Friday, July 8, 2011

I'm stalking you for your F32

Last year I decided that I wanted to apply for the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) post-doctoral fellowship or F32. This was a daunting task for me. I had never written a grant or practice grant in graduate school. I had an graduate advisor that was the super secretive type that would only give you the page of the grant that pertained to you. I had never interacted with the whole NIH complex before either. 

But I had one good friend, Prof. Glitter (then post-doc glitter, yes he actually is shiny) who had received one and it had a very positive impact on his career. So I wanted to try, if for no other reason then to get some experience putting a proposal together. My post-doc advisor, Dr. Spaz, was very supportive of the idea and eager to help but he had never put on together before either. So I downloaded the instructions and kind of shit myself at it's length (172 pages) and then shit myself again when I began reading and could not make heads or tails of what the hell they wanted from. 

For example, this is what I was told to do for the research proposal part:

The Research Training Plan should include sufficient information needed for evaluation of the project, independent of any other document (e.g., previous application). Be specific and informative, and avoid redundancies. This section should be well-formulated and presented in sufficient detail that it can be evaluated for both its research training potential and scientific merit. It is important that it be developed in collaboration with your sponsor, but it should be written by you, the fellowship applicant. 
What does that really mean? How "informative" did I need to be?

I decided what I could really benefit from was seeing some proposals of people who had been funded. I wanted a template of "this is what a good proposal looks like". I had excellent preliminary data and felt comfortable writing the specific aims but I didn't know how broad or narrow to make my proposal in terms of background and such, and neither did Dr. Spaz. Plus a big portion of the application is your

So I contacted Dr. Glitter who kindly sent me his proposal, however, it was from a few years ago and the format of the application had changed considerably in the meantime. While it was helpful it wasn't exactly what I wanted. Then I had a moment of brilliance, that is right, I had a very super shiny idea.

I am at a big research university, I bet some post-docs here, right now, have won F32 fellowships. Maybe if I contact them they would be willing to share with me. But how do I find them?? I went to the CRISP database (which is now called RePORT) and looked up the people that had funded F32s at my institution in the last year. Then I took their names and searched them on the university website to get their emails, and then I sent them a nice note asking if I could see their proposals. I explained my research, so they would know there was no overlap, and offered to take them out to lunch if they wanted to meet. It totally worked, I got four full F32 funded proposals to look at, and it was incredibly helpful. I don't think I could have completed my application without that input. I don't think Dr. Spaz would have known what to write in his sections without those templates to follow.

So how did it all turn out? My first submission got scored in the 30s, the funding line was in the low 20s, when we contacted my PO she was very supportive and really pushed for me to resubmit since the reviewers comments were specific and fairly easy to address. I resubmitted this year and will get my scores back next week. Fingers crossed people!


  1. Now that's the type of resourcefulness that will eventually get you a grant, even if this one doesn't get funded (shitty funding climate and all). Fingers are crossed that this one does come through!!!!!

  2. Thanks Ladies, I will let you know how it goes.

  3. Hi there, this is the only way I have of contacting you I guess, but your blog came up as I was searching for sample F32s for my own postdoctoral funding quest. Is it totally inappropriate for me to ask if I could see some of the ones you got? I have no idea where to start with the formatting... Thank you so much!

  4. here's an old one...

  5. Check this one before you apply: