Support for 3-5 new Ph.D. students for up to two years to provide established interdisciplinary research initiatives with the opportunity to build interactive graduate student-faculty teams who will pursue extramural funding.

The Cohort Grant provides support to established interdisciplinary research initiatives by sponsoring a cohort of new Ph.D. students recruited to conduct interconnected and innovative research. This program is intended to build interactive graduate student-faculty teams that will pursue extramural funding. A cohort may be composed of a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 5 newly enrolled students for their first two years of a CAS or CAS-affiliated doctoral program. Master’s-level students are not funded through this program.

The successful award of a 2024/25 Cohort Grant would support 3-5 newly enrolled Ph.D. students by providing ½-time graduate assistantships (Grade 12) plus GIA for 2 semesters/year, beginning Fall semester 2025 and ending Spring semester 2027. A plan for summer stipend support and continuation of stipend and tuition funding after the two years for these new Ph.D. students is required. The Office for Research and Graduate Education reserves the right to reject any or all proposals that do not successfully meet the criteria of this RFP or the level of merit identified by the review panel.


  • For all levels, the PI must be a faculty member with a research appointment in the College of Agricultural Sciences (tenured, tenure-track, or non-tenure-track) and be a lead on a Hatch project.
  • For all levels, projects must seek to address a critical research need and opportunity beyond the scope of a single laboratory or investigator’s focused area of research. All proposed research projects must require the participation of interdisciplinary collaborators with complementary fields of expertise. All ideas for multidisciplinary topics are encouraged.
  • For Level II and Level III grants, teams must include at least three persons with faculty appointments and across different departments. Team members should be from at least two different departments in CAS. See specific proposal requirements below. Faculty from any college at Penn State may be included as participants; however, SNIP funds cannot be used to support any non-CAS personnel or students.

Specific proposal requirements for Cohort Grants

Concept notes for Level III proposals are required.


Submission Page

A. Title and Primary Investigator (PI)

a. Designate only one PI who will serve as the primary contact for the project. (see Eligibility requirements)

  1. Note: You may enter list of co-PIs and other participants in the InfoReady form (described below in section D).

B. Summary

(200 words maximum)

a. Summarize the research initiative, the training concept, and the activities aiming to build the student-faculty team.

C. Proposal Narrative

(5 pages maximum, not including letters of support)

a. Overview of the existing strategic network and/or interdisciplinary team: 

  1. Describe the team research goals.
  2. Describe ongoing research activities related to the project.
  3. Describe the impact of the work on the stature of CAS research.

b. Student cohort recruitment plan for new Ph.D. students (this program provides funding only for newly recruited graduate students in a doctoral program and must be applied to their tuition and graduate assistantship stipends during the first two years of their studies):

  1. Indicate the proposed number of students to be recruited for the cohort.
  2. Describe the composition of the cohort, including the training and synergism concept.
  3. Describe the approaches to recruit new students.
  4. Identify proposed major CAS faculty advisors for the students.
  5. Identify participating graduate programs (students in IGDP programs with CAS advisors are allowed).

c. Proposed activities:

  1. Describe specific collaborative team activities that will engage students beyond individual laboratory affiliations. 
  2. Describe the proposed student research topics and their integration into the long-term goals of the team.
  3. Provide benchmarks identifying the progress of the entire project, including specific benchmarks pertaining to individual student projects.

d. Sustainability plan: 

  1. Identify current sources of funding for summer salary and programmatic needs.
  2. Identify specific extramural sources that will be pursued for stipend/tuition support after the two-year funding period (include the agency, request for proposals, submission deadline, etc.).
  3. Describe a contingency plan if the extramural funding is not secured.

e. Letters of Support (not counted in the 5-page limit):

  1. Provide appropriate letters of support from department heads or IGDP directors of graduate programs for the proposed activities of the graduate student cohort. 
  2. Commitments for additional funding from departments are not necessary, unless they are part of the contingency plan. 
  3. Programmatic assistance with graduate student recruiting efforts would strengthen the proposal. 

D. Project team (individuals can participate in multiple proposals):

a. List all collaborators with their departmental affiliations and describe the role and responsibilities of each project team member, including their expertise and relevance to the research problem.

  1. The team must include at least three CAS members: the PI and two or more co-PIs, preferably all from different CAS departments. At a minimum, team members should represent at least two different departments in CAS. Extraordinary exceptions will be considered with a strong justification that three or more distinct disciplines from CAS are represented within the team.

Other Important Guidelines for the Cohort Grant

  • Students must be enrolled and registered full-time in the College of Agricultural Sciences or CAS-affiliated Ph.D. program and be mentored by a CAS faculty member.
  • Funding will be allocated for enrolled students only during the semesters requested in the proposal. There is no carry-over of funds in this program beyond the two-year period (Fall 2025 through Spring 2027).
  • The SNIP Cohort Grant does not include summer stipends.
  • Any modifications/deviations from this request will only be given in special circumstances. Requests must be submitted for prior approval in writing and will be dependent on the availability of funds. Cohort Grants cannot be postponed until the student’s third year or later. For instance, should a student receive recruitment awards from the University or Graduate School, the SNIP award cannot be applied to the student’s tuition or graduate assistantship beyond the student’s second year of the Ph.D. program.
  • Top-ups from other sources to higher grades are permissible. Note that the awarded pay grade may require a top-up to match other assistantships in your program. The source of top-up funds should be explained in the body of the proposal and confirmed in accompanying letters.

Proposal Review Process

  • Proposals will be evaluated by a review panel who will make funding recommendations to the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education.
  • Proposals from research teams established through SNIP grants are encouraged, but previous or current SNIP funding is not required.
  • Evaluation criteria:
    • Presents a clear and advanced agricultural research question within a well-defined research area that spans the collaborative team's areas of expertise.
    • Proposes research that is transformative with the need for interdisciplinary collaboration in order to pursue large-scale extramural funding rather than incremental (i.e., building only on one or two team members' research).
    • Proposes a plan for recruiting students (including numbers, composition of team, departmental support, methods or approaches) that is realistic and well-thought out.
    • Proposes activities that integrate graduate education and training with the long-term goals of the research initiative.
    • Outlines a training and advising plan that will engage the recruited students with innovative activities beyond individual laboratory affiliations and demonstrate potential for high-impact synergies among disciplines.
    • Includes adequate benchmarks that mark the progress of the entire project.
    • Provides specific benchmarks or planned approaches for monitoring progress of individual student projects.
    • Addresses funding for summer salary and programmatic needs and, if necessary, identifies sources.
    • Presents a convincing strategy for leveraging the initial support of this grant to stimulate a lasting impact through continued collaborations and longer-term funding (beyond the Level III funding period).

Reporting Requirements

  • Student recruiting report is due April 30, 2025; mid-term report is due July 1, 2026.
  • A final report is due July 1, 2027.
  • Submit reports through the InfoReady system. Report reminders and guidance will be provided.

Office for Research and Graduate Education


217 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802

Office for Research and Graduate Education


217 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802