Undergraduate Research (UR) Grants

Program Goals

The goals of the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund are:

  • To support fundamental research in the petroleum field
  • To develop the next generation of engineers and scientists through support of advanced scientific education

The Undergraduate Research (UR) grants program supports the research programs of established scientists and engineers at non-doctoral departments and provides financial support for students at those institutions to become involved in advanced research activities, in preparation for continued study in graduate school or employment.

Undergraduate Research Grants

The Undergraduate Research (UR) grants program provides funding for scientists and engineers with established programs of research at non-doctoral departments. UR grants are used to illustrate proof of principle, i.e., feasibility, and accordingly, are to be viewed as seed money for generating preliminary results that can be used to apply for continuation funding from other agencies. Applicants may have limited or no preliminary results for a research project they wish to pursue.

Eligibility for a UR grant requires that a PI is in a department without a doctoral program, and that the students receiving stipends for the work to be done are undergraduates (M.S.-level students can also be supported only if one or more undergraduates are also supported from this grant). Accordingly, the research being proposed need not be high risk but it should be of publishable quality. The research opportunities afforded must be of the highest caliber, and provide a compelling educational experience for the student.

Award Information

Amount: $70,000 over 3 years
Estimated number of awards: ~ 45 each year

Nature and Scope of the Research

ACS PRF Research Grants are made to non-profit institutions for regularly appointed scientists whose research may be sponsored in accordance with the PRF Transfer Agreement:

The recipient (ACS) shall use all funds exclusively for advanced scientific education and fundamental research in the "petroleum field," which may include any field of pure science which in the judgment of (ACS) may afford a basis for subsequent research directly connected with the petroleum field.

Note that fundamental research is required as opposed to applied research or methods development. When submitting an application, you will be asked to select a scientific discipline that PRF supports.

The UR grant program is designed as a source of funds for faculty members in non-doctoral departments. It supports fundamental research and advanced scientific education in the petroleum field performed by undergraduate students. M.S. students may also be supported. The principal investigator must demonstrate to the PRF Program Managers, Advisory Board members, and to the scientific or engineering community of reviewers that their proposals are designed with the participation of students as the essential feature. Poorly crafted proposals that are deemed to be “noncompetitive” will be denied without external review.

All proposals will undergo a compliance check for the following required elements:

  • Completeness and correctness of the application;
  • Fundamental nature of the research topic;
  • Relevance to petroleum or fossil fuels; and
  • Description of the impact on advanced scientific education of students.

Eligibility Criteria

Regularly-appointed faculty members in a college or university department that does not offer a doctoral degree in countries where ACS PRF can administer grants are eligible. In addition, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • The non-profit institution submitting the Type UR proposal must certify that each individual listed as a principal investigator on the cover page qualifies as a principal investigator under the institution’s policies.
  • In view of the long-standing goal of The ACS Petroleum Research Fund to give priority to support of students, the principal investigator must be eligible to serve as the formal, official supervisor of undergraduate students.
  • The terms of appointment of each principal investigator must promise reasonable continuity of service. The appointment should continue at least through the period of funding requested in the UR proposal.

Generally the above criteria are automatically met by tenure-track principal investigators. If you are not tenure-track, you should attach a brief statement to your application describing your appointment and you must include a Department Chair’s letter affirming that you meet all three of the above criteria. Read more about Eligibility, Terms, and Conditions for UR grants.

Funding Criteria

The PRF Advisory Board makes relative rankings of proposals and recommendations for funding on the basis of the following criteria (in order of importance):

  • Overall quality, significance, and scientific merit of the proposed research, including the extent to which it will increase basic knowledge and/or stimulate additional research.
  • Extent to which advanced scientific education will be enhanced through the involvement of students in the research.
  • Impact of PRF funding the research, including the effect on the principal investigator’s overall research program.
  • Qualifications or potential of the principal investigator and adequacy of the facilities to conduct the research.

Budget Guidelines

  • The Advisory Board strongly suggests that at least 40 percent of the total proposal budget be devoted to support the education and training of students. If you have any questions about allowable budget allocations, please contact the appropriate Program Manager before submitting a proposal. For proposals that are funded, the budget becomes part of the grant agreement. Revisions to the grant budget can only be made with prior approval of ACS PRF.
  • Amount: Proposals must request $70,000 for a three-year period. The total $70K budget may be divided between the three years according to the needs of the project. The normal ACS PRF budget year extends from September 1 to August 31.
  • Excluded Charges: No overhead costs may be charged which includes secretarial and/or administrative salaries. Funds may not be used to support laboratory technicians, contractors, consultants, post-doctoral fellows, doctoral students, or visiting faculty.
  • Support of Students: The magnitude of student stipends paid from ACS PRF grants shall be determined by the grantee institution. Grant funds must be used to support undergraduate students in each year of the funded research; M.S. students may also be supported.
  • Principal Investigator Stipend: Only principal investigators in the United States may request a contribution to his or her summer salary, not to exceed $8,000 per grant year, including benefits, to a maximum of $24,000. This limit does not change as a result of time extensions. Elective summer teaching is strongly discouraged for UR investigators who request this stipend.
  • Travel: A maximum of $2,000 per grant year, or $6,000 total may be used for conference travel. Support of student travel to scientific meetings is encouraged. There are no restrictions on foreign travel. Note that scientific work done away from the home institution is considered field work and is budgeted separately.
  • Capital Equipment: Requests for capital equipment on UR grant proposals are discouraged. However, a limited amount of capital equipment funds (≤ $5000) may be included in the proposed budget, with justification in Part VII of the application, and a discussion of institutional cost-matching (if provided).


  • A principal investigator (lead PI or co-PI) may have only one research proposal active or under consideration per meeting.
  • Principal investigators (lead PI or co-PI) may not hold more than one active PRF research grant at a time.
  • Principal investigators (lead PI or co-PI) with an active PRF research grant, including a grant on time extension, may not submit an application for a new grant.
  • Principal investigators (lead PI or co-PI) may have only one UR grant application considered in a 12-month period. Thus, a principal investigator (lead PI or co-PI) who has an UR proposal denied may not submit another UR proposal until the Advisory Board meeting one year later.

Program Managers

  • Dr. Dean Dunn, Assistant Director, Geology, Geochemistry/Geophysics, telephone: 202-872-4083, email: d_dunn@acs.org
  • Dr. Burtrand I. Lee, Surface Science and Materials Science, telephone: 202-872-6254, email: b_lee@acs.org
  • Dr. Askar Fahr, Physical Organic Chemistry, and Chemical Physics/Physical Chemistry, telephone: 202-872-6207, email: a_fahr@acs.org
  • Dr. Thomas Clancy, Polymer Science, Engineering, Chemistry and Petroleum Engineering, telephone: 202-872-6093, email: t_clancy@acs.org
  • Dr. Nancy Jensen, Synthetic Organic Chemistry, and Inorganic Chemistry, telephone: 202-872-6186, email: n_jensen@acs.org