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Office of the Vice President for Research

SPARC Graduate Research Grant Program

The SPARC Graduate Research Grant Program provides funding for meritorious scholarship, but it doesn't stop there. By completing SPARC's competitive research proposal process, graduate students gain experience that helps prepare them to seek national fellowship and grant awards throughout their academic careers.

SPARC Timeline for 2023-2024

Awards will be announced March 27, 2024.

SPARC* Timeline for 2024-2025

Please check back in early September 2024 for deadline as well as updated guidelines, forms, and revised application video. Video and forms below are for 2023-24.

*This program has limited eligibility. Please review program guidelines to determine your eligibility.


Program Overview

Sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Support to Promote Advancement of Research and Creativity, or SPARC, Graduate Research Grant is a merit-based award designed to ignite research and creative excellence across all disciplines at USC. The overall objective of the SPARC Graduate Research Grant is to provide support and to encourage outstanding students to pursue exciting research directions during their graduate career at the University of South Carolina. To achieve this end, the SPARC program provides the opportunity for eligible* graduate students to secure funding up to $5,000 to support their research, creative or other meritorious scholarly project. SPARC funds can be used to pay for salary, supplies and other costs essential to completing and promoting funded projects.

The application process requires a competitively written grant describing the proposed research, scholarship, or creative project. The experience students acquire through this process is invaluable by providing training in grant proposal development and helping SPARC applicants build the skills and background necessary to make them more competitive in seeking national fellowship awards from federal and private funding sources.

•   All PhD-degree seeking students in their second year (or later) are eligible to apply. First year PhD students are not eligible to apply for the SPARC Graduate Research Grant.  
•   MD-PhD students are eligible to apply for SPARC during the first year (or later) of the PhD phase of the program (if following a plan of 2 years of MD program, 3 years of PhD program, and then 2 years of MD to complete the program). 
•   Master of Fine Arts (MFA) and Master of Arts (MA) in Public History students are eligible and may apply in their first year (or later) of graduate study. Please note these are the only masters-seeking degrees that are eligible for SPARC.
•   MD, PharmD, and non-PhD seeking doctoral students are not eligible to apply for SPARC grants.
•   Applicants must be current students at the time of application.
Students must be enrolled for a minimum of one semester post-award date.
•   Applicants must have a minimum graduate GPA of 3.0.
•   International students are eligible to apply.
•   Students may receive the SPARC Graduate Research Grant only ONCE. 
•   Students who have previously received a major federal or foundation grant or fellowship (such as NIH F31 Fellowship, NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, etc.) are not eligible to apply for SPARC funding. Students are allowed and encouraged to apply for one of these at the same time as SPARC.
•   Each faculty advisor/mentor can sponsor only two student SPARC applications each year (i.e. only two students per faculty mentor may apply for SPARC each year). Faculty mentors may not circumvent this rule by sponsoring two students and then having other faculty sponsor additional students for whom they are the primary dissertation/thesis advisor. 


SPARC Application Video (required)

This video provides guidance on SPARC grant requirements and the writing and submission process. It is required to be viewed once by all applicants. Download video slides here and/or handout for notes here.

SPARC Forms & Guidelines

Below are guideline documents detailing the SPARC application process for students and to assist faculty advisors in their role in the SPARC program, as well as the downloadable forms eligible students need for completing the SPARC proposal package.

SPARC Application Guidelines (pdf)

This guidelines document provides detailed information to guide SPARC applicants through the application process. It includes details on application requirements, proposal development and more.

SPARC Faculty Guidelines (pdf)

This document provides guidance on the letter of recommendation, a list of required application documents, and a guide to submitting the final SPARC application package via USCeRA.

SPARC Applicant Information & Workshop Video Confirmation Form

Complete this after watching the video. This web-based form is required of all applicants for every submission (including resubmissions). The form indicates that you anticipate or are interested in applying for this award. 

SPARC Budget Form (docx)

Use this form to document and justify the budget details for your SPARC proposal.

SPARC Current & Pending Support Form (docx)

Use this form to disclose other current or pending support you have secured, or for which you have applied, to support this project.

SPARC Authorship & GPA Certification Form (docx)

The applicant and faculty advisor must sign and submit this form with the SPARC application package, to confirm that the graduate student applicant was the primary author of the proposal.

SPARC Review Criteria (pdf)

This document provides a summary of the review criteria that reviewers use to evaluate SPARC proposals.

2023-2024 SPARC Terms and Conditions (pdf)

This document details SPARC post-award requirements and information for the current funding cycle.



SPARC Materials From Past Years

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.