Doctoral New Investigator (DNI) Grants

Program Goals

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

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

The Doctoral New Investigator grants program aims to promote the careers of young faculty by supporting research of high scientific caliber, and to enhance the career opportunities of their undergraduate/ graduate students, and postdoctoral associates through the research experience.

Doctoral New Investigator Grants

Doctoral New Investigator (DNI) grants provide start-up funding for scientists and engineers in the United States who are within the first three years of their first academic appointment at the level of Assistant Professor or the equivalent. Applicants may have limited or no preliminary results for a research project they wish to pursue, with the intention of using the preliminary results obtained to seek continuation funding from other agencies. The DNI grants are to be used to illustrate proof of principle or concept, to test a hypothesis, or to demonstrate feasibility of an approach.

The DNI grants program is seeking investigator-initiated, original research across the spectrum of our mission. Original research is defined as being different from that performed previously by the PI as part of their graduate or postdoctoral studies. Excluded from consideration are proposals in which the ideas being presented are a mere extension of research from the PI’s graduate or postdoctoral experience. Research projects must be unique. Although a PI may send the same proposal to more than one agency, PRF will not support a project having overlap, or partial overlap, with research funded by another agency.

Award Information

  • Amount: $110,000 over 2 years
  • Estimated number of awards: ~75 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 DNI Grant Program is designed as a source of funds for young investigators who are developing their own independent research projects. The new investigator must demonstrate that the project is an original research direction and is independent of their graduate or post-graduate studies. Proposals deemed not “original research” will be denied without external review, or may be rejected by the PRF Committee.

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
  • Extent to which the proposed research differs from prior graduate and postdoctoral research.

Eligibility Criteria

Regularly-appointed faculty members at U.S. academic institutions who are within the first three years of their first academic appointment at the rank of Assistant Professor or the equivalent are eligible to apply. In addition, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • The non-profit institution submitting the DNI proposal must certify that the 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 policy of The ACS Petroleum Research Fund to give priority to support of students (undergraduate, graduate, or postdoctoral), each principal investigator must be eligible to serve as the formal, official supervisor of graduate students in graduate degree programs.
  • The terms of appointment of the principal investigator must promise reasonable continuity of service. The appointment should continue at least through the period of funding requested in the proposal.

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

Funding Criteria

The PRF Committee 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.
  • Newness of the proposed research for the principal investigator.
  • Impact of PRF funding the research, including the effect on the principal investigator’s overall research program.
  • Qualifications or potential of the principal investigator(s) and adequacy of the facilities to conduct the research.

Budget Guidelines

The PRF Committee requires at least 60 percent of the total budget be devoted to support the education and training of students (undergraduates, graduate stipends and tuition remission, and/or postdoctoral fellows). 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 request $110,000 for a two-year period. The total $110K budget may be divided among 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, or visiting faculty.
  • Principal Investigator Stipend: Principal investigators may request a contribution to summer salary, not to exceed $8,000 per grant year, including fringe benefits, up to a maximum of $16,000. This limit does NOT change as a result of time extensions.
  • Support of Students: Total student support must be at least 60% of the grant budget.  Students are defined as graduate students, undergraduates, and/or postdoctoral fellows.  Student support categories include stipends/salaries/benefits, graduate tuition, and Field Work.  Field Work expenses may include transportation, lodging, etc. and must be described in the budget justification.  Funds budgeted for a student at one of the three levels may subsequently be shifted to student support at a different level without prior approval from ACS PRF, but may not be shifted out of student support.
  • Travel: A maximum of $2,000 per grant year, or $4,000 total, may be used for conference travel. This limit does NOT change as a result of time extensions. Support of student travel to scientific meetings is encouraged. There are no restrictions on foreign travel. Note that scientific work performed away from the home institution is considered field work and is budgeted separately.
  • Capital Equipment: Requests for capital equipment on DNI grant proposals are discouraged. However, a limited amount of capital equipment funds (≤ $5,000) may be included in the proposed budget, with justification and description of institutional cost-matching (if any) in the budget justification.  


  • New investigators may submit only one research proposal for consideration per meeting and may not hold more than one active PRF research grant at a time.
  • New investigators may have only three (3) DNI grant applications considered and/or one (1) DNI grant funded in their career. Thereafter, the new investigator may apply to the New Directions (ND) Grant Program.
  • A principal investigator with an active PRF research grant, including a grant on time extension, may not submit an application for a new grant.

Program Managers

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

Proposal Submission

We are currently accepting proposals for the Doctoral New Investigator (DNI) grant program to be considered at the October 2024 ACS PRF Committee Meeting.  All proposals are due by 5:00 p.m. ET Friday, March 8, 2024.   The Fall Submission window will be from Monday, August 12, 2024 to Friday September 6, 2024.