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Internal Project Proposals

Internal Proposals 


The Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts is seeking exploratory grant proposals for funding by its Mellon Foundation Grant. The goals of the collaborative program are to enrich the breadth, scope, and reach of scientific studies in the arts and in the wider field of conservation in the United States and abroad, by leveraging resources at the Art Institute and materials-related departments at Northwestern University.


The exploratory grant program is intended to launch longer-term collaborative research projects focused on broader, fundamental issues in the analysis and conservation of artifacts, a field of research widely known as conservation science. The report of the 2009 NSF-Mellon Foundation Workshop on Chemistry and Materials Research at the Interface Between Science and Art stresses the importance of a fundamental understanding of cultural heritage materials as it "will provide information about past cultures, civilizations, and technologies and enhance our ability to preserve the world's material culture." Examples of programs which might be considered for Exploratory Research Grant support were highlighted in the 2009 NSF-Mellon Workshop report. They include:

  • Development of analytical probes with high sensitivity and spatial resolution (ranging from small to large scale), for restricted volume, as well as stand off detection of component materials, degradation products, and deterioration markers
  • Study of ultra-slow changes in materials, occasionally in severely degraded states or in small populations
  • Compatibility-driven design for multifunctional treatment materials
  • Theoretical modeling of materials and structures that acknowledges the complexity of authentic objects and their various aging processes.

For more information on current research priorities at the Art Institute of Chicago, or for preliminary discussions of research ideas in the areas of paintings, objects, prints, and drawings, textiles or photography conservation and analysis, please direct inquiries to Francesca Casadio, Andrew W. Mellon Senior Conservation Scientist at the Art Institute of Chicago.


Applications for the Exploratory Research Grant Program will be considered for one year of funding, starting July 1, 2013. Applications are to be submitted by a single principal investigator (PI) in collaboration with a staff member from the Art Institute. Applicants may request up to a total of $85,000. Any salary support should include non-federal fringe benefits. No indirect costs are allowed by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


Exploratory Research Grants can be used for the support of a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow who might also be supported by other sources of funding. It is conceivable that, in a given laboratory, a student or postdoctoral fellow would split his or her time between two related projects: one on conservation science and the second on a more traditional research topic involving chemistry, materials science, etc. For example, if the postdoctoral or doctoral research project is focused on the development of a new technique or synthesis of innovative materials, the art application could be a component of the broader research topic.

The budget should follow a standard NSF budget format.

Note: Graduate students supported through the Exploratory Research Grant are not eligible for Research Assistant (tuition) Scholarships.


With the exception of instrument-development grant proposals, no more than 15 percent of the grant budget should be allocated to purchase equipment. In fact, the grants are intended as seed funding for support of promising research ideas and not for capital equipment projects.

Equipment purchased with a Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts award will be the property of Northwestern University, and its use will be managed by the PI. Should the PI leave NU, the equipment will remain at NU.


Travel expenses are allowed only if directly related to the exploratory research project.

Regulatory, Safety, and Other Matters

Radiation, Chemical, and Biological Safety

Indicate clearly if the proposed project involves radiation, chemical, and biological safety matters. Funded investigators must follow Northwestern's safety policies.

Publications, Technology Transfer Program, Patents, and Inventions

All publications resulting from full or partial support of the Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts which concern specific works of art owned by and considered proprietary by the Art Institute of Chicago and examined in the course of the exploratory grants must be approved by the Art Institute of Chicago. All publications shall acknowledge support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Funded investigators must follow Northwestern's technology transfer policies, as well as the terms and conditions set forth by the Art Institute of Chicago-Northwestern agreement.

Conflict of Commitment and Conflict of Interest

Funded investigators must follow Northwestern's policies on conflict of commitment and conflict of interest.


The deadlines for receipt of proposals will be April 15, 2019.

Required Application Materials

Applications should be submitted online and include:

  • A title page that includes an abstract and the signatures of all investigators, plus Northwestern University department chair approvals. To qualify for internal proposals applications should include both Northwestern University and Art Institute of Chicago collaborators.
  • A description of the proposed research, up to five pages in length.
  • A two-page CV for the PI and for other key personnel. All academic appointments at Northwestern, most representative publications relevant to the proposed work, and current support (title, source, award period, award amount/year) should be included.
  • Completed budget.


Review and Selection Process

Applications will be reviewed by members of the Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts Review Panel.


You may direct inquiries to:

Northwestern University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Educator and Employer and invites applications from all qualified individuals. Applications from women and minorities are especially sought.

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