'd be very happy to do anything I could to get them support.

- Dave Danielson, Founder/MIT Energy Club (dtdaniel(att)mit(dott)edu)