IMCSB Early Career Research Committee hosts grant writing workshop

The IMCSB Early Career Researcher committee hosted a grant-writing workshop on 24th May 2018. Over 40 people participated in the event, with attendees ranging from PhD students and Early Career Researchers, through to senior academics. The workshop focused on academic career progression, with particular attention being given to fellowship applications and the elements of successful grant proposals. The event was highly interactive and organised by the ECRs (Drs James Cooper, Giorgio Perrella, Rucha Karnik, Lucy Alford and Brian Hudson), who drew on the diversity of expertise within IMCSB to compile a programme encompassing: the UK funding landscape, assessment of grant applications and mock grant writing. The workshop took place across the entire day; with morning sessions being led by Professors John Christie and Shireen Davies, as well as the MVLS project coordination team.

Professor Christie discussed his personal experiences in moving from postdoctoral research in to lab leadership. He provided useful insights into how ECRs can prepare for this career transition, and highlighted the importance of research independence and networking. Dr Jacqui Coutts, Mrs Sam Reilly and Mr Michael McGuigan from the MVLS project coordination team discussed funding opportunities for ECRs and researchers returning to science. They defined MVLS procedures for seeking financial support and gave a detailed overview of how the college supports its researchers in obtaining and managing funds. The perspective given by the project coordination team was truly invaluable, as this is an aspect the funding process that is not commonly known among early career researchers.

Professor Shireen Davies discussed BBSRC fellowship opportunities and gave attendees the benefit of her experience in sitting on BBSRC panel E. She gave an expert perspective of how applications are evaluated by the panel, and explained what constitutes a good fellowship application. Professor Davies highlighted the importance of applicants being excellent scientists, but stressed that they should also be excellent members of the scientific community. She discussed how a detailed career development plan is essential to a successful application, and conveyed the importance of researchers maintaining a “big picture” view of their work.

In the afternoon session, Professor Anna Amtmann and Dr Mathis Riehle joined Professor Davies in leading grant dissection breakout sessions. Workshop participants were grouped according to research speciality and were able to review two grant applications, one of which had been successfully funded. Participants were asked to identify which grant they thought had been successful and gained a real world perspective on the funding process. Most crucially, attendees were able to interact with session leaders and discuss how research ideas are translated into well-planned grant proposals.

The workshop culminated in a mock grant writing exercise, grouping participants from diverse research areas within IMCSB into small working teams. Groups were challenged to form interdisciplinary research ideas that would address global challenges, as stated by the United Nations. This was an intensive exercise in research creativity, which yielded innovative ideas and gave participants the opportunity to discuss research with scientists from different disciplines. Seven groups presented their ideas to an academic panel comprising Professor Andrew Tobin and Drs Laura Spagnolo, Brian Smith and Mathis Riehle. Drs Joseph Yeoh, Mary Ann Madsen and Matthew Keuss pitched the winning idea, entitled “Pherotrench”. The first place prize was a £50 Amazon voucher, with £30 and £20 vouchers going to second and third places. Scientific Laboratory Supplies sponsored the workshop and kindly provided the prizes.

Overall, the workshop was a success. The pool of talent and expertise within IMCSB was well utilised and the potential of the institutes Early Career Researchers was recognised. Participants left the workshop feeling positive and well informed about pathways to success in academia. Moreover, the ECR committee was encouraged to organise future events tailored to the IMCSB postdoctoral community.

First published: 11 September 2018

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