once heard from a professor that post-docs at the NIH have no opportunities to
write grants, and therefore, they don’t have a competitive edge in the academic
market. However, as a current post-doc at the NIH, not only have I just written
a grant to compete for research funding, I even took an intense grant-writing
course that helped me write it.
grant-writing course was held in five four-hour sessions spread over a month.
In the first part of the course, we heard from multiple speakers who gave tips
about how to write the grant, including the importance of preliminary data, the
specific aims, and the quality of your institution and collaborators. We were
informed about the types of grants eligible to junior investigators that are
funded by the NIH.
we learned about each step of the grants process, including reading the Request
for Applications (RFAs) to what happens once you hit the “submit” button and
your grants disappear into what appears to be the mysterious darkness of the
NIH. We were introduced to a program director, the main person with whom a
grantee is in communication, who spoke about the grant review process. We also
heard from a representative of a foundation that funds research through a grant
the second week, each participant submitted a “Specific Aims” page to be
reviewed by others in the class. We all contributed comments regarding the
strengths of the aims as well as comments on what dampened our enthusiasm. Many
of us realized the importance and persuasiveness of clear and concise writing,
particularly for an audience that is not telepathic and hadn’t watched over our
shoulders during every experiment.
were instructed to take the constructive feedback from these sessions and write
a mini-grant proposal. These proposals were collected, and each was assigned a
primary and secondary reviewer chosen from among the course participants. During
the last week, we did a mock study section led by a former scientific review officer
from the Center for Scientific Review at the NIH.
used this course and the opportunity to be peer reviewed to develop a proposal
that I aimed to submit for a Career Development Award offered competitively to
trainees. Next time, I’ll write more about the opportunities to apply for
research funding as a trainee at the National Cancer Institute.
The views expressed in this column are those of the
author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S.
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.