Funding Guide for Engineering Faculty

This guide aims to provide an overview of strategies and resources available to faculty at all career stages seeking funding opportunities. It is tailored to faculty in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Table of contents

Who on campus can help?

If you want to pursue sponsored research, there are a variety of campus resources available to support you from beginning to end.

Departmental Resources

Departmental grants managers provide support to faculty in submitting proposals and in administering awards. Faculty should familiarize themselves with the grants managers assigned to them and work closely with them when pursuing funding.

How do you identify your grants manager?

Speak to your department manager to identify your grants manager.

How do joint-appointed faculty determine their grants managers?

If you hold a joint appointment, you may have access to grants managers in your home department as well in the centers and institutes to which you are affiliated.

Senior faculty can serve as good resources to help you through the process of sourcing and navigating grants. Faculty may be especially helpful if they are researchers in similar areas.

University Resources

Office of the Dean for Research (ODFR) supports the research community at Princeton by helping researchers compete effectively for research funding, establish new partnerships, provide administrative management of awards, and ensure research is conducted in an ethical and responsible manner in compliance with University policies and federal, state, and local regulations.

Faculty Research Forum is a lunchtime series, managed by the Office of the Dean for Research, that introduces broad topics relevant for early career faculty, with an emphasis on building relationships and developing your network and support for faculty across all disciplines in launching, sustaining, and growing their research efforts.

Research Funding Announcements keep faculty apprised of current, curated research opportunities. If you are not receiving these emails, get on the listserv by emailing:

Funding Announcement Gateway provides a curated list of funding announcements from several announcement newsletters in a searchable format.

Initial steps in getting your research idea funded

Define your funding needs and objectives by considering the following questions:

  1. What is the scope and purpose of your project?
  2. Would it be helpful to collaborate with someone?
    • Are collaborators necessary to successfully execute the project?
    • What benefits beyond executing the research might come from the collaboration?
    • What are the tradeoffs in having collaborators who are internal versus external to the University?
  3. What if you are approached by others (internal/external) to be part of a collaborative team?

    Such opportunities could be especially beneficial for early career faculty because these connections could involve working with more established grant writers who can impart knowledge/strategies to enhance your chance of success in writing your own grant proposals later. These colleagues may also have an established funding record, which will enhance chances of being funded.

    It would be helpful to consult with more senior faculty colleagues to discuss these opportunities to assess alignment with research goals.
  4. Where do you go to find research collaborators from Princeton?

    Faculty within your home department or your affiliated center/institute would be the most likely collaborators given their overlapping research interests. SEAS faculty outside your home department, center, or institute might provide complementary expertise needed for the particular project. A resource to find faculty across Princeton is the Research with Princeton portal.
  5. What are specific requirements for this project for which you will need funding (e.g., research equipment, personnel, travel expenses, materials and supplies, subcontracts, etc.)?
  6. How do you determine the amount of funding needed to carry out your research? How do you know the cost of doing the research you want to do?
    • Your grants manager can be a good resource to answer funding questions and to help you develop a rough estimate of needs. They will assist you in developing a budget for your proposal.
    • The cost of conducting research will be determined by using the rate sheets provided by the Office of Research and Project Administration (ORPA). Rate sheets are available at

External funding opportunities

The Office of the Dean for Research (ODFR) is a key resource for anyone seeking research funding because they manage the research enterprise across the University. The ODFR also manages databases that can help you identify internal and external funding sources.

  • Research Funding Gateway is a curated portal containing funding opportunities from internal sources, corporations, foundations, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.
  • Pivot is an online funding database that Princeton subscribes to featuring a wide array of funding opportunities from government, corporations, foundations, and private entities to cover research. The ODFR Pivot-At-A-Glance is a helpful guide to this tool.
  • The ODFR Research Funding Announcements keep faculty apprised of current, curated research opportunities. If you are not receiving these emails, get on the listserv by emailing:
  • Foundation Center Directory is an extensive list of funding opportunities compiled by the Foundation Center.

Sometimes, it can be helpful to access direct links to external funding opportunities. You can find the most common links for engineering as well as guidance in the appendix.

Internal funding opportunities

There are a variety of University funding opportunities that you can explore. A few of the opportunities most relevant for SEAS faculty are listed below:

The ODFR provides several internal funding opportunities. A few of those opportunities are highlighted below:

The School of Engineering also offers funds to support research:

SEAS centers and other University departments can also be a source of funding. A few examples:

Crafting strong grant proposals

Initial tips

  • Familiarize yourself with the funding organization’s mission, priorities, and evaluation criteria.
  • Clearly articulate the significance and impact of your project.
  • Develop a detailed budget that aligns with the funding guidelines.
  • Seek advice from internal and external colleagues, mentors, and research development professionals (such as those at ODFR) to strengthen your proposal – especially for large-scale projects that require coordination. Colleagues are often willing to share successful proposals upon request.
  • Adhere to the application guidelines and deadlines provided by each funding source.
  • Adhere to specific requirements, formatting instructions, and submission procedures.
  • Start the application process well in advance to allow ample time for revisions and administrative approvals. Proposals needing ORPA’s review must be submitted no less than five working days prior to the submission deadline. Late submissions may not allow time for approvals and compliance checks before the deadline passes.

Resources to support grant proposal development

  • Funding Databases and Online Platforms: These databases include Foundation Center Directory Online, Pivot, and which provide tips and tools for proposals.
  • Departmental Grants Managers: Your GMs will be integral to the proposal development
  • Proposal Development Support: The University’s Proposal Development Team in ODFR provides one-on-one consultations, workshops, and resources to help researchers draft competitive grant proposals.
    • The Proposal Development Team is particularly suited for helping develop large-scale grants
    • ORPA’s Grant & Contract Administrators (GCA) play a critical role in reviewing your proposal to ensure that it complies with University and funding agency guidelines. Your GCA is responsible for the review and submission of proposals, contract negotiation, and grant acceptance. You can find your department’s GCA here.
    • ORPA also can help with collaborative federal proposals, which typically are the more complex multi-investigator, large-scale proposals to federal agencies
  • Proposal Considerations (as outlined on Proposal Development page)
    • PI Eligibility
    • Princeton ERA Proposal Submission System
    • Gift vs. Grant
    • Subawards
    • Non-Funded Agreements (e.g., NDAs, data access agreements)
  • Writing Support: ODFR provides consultations for proposal development for large scale, collaborative projects and DEI resources for crafting broader impact statements. Many federal agencies and institutions provide guidance on proposal writing (see list of external resources below). The Princeton Writing Center also offers appointments Research Writing Conferences that might help you hone your writing (though they will not be able to provide you critique on the content). Your faculty colleagues may also be a good source of support as you construct your proposals so don’t be afraid to reach out.
  • Budget Development and Financial Guidance: Along with ORPA, The Office of Finance and Treasury (OFT) provides guidance on budget development and financial aspects of grant proposals.

Working with ORPA

You can follow these general steps:

  1. Collaborate & Familiarize Yourself with ORPA: Visit the ORPA website or reach out to their office to better understand their role and services.
  2. Proposal Submission: When preparing a grant proposal, collaborate with ORPA early in the process! They can provide guidance on:
    • Proposal requirements, budget development, compliance issues, and other administrative aspects.
    • ORPA staff can help review your proposal, ensure it aligns with sponsor guidelines, and facilitate its submission.
  3. Award Negotiation and Acceptance: If your proposal is successful, ORPA will negotiate the terms and conditions of the award with the sponsor on behalf of the University. They will review the award documentation, identify any potential issues or concerns, and work with you to resolve them. Once the negotiations are complete, ORPA will facilitate the acceptance of the award.

Managing Funds POST-AWARD

Award Setup and Account Management: ORPA will establish a project account in Princeton’s financial system for the awarded funds. They will work with you to set up appropriate cost centers and budget codes for tracking expenses. ORPA staff will provide guidance on allowable costs, budget management, and financial reporting requirements.

Compliance and Regulatory Requirements: ORPA ensures that projects comply with federal, state, and sponsor-specific regulations.

Post-Award Management: Throughout the project’s duration, ORPA supports the PI and grants manager in post-award management activities. They assist with financial monitoring, expense tracking, and reporting requirements. ORPA staff can help you navigate any changes to the project scope, budget, or timeline and ensure compliance with university policies.

Closeout and Reporting: When the project is nearing completion, ORPA will guide you through the closeout process which will be conducted by Sponsored Research Accounting (SRA). They will assist with final financial reporting, ensure all necessary documentation is submitted, and facilitate any remaining financial transactions related to the project.

Working with Program Officers

A Program Officer (PO) is your point of contact at the funding agency for proposal submissions, so it is important to know when and how to contact them. POs can help you understand the priorities of the funding agency and the funding agency’s response to your submission.

When do you contact a Program Officer (PO)?

  • When you have questions about the research priorities of the funding agency
    The PO can provide information about the research priorities of the agency. It may be helpful to ask whether your research would align with those priorities to help you assess the funding viability of your proposal. If you have an alignment related question, it can be helpful to prepare a one-page research summary to include in the body of the email along with a specific question about your project or a request to discuss whether it is a good fit for the program. Keep it focused; draw clear, explicit connections to significance and innovation; and clearly articulate the expected outcomes and deliverables and how these are related to the program’s priorities or guidelines.
    How technical should it be? Assume a technically literate reader but not necessarily well-versed in your specific area.


Some agencies such as the Department of Defense, provide opportunities for POs to review proposals or white papers in advance and to provide feedback on the fit for the particular program. It’s important to take advantage of these opportunities to maximize your chances of success!

  • When you need clarification of funding agency policies and elements of the grant
    You may want to contact the PO during the proposal development when you have questions about various aspects of the grant not addressed in the solicitation. Some examples of questions you might ask about include:
    • Agency policies such as Data Sharing, human subjects, etc.
    • Grant award specifics, such as possible award minimum/maximums, whether or not a particular budget item can be funded, etc.
  • When you need help to understand reviewer feedback
    The PO can help you interpret critiques, provide guidance on when to resubmit, what to focus on and, if they were present at the study section, provide additional input into reviewers’ responses. Be sure to follow all agency guidelines for when it is appropriate to contact a program officer after submission (see below)– and remember never to contact anyone on the review panel! Give them ample time pre-deadline to respond and expect delays in response right after an FOA releases, or just before a deadline.

Tips for building a strong partnership with your program officer

  • Attend workshops and webinars
    • Great opportunity to meet POs in person or virtually.
    • Introduce yourself – especially if the program is a live event or workshop, take the initiative to briefly discuss your research goals.
    • Ask questions – this shows your interest and engagement
  • Engage in outreach and networking
    • Conferences and seminars often provide excellent opportunities to meet POs and discuss potential collaborations
  • Reach out via email (only BEFORE proposal submission)
    • Keep your message brief and focused on your research area
    • If you have progress or relevant achievements to report, share updates
    • Review guidelines and expectations online first to make sure you follow PO’s preferred method of communication
  • DO NOT contact PO once submission is complete and PO is reviewing your proposal
  • Be patient
    • Building relationships takes time and effort; it doesn’t happen overnight
  • Maintain long-term relationships
    • Even if you don’t receive funding initially, continue to stay in touch – this can lead to future opportunities.


Your colleagues can be helpful as you embark on your funding journey. Speak to your chair, peers, and mentors to discuss your research ideas, craft a funding strategy, and explore possible funding options. It can be helpful to target 1-2 proposals to submit within your first 1-2 years. A variety of programs are available to support early career faculty build a firm foundation for research success in the academy.

Early Career Awards and Early Career Development Programs

  • National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER. The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a Foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of early career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.
  • Department of Energy  Early career researchers (untenured, tenured-track, assistant and associate professors) can apply to one of eight Office of Science program offices: Advanced Scientific Computing Research; Biological and Environmental Research; Basic Energy Sciences; Fusion Energy Sciences; High Energy Physics; Nuclear Physics; Accelerator R&D and Production; and Isotope R&D and Production.
  • DoD Young Investigator Programs provide funding for early career researchers.
    • DARPA Young Faculty Award (YFA)
      This YFA will provide high-impact funding to elite researchers early in their careers to develop innovative new research directions in the context of enabling transformative DoD capabilities.
    • Army Research Office Young Investigator Program (YIP)
      The objective of the YIP is to attract to Army research outstanding young university faculty members, to support their research, and to encourage their teaching and research careers.Applicants contemplating submission of a whitepaper or proposal are strongly encouraged to contact the appropriate Technical Point of Contact (TPOC). TPOCs are listed immediately after each research area of interest.
    • Air Force Young Investigator Program
      The objective of this program is to foster creative basic research in science and engineering; enhance early career development of outstanding young investigators; and increase opportunities for the young investigator to recognize the Air Force mission and related challenges in science and engineering.
    • Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program 
      The objectives of this program are to attract outstanding faculty members of Institutions of Higher Education to the Department of the Navy’s Science and Technology research program, to support their research, and to encourage their teaching and research careers.
    • NASA: Early Career Faculty 
      The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Headquarters has released a solicitation, titled Early Career Faculty, as an appendix to the Space Technology Mission Directorate umbrella NASA Research Announcement titled “Space Technology Research, Development, Demonstration, and Infusion 2019” (SpaceTech-REDDI-2019). NASA is seeking proposals that plan to pursue innovative, early-stage space technology research in the topic areas specifically enumerated in the solicitation.
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)
    • Center for Scientific Review’s Early Career Reviewer  Program
      Helps early career scientists engage with the peer review process.
  • Princeton Office of the Dean of the Faculty
    Princeton University is a member of the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD). The NCFDD provides online workshops, webinars, and seminars on topics relating to faculty professional life, such as increasing writing productivity, prioritizing and managing time, cultivating mentors, securing external funding, and maintaining work-life balance. These resources are available to all faculty members at no cost. You can register for a membership via the NCFDD website.The NCFDD also hosts an intensive 12-week virtual program or “boot camp” each spring. This year the program will run between January 22nd and March 31st. The Faculty Success Program enables tenured and tenure-track faculty to work with coaches and a small peer group to develop a daily writing practice and manage obstacles to writing productivity. The feedback we have received on this program has been extremely positive. The Office of the Dean of the Faculty has reserved a limited number of “seats” for this program and will cover the registration fee. If you are interested in participating, please be in touch with Regan Mumolie as soon as possible. Priority registration ended October 13th (although there may be seats available after that date).

Graduate Student Funding

Compensation of graduate students, for services provided on a research project is generally an allowable expense to be charged to a grant. Graduate student researcher wages directly associated with a sponsored project are considered direct costs and should be charged to the project in proportion to the effort expended on the program during each pay period.

The University’s Financial Support Model for graduate funding explains how Ph.D. students are funded.

Under the current tuition model, Princeton will cover up to 100% of graduate student assistantship in research tuition that otherwise would have been eligible to be charged to sponsored research grants, regardless of the overhead provided by the research grant or a student’s year of study. In addition, any portion of external fellowship or training grant tuition that would have been provided by a sponsor will now be covered by the Graduate School on its shared tuition chartstring. This model for sponsored research grant tuition and external fellowship and training grant tuition applies to all degree-seeking graduate students whose tuition would otherwise be charged on G0001 or G0002 funds.

It should be noted that all first-year Ph.D. students receive a 10-month first-year fellowship from the Graduate School.

Postdoctoral Research Associate Funding

Faculty typically secure research funding to hire a postdoctoral research associates (PDRA). It is only in rare cases that a department, institute, or center provides institutional support for PDRAs.

Note: Sometimes, you may have the opportunity to work with a Postdoctoral Research Fellow (PDRF) who are generally supported by external fellowships or training grants. In such cases, PIs/departments may need to provide a small institutional allowance (currently $11,700) to cover benefits.

Don’t get discouraged. It may take a few iterations of the proposal submission to get funded. Seeking feedback can be helpful in preparing your proposal for future submission. A program officer (PO) can be helpful in understanding the organization’s response to your submission; help you interpret critiques, provide guidance on when to resubmit, what to focus on, and, if they were present at the study section, provide additional input into reviewers’ responses (see Working with Program Officers section below).

  • SEAS offers its own Innovation Grants
  • Princeton Innovation aggregates funding opportunities
  • Princeton Innovation also offers resources to help faculty broaden the impact of their research through innovation and entrepreneurship, via technology transfer, industry collaborations, startups and other ventures
  • You can stay updated with Princeton Innovation by signing up for regular e-communications.

At Princeton, the Office of the Dean for Research centrally administers “limited submission proposals.” These are funding opportunities in which the funder restricts the number of proposals that may be submitted from Princeton.

  • CEFR distributes requests for limited proposals or letters of inquiry, along with related submission guidelines and schedules, to the appropriate deans, chairs and directors, as well as to their department, center or institute staff.
  • Internal nominations from across Princeton are submitted to the Office of the Dean for Research.
  • The Dean for Research, or the Dean of Faculty in the case of humanities proposals, works with faculty review committees to determine which internal nominees, if any, will be approved to apply to the external funding source.

Appendix For federally funded research, serves as a central repository of grants offered by various government agencies. **It may be comprehensive but some say it might be harder to navigate than PIVOT or Gateway.

Key Federal Government Funding Sources

You can access RFPs from these funding sources in a variety of ways such as PIVOT and Gateway. You can also go directly to the funding sites.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is a major funding agency that supports research and education across science and engineering. NSF’s mission is to promote the progress of science and strengthen the nation’s scientific workforce by funding research initiatives. They provide general guidance on tips for finding funding, how to prepare your proposal, and how to submit your proposal.

The Department of Defense (DOD) funds initiatives that are relevant to the security of the country. Engineering research fields (e.g., cybersecurity, materials science) are highly relevant to the DoD (Department of Defense)

DOD sub-agencies often have their own with calls for research

DoD Resources

  • DoD 101 – Overview of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
  • Heilmeier Questions – Specific questions to answer in ANY research grant proposal.
  • DoD Data Strategy – Data management involves all stages of the digital data life cycle including capture, analysis, sharing, and preservation.

Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science funds research related to energy, sustainability & the environment. Funding opportunities exist at other offices in the DOE as well:

  • Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy invests in research and development of lower cost of clean energy technologies
  • Office of Nuclear Energy supports research related to nuclear power to meet national energy, environmental, and national security needs.
  • Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) advances high potential, high impact energy technologies that are too early for private sector investment. Supports researchers developing new ways to generate, store, and use energy. **Note: ARPA-E awards can be challenging for less experienced researchers and require a HIGH degree of engagement with the DOE post-award.
  • Office of Electricity (OE) supports the development of new technologies that improve the infrastructure and security related to the delivery electricity.
  • Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) support development and deployment of technologies to reduce carbon emissions and other environmental impacts of fossil fuel production and use.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) funds research to enable a safer, more secure, efficient, and environmentally-friendly air transportation system through aeronautics research; operate the International Space Station and prepare for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit; explore the Earth-Sun system, our own solar system, and the universe beyond; and develop the crosscutting, advanced and pioneering new technologies needed for current and future missions, benefiting the aerospace industry and other agencies, and addressing national needs.

Department of Transportation (DOT) funds research to advance the mission to build up and maintain fast, safe, efficient, and accessible transportation systems.

National Institute of Health (NIH) supports health-related & biomedical research to enhance life and reduce illness and disability.

  • While NIH is commonly associated with medical research, there are opportunities for engineering projects that intersect with health/medical advancements.

NIH Resources

Applications and Samples

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) website provides several types of sample applications, including