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K awards (and how to get one) David Stachura, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow, UCSD

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Presentation on theme: "K awards (and how to get one) David Stachura, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow, UCSD"— Presentation transcript:

1 K awards (and how to get one) David Stachura, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow, UCSD

2 K awards: many flavors Decide which K award is right for you! – K01- mentored career development award 3-5 years of mentored salary and research funding (can break this up into “phases,” i.e. in your mentor’s lab, and then at a new institution) US citizens and permanent residents – K08- mentored clinical scientist research career development award 3-5 year award for clinicians- salary and research related costs US citizens and permanent residents – K99/R00- pathway to independence award 5 year award to assist postdoctoral investigators in transitioning to a stable independent research position (up to 2 years mentored, followed by 3 years independent research) Do not need to be a US citizen! – Also K02, K05, K07, K12, K18, K22, K23, K24, K25, K26, K30 See

3 K awards: early tips and strategies Start early! – Certain programs have restrictions (example: for K99 you can not have more than 5 years postdoctoral experience at the time of submission) – Assume you will not get the award the first time out- plan to resubmit! This takes time! Download instructions from NIH website Know your deadlines! You need everything ready at least 1 week earlier! Choose your institution wisely! – What are your institutions’ funding rates? – What do they like to fund? Example: NIDDK funds blood research, but not leukemia- that falls under the goals of the NHLBI – Do you (or your current PI) know the program officer? Get to know them- they are incredibly helpful! – Can you submit more than one application (at the same time)?

4 K awards: early tips and strategies Think of Aims Think of preliminary results that show feasibility – Plan these experiments into your current work – Get preliminary data for every Aim of your proposal! Select faculty who do work relevant to you – Talk to them about your project – Cultivate a good relationship with them – Do this immediately! Get successful K award applications from colleagues Find your administrative contacts – Get in touch with them months before the grants are due Request letters of reference

5 K awards: the application itself Candidate development section- just as important as research! Make it easy to understand- not too much detail! Make it sound like the project is going to work! – Talk about the animal model/technique/tools/ideas you have that no one else does – Talk about the strengths of your approach Defeat obvious objections to your research – Some examples in my application: Zebrafish Inexperienced PI Don’t base later Aims on previous Aims that may not work! – Aim 1 is descriptive? Make Aim 2 follow up on possible outcomes! – Aim 3 could be a different way to follow up. Or a screen. Or more open ended… Think about it!

6 K01: the actual application sections Career goals and objectives- spend as much time on this as you do on the research plan- it is critical! – Clearly state your career goal (example: “to become an independent investigator at a major research institution to continue studying hematopoiesis.”) Short- and long-term scientific goals What’s the big picture? – Clearly state that this award is essential for your success, and lay out a good foundation of why the NIH should give you money for it. – Clearly explain what you have done before (grad school, postdoc, etc.) that make you a good candidate to perform this research. Transition this into your future plans. Why are you special? What sets you apart? – Clearly explain why UCSD (or wherever) is the best place for you to continue doing this work Experts in the field, supplies, reagents, technical know-how, etc. – Project portability/statement of non-competition Clearly state that your mentor will not compete with you on this project Your mentor should also include this in their Mentor Statement! It is critical!

7 K01: the actual application Development activities during award period- another very important section! – What will you do during the award to ensure that you are successful (i.e. what do you need “mentorship” in)? Presentations, speaking, networking, writing, and project development – Meeting with your PI – Meeting with other colleagues – Attending national/international conferences Experimental training – Be specific- what techniques do you need to master? Pedagogical/managerial training during mentored period – Be specific- what classes will you take? – Propose (and attend) the San Diego Lab Management Symposia! – Propose creating a mentorship committee to help you succeed Be specific! When will you meet? How will they provide feedback? Get letters from people to attest to this!

8 K01: the research proposal Research section format: a general approach – Specific Aims (1-2 paragraph exposition) Aim 1 Aim 2 Aim 3 – Significance (medical relevance in 1-2 paragraphs) – Innovation (why is your research new and exciting?) – Background and Preliminary Studies (alternatively you could work this into your Aims)

9 K01: the research proposal (continued) Research section format: – Approach- 1 paragraph introduction – Aim 1: Rationale- 1 paragraph Sub Aims – Exposition- don’t make it too complicated! – Pitfalls and alternative approaches » No “problems” are terminal! Be positive; propose how you will deal with “setbacks.” – Aim 2 and 3 – Conclusion Why your research proposal is the best thing ever

10 K01: “secret” requirements Mentorship committee – Have good, specific letters in the application from successful experts that have volunteered to help you Specific coursework Letters of collaboration from colleagues – Especially important if you are not in a well established laboratory Mentor must say you can have your ideas and reagents and that they will not compete with you

11 K01: after you submit Always submit supplementary information when asked – This is your chance to put three more pages of successes (just got a paper published, that great talk that you just gave, some award you just received) and research! Take advantage of it.

12 K01: when it comes back! Talk to your PI about criticisms Talk to your program officer- they will “decode” sometimes seemingly cryptic comments Resubmit! – Address all issues that reviewers had with your previous submission in the Introduction

13 K01: when it comes back! Criticisms of my application (and how I dealt with them) Research – “Too ambitious.” Easy! I cut it down! – “Technically difficult, significant experimental obstacles” I tried to explain better, and lay off the technical jargon. I also tried to explain why these studies were feasible by putting in more preliminary experiments. – “Technique-driven.” I tried to frame everything as a hypothesis- driven experiment, versus making it descriptive Candidate – “Limited publications.” Easy- I published more papers! Mentor – “Junior investigator, not well established.” I dealt with this a few ways. I stressed recent achievements of my mentor. I mentioned his tenure award, getting another postdoc a faculty interview, and recent successes in the lab. I also enlisted the help of more senior mentors (mentorship committee!) to help make sure that I would succeed.

14 K01: when it comes back! Criticisms (and how I dealt with them) Institutional – “Institutional commitment limited to funding from mentor, unclear that candidate will be promoted to Assistant Project Scientist series, and limited funding for salary if the award is not granted.” I dealt with this by stating that UCSD does not guarantee salary for postdocs (with documentation), I included a letter from UCSD assuring I would be promoted, and I also included proof of my previous funding and funding of the lab that would be used to support me. They want proof of everything- give it to them! Training – “Underdeveloped career plan, relevance of courses is questionable to career plan.” I better developed my career plan, and shifted my focus toward taking classes that had a more direct focus on my specific goals.


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