In grad school, I thought that writing grants was essential only
in an academic career. Having read many job announcements since graduation,
I’ve realized that the ability to write fundable grant applications is a skill
coveted not just in academics, but also in non-profit organizations,
professional associations, and even government agencies.
Therefore, it seems to me that no matter what career path I decided
to pursue in the future, the exercise of grant writing may prove to be very
As a postdoctoral fellow at the National Cancer Institute, I have
encountered three different opportunities that would allow me to
apply for research funding:
Within my division: The Division of
Epidemiology & Genetics (DCEG) offers Intramural Research Awards (IRAs),
which are competitive funding opportunities “designed to foster creative,
interdisciplinary research.” Proposals are judged based on their potential for
significant scientific or public-health impact, innovation, interdisciplinary
nature, ability to achieve objectives within time frames, and relevance to the
mission of the division. Usually, three research proposals of up to $50,000 are
awarded each spring and fall cycle.
Within my institute: The NCI Director’s
Intramural Innovation Award/Career Development Award is designed to support the
development of highly innovative approaches and technologies aimed at
significant cancer-related problems. Awarded to two or three postdoctoral
fellows each year, the Career Development Award offers one-time research
funding of up to $10,000. Other institutes within NIH may offer similar
competitive funding opportunities.
For all postdoctoral fellows at NIH and
beyond: The NIH Pathway to Independence (K99/R00) Awards are designed to
facilitate the transition from a mentored postdoctoral fellowship position to
research independence as a tenure-track investigator. The awards provide up to
two years of support for advanced postdoctoral training in addition to funding
that is activated when the award recipient begins a tenure-track faculty
position (up to a total of five years of funding). Training and faculty
positions must be in the US.
Writing a grant forces you to focus your thoughts, plan a logical
experimental approach, consider all caveats and limitations, and determine the
resources and collaborations required for your study. And from what I hear, a
grant also looks good on the CV/resume.
views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily
reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Government.
Wenny Lin, PhD, MPH,
is a fellow in the Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program at the National Cancer
Institute. Prior to joining the Nutritional Epidemiology Branch in the Division
of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics, Wenny earned her MPH from the Harvard
School of Public Health in 2009 and her PhD in Cell & Molecular Biology
from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008.