UTAustin MBS PDA:MoreResources

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Grants, funding, and research support

As a postdoctoral fellow, one of the biggest goals that you can set for yourself during your appointment is to secure your own funding, independent of your supervisor/PI. Whether you choose to follow a career path into industry, academics or other, being able to focus your ideas into a grant or written proposal and secure funding is an important skillset to develop. But before you can submit a grant proposal, there are some things you should do and things you should know:

  1. If you've identified a funding opportunity and are starting to plan a proposal, it's a really good idea to get in touch with a grants and contracts specialist within your department or research unit. These people know how the Office of Sponsored Projects operates and they can help you with the administrative steps necessary to get an application out the door. If you can't figure out who that person is in your department or research unit, you can email cnsgranthelp@austin.utexas.edu [1] and ask with whom you should be working.
  2. Some sponsors/funding programs require a postdoc to act as the Principal Investigator for the proposed work. But... UT-Austin does not allow Postdoctoral Fellows to be classified as PIs in its internal systems. So, as part of the proposal submission process, you need to request "PI of Record" status or "Co-PI" status in order to submit your application. This is something that a grants specialist can help with, or you can send an to email the Office of Sponsored Projects (Cathie Simpkins [2] or OSP [3]). These sometimes take weeks to process, so do this early in your proposal planning/writing process! More information about PI status for grant applications can be found at the OSP website [4].

Federal funding

As a postdoc at UT Austin, there are many funding resources available. Many grants are supported at the federal level. If you are a US citizen, there a lot of sources like The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). If you are an international postdoc, you may not be eligible for some of these fellowships, so it is important to always check the eligibility guidelines. Here are just a few examples of useful links for federal funding:

Private fellowships

Alternatively, there are many privately funded fellowships, with many of them open to international postdocs and visa holders. Some examples of these within the life sciences:

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) American Diabetes Association (ADA) American Heart Association (AHA) Life Sciences Research Foundation (LSRF) Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation [9]

Application deadlines vary between foundations, with some accepting two rounds of applications per year. Each have a lot of information on their websites about the application process, eligibility and terms of each fellowship.

University resources and opportunities

The university has a website to help you find current funding opportunities. [10]. The Vice President for Research (VPR) Office also maintains a "Find Funding" website [11] that can be helpful.

UT also has a new resource for crowd-funding support for research. It's called HornRaiser,[12] and it works like KickStarter or GoFundMe. It's really flexible, but does require an eye for marketing. Any funds you raise (even if you don't meet your goal) can be used for your project. This usually would work best with teams targeting funding ranges in the thousands of dollars, and lots of motivation and good networking skills can be very helpful.

Application Workshops

Application workshops are run throughout the year by the College of Natural Sciences (CNS) that cover both grant writing and the academic or industry job search. Some panel discussions and events have previously included:

  • Research and teaching positions at an undergraduate institution
  • Working for non-profits
  • The academic job search

The CNS postdoc committee is always open to suggestions for programs and resources that could be made available.

Grant Writing
  • CNS periodically holds NIH F32 and K99/R00 application workshops, and the NIH website also has a helpful guide for grant applications. [13]
  • The American Society of Microbiology and other life science societies also offer writing courses, so check out your professional association of choice.
  • AAAS/Science magazine also has an “R01 toolkit” [14] that can be a helpful resource.
  • Nature Jobs [15] and Science magazine [16] also have lots of grant writing resources
  • Many examples of successfully funded grant applications can be found online as well, so try searching on your favorite search engine as well.
  • CNS provides resources to help you find funding opportunities through the Strategic Research Initiatives office

Strategic Research Initiatives

The CNS Strategic Research Initiatives website [cns.utexas.edu/strategic-research-initiatives] provides grant development support to faculty, researchers and research support staff in CNS. Strategic Research Initiatives provides an online catalogue of resources you can utilize in grant applications (e.g. core facilities) and research policy info etc.

You will also find a list of funding opportunities including:

  • A limited submission calendar
  • Federal/private funding
  • Graduate student/Postdoc funding
  • Undergraduate funding
  • Internal funding

Other resources include proposal submission and proposal development help as well as research administrator resources. Tutorials for the use of ‘SciVal’, a programme that tracks both federal and private foundation funding is also available through this CNS website. Email cnsgranthelp@austin.utexas.edu [17] with questions about funding opportunities and application submission processes.

Career development resources

Available resources

  • MyIDP (Individual Development Plan)
    • The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has online career development [18] and job search [19] resources, and supports an online tool for personal career planning called MyIDP [20] (Individual Development Plan). MyIDP will help you to learn how to leverage your expertise into a satisfying and productive career. It also helps you explore career possibilities and set goals to follow the career path that fits you best.
  • Versatile PhD
    • The Versatile Ph.D. is a tool that helps PhDs interested in non-academic careers explore the extensive range of available options.
    • It offers assistance to students in the humanities, social sciences and STEM disciplines, and contains free content available to anyone and premium content available by institutional subscription. The University of Texas at Austin’s institutional subscription makes available premium content to all current students, faculty and staff with a valid UT EID (sign up here [21].
  • Making the Right Moves: A Practical Guide to Scientific Management for Postdocs and New Faculty
    • Based on workshops co-sponsored by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and HHMI, this book [22] is a collection of practical advice and experiences from seasoned biomedical investigators and includes chapters on laboratory leadership, getting funded, project management, and teaching and course design.
  • Concentration in Teaching and Mentoring
    • The Texas Institute for Discovery Education in Science offers a 3-seminar course series for postdocs and graduate students interested in learning to teach and mentor effectively, and to build their teaching portfolios. The three zero-credit hour seminars include: Introduction to Evidence-Based Teaching (fall); Mentored Teaching Experience (spring); and Mentoring Undergraduate Researchers (spring or summer). More info about the Concentration in Teaching and Mentoring can be found here. [23]
  • From the professional development seminar series, here's a quick note on writing teaching philosophy statement for academic jobs [24]
  • Industry Site Visits
    • In the past years we have arranged industry site visit to local companies including Signature Science, Asuragen, Luminex, and Agilent Technologies. Each time we brought about a group of 15-20 postdocs to each company for tour of the facilities, journey discussion (how did you get here and where are you going kind of discussions in small groups), and general networking in informal non-structured setting.
  • Upcoming Events for Postdocs
    • For any upcoming events (such as seminars, workshops, industry site visits) please refer to CNS postdoc resources page [25].

Individual Consultations

The Career Development Specialist for CNS postdocs is Dr. Po-Tsan Ku. Po-Tsan has a PhD in cell and developmental biology from Harvard University, and also holds an MBA from the McCombs School of Business. He first came to Austin for his postdoctoral work, and started his corporate career at Ambion, Inc. He has 13 years of experience in the biotechnology industry, and has held senior management positions in multiple companies.

Po-Tsan is available for individual consultations with grad students and postdocs in all CNS disciplines. He can provide the following services:

  • Career exploration
  • Job/internship search strategies for non-academic jobs
  • Academic job search (faculty and postdoc positions)
  • CV, cover letter, research statement and teaching statement
  • Identifying the skills that transfer to non-academic jobs
  • Converting CV to Resume
  • Resume and cover letter review and editing
  • Interview Preparation
  • Networking
  • Offer evaluation and salary negotiation

You can schedule an appointment with Po-Tsan in two ways:

  • Schedule online. [26]
  • Call the Career Services at 512-471-6700

Professional Development Seminar Series

CNS offers a monthly Professional Development Seminar Series for graduate students and postdocs. Seminars are held on the 3rd Tuesday of each month in NHB 1.720, from noon-1pm, with pizza and drinks served. The seminar primarily involves 3 main topics:

  • Career Exploration and Professional Development for Non-Academic Careers
    • Panel Discussions with PhDs in a variety of careers
    • Seminars focused on: Job Search Strategies; Resume and Cover Letter Guidance; Interview Preparation
    • Networking and Recruitment Events
  • Academic Careers Workshops
    • Helping students and postdocs prepare for the academic job market
  • Responsible Conduct of Research Training
    • Sessions may cover: Research Misconduct; Responsible Publication/Authorship; Peer Review; Conflict of Interest and more...

Organizations that Promote Networking and Career Development

  • BioAustin [27] is an organization that serves all in the central Texas life science community by promoting the growth and development of various life science industries. It provides opportunities for networking, professional development seminars, access to experienced life science professionals for mentoring and guidance and other benefits.
  • Women in Bio – Austin Area [28] is an organization of professionals committed to promoting careers, leadership, and entrepreneurship for women in the life sciences. WIB focuses its activities on education, mentoring and networking, and on creating opportunities for leadership that can help its members to advance their career.
  • Austin APS (American Physical Society) Local Link [29] is a local group of early career physicists who are in academic, national lab, and industrial settings. The goal is to meet on a regular basis (e.g. monthly) to share ideas, learn about research, build relationships, network, and potentially encourage recruitment of students and postdocs into industries.

Conferences and societies

Whenever considering a conference, check to see if the conference offers travel awards or scholarships. They are typically under-utilized and can make travel a lot cheaper! And of course, don't forget to check out our Postdoc Travel Award! [30]

Conferences (feel free to edit and add more!):

  • Keystone Symposia [31]
  • Gordon Research Conferences [32]
  • Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Meetings and Courses [33]

Societies (feel free to edit and add more!):

  • American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) [34]
  • American Society for Microbiology (ASM) [35]

Database to track publications, fellowships, and placements

The College of Natural Sciences maintains a database to gather and document information about postdocs during the course of their training in CNS departments and research units. There has been increased conversation (at the national level) about postdoctoral training at research universities. Several national organizations have called for postdoctoral data collection and longitudinal tracking of career placement for former postdocs.

The CNS Postdoc Database is a centralized repository of information about College of Natural Sciences postdocs (both Postdoctoral Fellows and Research Affiliate Postdocs), including: where the PhD was earned, PhD supervisor, title of the dissertation, publications resulting from postdoctoral research, post-training placement/employment. These data are often needed when faculty and research development staff are preparing applications for training grants or other funding opportunities that would provide support for postdocs.

Both current and former CNS postdocs can log-in with their UT EID and enter their information into the database [36]. If you are a postdoc appointed in a department or research unit outside of the College of Natural Sciences, please 'do not' log in to this database.

CNS postdocs should only enter publication information for peer-reviewed, postdoctoral work that has been published - not manuscripts in preparation or under review. The publication portion of the database has been formatted so that you can enter a doi, a PubMed ID, or a PubMed CID, and the complete citation will be filled in automatically. Only former postdocs will be able to see the employment/placement section of the database.

The UT-Austin Information Security Office has certified that this database is secure (Cat 1 compliant), but if you are uncomfortable providing the requested information, you can choose to leave fields blank. Make sure you click on "Submit" at the bottom of each page, in order for your information to be uploaded.

Extra info for international postdocs

  • The University of Texas International Office (International Student and Scholar Services) home page [37] and their main web page for international faculty and scholars [38] are good starting points. For information regarding Visa and eligibility concerns, Visa extensions, transitioning from J1 to H1B visa status and applying for a green card, make an advising appointment at the International office [39]. The International Office (ISSS) also hosts a monthly social hour. [40]
  • The National Postdoc Association (NPA) has also been posting information pertinent to international scholars in response to changes in immigration policies and procedures, which may be helpful for those affected. [41] Anyone employed at UT-Austin can become an affiliate member of the NPA for free and sign up to receive email notifications when news updates are posted.
  • Paid internships are often not permitted for International Postdocs, so volunteering [www.volunteermatch.org] can be a different way to network.