Increasing funding for minority scientists

A recap of ASBMB's third annual workshop

Mentee Katherine Hicks presents a grant proposal outline. 

The third annual American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Grant Writing and Mentoring Workshop was held in June in Washington, D.C. Spearheaded by the society’s minority affairs committee, this year’s workshop brought experienced mentors and program directors from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health together to guide assistant professors and postdoctoral scientists best practices for writing grant proposals and to offer practical advice about navigating the academic world.

Emphasizing that more than a third of the mentees from the previous workshops have been funded, organizers for the 2015 workshop introduced new features, including one-on-one mentor —mentee pairing that will extend beyond the workshop and through the submission process.

Workshop mentors shared two important characteristics: they were recipients of extramural funding, including NSF, NIH, Howard Hughes Medical Institute or other foundation support, and they were committed to initiatives that diversified the professoriate. Mentees were a diverse cohort with respect to gender, race, geographical location, research interest and institutional settings.

Mentors provided feedback about research proposals and led lively discussion about sustaining careers in academia. The mentors were:

Two alumni from the 2013 workshop whose work had been funded also served as peer mentors — Folami Ideraadbdullah of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Hugues Oullet of University of Texas at El Paso.

Cameron provided tips for building and maintaining a research team; Sumter discussed strategies for balancing teaching, research and service; Allen covered building fruitful research collaborations; and Flores led a discussion on mentoring and the importance of saying no. Bandarian and Acevedo led a discussion for postdoctoral participants about interviewing and negotiating for a faculty position.

Other components of the workshop included an NSF-style mock panel review and a presentation about crafting a strong proposal. Program directors from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the Molecular and Cellular Biosciences Cluster of the Biological Sciences Biodirectorate at the NSF discussed the grant-review process at their respective agencies and provided tips for communicating with funders. In addition, William Trenkle of the Office of Research Integrity at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services delivered a sobering presentation on research integrity.

Former mentees Folami Ideraadbdulah and Hogues Oullet,whose work had been funded, also served as peer mentors and led a well-received panel discussion about the approaches they used in the grant-preparation-and-submission process. They also touched on their experiences as junior faculty members who are training and mentoring students while also adjusting to the demands of managing a research program and teaching.

Looking forward, the organizers hope to expand the popular workshop’s reach by developing Web-based interactive resources.

Marion Sewer Marion Sewer is a professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of California, San Diego.