The Bernard "Bill" Benson Research Award


The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences invites applications from any graduate student throughout The College who is conducting research that aligns with the mission of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum (BTA). BTA is the oldest and largest botanical garden in Arizona, and its mission is to inspire appreciation and stewardship of desert plants, wildlife and ecosystems through education, research and conversation. With the addition of the Wallace Desert Garden in 2020, BTA now holds collections of desert plants from the U.S., Mexico, Australia, Madagascar, India, China, Japan, Israel, South America, the Middle East, Africa, the Mediterranean and the Arabian Peninsula — totaling 3,900 taxa and 19,000 plants within 135 acres of gardens.

Bernard “Bill” Benson, for which this award is named, was an alumnus of ASU and was the first curator and then assistant director of BTA. Bill Benson was an early proponent of sustainability and conservation, and was passionate and committed to promoting science and nature to individuals of all ages, but especially youth.

In addition to the financial award amount of approximately $5,000, selected students will benefit from the following:

  • Working with the plant collections and physical space at BTA;
  • Publication and advancement in the field of desert plants, conservation and impacts of climate change on desert flora/fauna and ecosystems and/or public education, museum studies and cultural history;
  • Public engagement and awareness of the research partnership;
  • Promoting interest in the Sonoran Desert to students of all ages, with a particular focus on the young people of Arizona’s Copper Corridor (Superior/Miami/Globe); and
  • The unique historic, geologic and ecological setting of BTA.

Applications for Fall 2024 are due on March 25th and will be reviewed on a rolling basis after the deadline.


Be enrolled in a doctoral or master’s program within The College during Fall 2024. Students graduating in Spring 2024 or Summer 2024 are not eligible.

Students must propose a research project collaboration with the Boyce Thompson Arboretum that aligns with their above-indicated mission statement. Students are also encouraged to propose a research project exploring the effects of climate change in the Sonoran Desert. No current research project or affiliation with the arboretum is needed to apply.

Students should demonstrate academic excellence, research and scholarly achievements.

Application and Nomination Process

Application materials include:

  • Name, ASU ID, degree program.
  • Student CV.
  • A one-page student letter describing the proposed research project, how it aligns with the spirit of this award and how this award will further their work in the field.
  • A letter of recommendation from the research mentor who will supervise the proposed research project is required. All letters should be on department or university letterhead and submitted by the application deadline by the faculty member directly. Applications that do not have a letter of recommendation will not be reviewed.

Application timeline:

  • Applications must be completed and submitted online. Applications for Fall 2024 are due on March 25th and will be reviewed on a rolling basis after the deadline. An accompanying letter of recommendation must also be received by that date.
  • Decision notifications will be sent as soon as possible.

Funds will be applied to the selected student’s account for a Fall 2024 and Spring 2025 annual disbursement.

Please be aware that the award may affect your financial aid package; contact Financial Aid and Scholarship Services for information specific to your account. The award will apply to any outstanding balance you may owe to ASU first and any remaining funds will be provided to you via direct deposit or check.

Once the award is accepted, a representative from the Boyce Thompson Arboretum will contact the Benson Research Scholar and the faculty mentor at ASU to arrange for the proposed research project. Benson Research Scholars will be asked to conduct an outreach activity to educate visitors at BTA at the conclusion of their research.

Please contact with any questions.


Apply here 

Letter of recommendation

Faculty members should submit their recommendations here.

Submit faculty letter of recommendation here