Applying for ORCA Grants

Donors generously provide funds to help BYU undergraduate students participate in research projects. Students can use these ORCA grants to cover time spent working on a specific research project as well as to cover any research expenses they might incur (for example, traveling to conferences to present research findings). In addition to the monetary benefits, these grants are fantastic to have on a resumé.

ORCA grants are competitive (only about 1/3 proposals are accepted); however, by writing a well-conceived and clear proposal, you will improve your chances.

Before starting, review the following pages, which provide helpful advice and templates for writing an ORCA grant proposal.

Below is a summary of tips for writing a proposal. If you are unsure how to address these, feel free to discuss ideas with me.

  1. Title

    • Make it understandable to someone outside our field.
    • Make sure it conveys the key idea of your project.
    • Keep it succinct: preferably no longer than 10 words.

  2. Project Purpose

    • Provide a one-sentence description of what the project aims to accomplish.
    • Preferably, this should be between 15 and 30 words.

  3. Project Importance

    • First, provide a general background of the field. Make it so someone who does not have much knowledge about your specific research area (or biology in general) will be able to understand the broader context for your project.
    • Describe an unmet need and why it is important to humanity that this need be addressed.
    • You can even use a phrase such as, "This project is important and exciting because..."

  4. Project Profile Body

    • Describe in general terms how others have approached this problem. Provide at least 2-3 references to academic journal articles that mention these approaches. Use your own words to describe their work in simple terms.
    • Describe how you will approach this problem in a new way.
      • What is your hypothesis / question?
      • What data you will use (also provide a link and/or reference)?
      • Why is this data relevant?
      • What analytic techniques will you use?
      • How is the use of these analytic techniques innovative?
      • What outputs will this research produce and how will others be able to use them?
      • How will you evaluate whether your approach was successful?
      • How will you compare your approach against what others have done?
      • What preliminary results, if any, do you have as evidence that this project will be successful?
    • What future research directions could come out of this (for you and/or for others)?

  5. Anticipated Academic Outcome

  6. Qualifications

    • How are you qualified to perform this project?
    • What classes have you taken that have prepared you for this? Describe these in general terms, rather than list specific courses.
    • What skills have you developed previously that have prepared you to complete this project successfully? Is there anything unique about your skills that other students might not have?
    • What research/work experience, if any, have you gained previously that will help you to complete this project successfully?
    • How does this project align with your interest in the field of Bioinformatics and/or human disease research?
    • How will this project prepare you for your planned career / graduate school goals?
    • What techniques and knowledge will you gain from it that you would not otherwise gain? How might these be useful in your future plans?
    • What you put for my qualifications is up to you. For ideas, peruse sample proposals, my publication record, or talk about it with me.

  7. Project Timetable

    • If applicable, list specific dates by when you will complete specific tasks.
    • If you do not know these, identify specific sub-tasks that will need to be completed, approximately how long each will take you to complete, and in what order.
    • It is important that you demonstrate that it will be feasible to accomplish something meaningful within the time you will spend on it (8-12 months).

  8. Scholarly Sources

    • You can include up to six (no less than two) references.
    • These references should be from articles in academic journals, conference proceedings, or books.
    • One place to search for articles on a specific topic is Google Scholar.
    • Make sure to read articles that you cite so you know that it backs up the claims you make in the proposal.
    • Format the references using the Nature citation style.
    • I prefer to use the Mendeley software for formatting references. It allows you to import articles easily. And it has a Microsoft Word plugin.

Lastly, remember that this is an iterative process. Do your best on the initial draft and send it to me. Likely, we will go back and forth on revisions until it is ready to submit! Do your very best to submit a few days before the deadline. This will help you work through any problems or questions that arise in the submission process. Also, please follow up with me after you submit and remind me to submit a recommendation for you.