BIO hosts annual HBCU-EiR Proposal Writing Workshops

On June 7 and June 13, program directors from the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) will be hosting two proposal writing workshops geared toward faculty members who teach and conduct research at HBCUs. The proposal writing workshop includes information on the basics of merit review as well as a session on writing  a review and participating in a mock panel. While it is tailored to the Excellence in Research (EiR) program, the workshop is not restricted to faculty interested in applying to the EiR program. If you would like to attend the workshop, please email mcbwebreg@nsf.gov to obtain a registration form before April 28.

This is a follow-up to the webinars that BIO hosted in April, geared toward faculty members who are interested in applying to NSF’s HBCU EiR program. The slides from those webinars can be found below.


This month, the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) held informational webinars reviewing relevant highlights of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities – Excellence in Research (HBCU-EiR) solicitation (20-542). The webinars provided an overview of the solicitation, best practices for submitting competitive proposals, and an introduction to the four divisions of NSF’s Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO).

To watch the webinar recording, click here (access passcode: wyc^Jh9F).

To view the slides from the presentation, click here:

Additionally, in June 2021, MCB will provide webinar-based, interactive workshops on proposal-writing and the merit review process to HBCU faculty and staff who have registered for the workshop and submitted required pre-work. Since 2018, MCB has provided these workshops to HBCU institutions. Preliminary data indicates that participants who attend the webinar-based workshop tend to submit stronger proposals that are funded at higher rates than non-participants.

If you work at an HBCU and are interested in participating in the June workshops, request a registration form via email at MCBwebreg@nsf.govRegistration deadline is Thursday, May 6, 2021. Please share this information with appropriate faculty and staff.

HBCU – EiR Informational Webinars: April 15 and 21

Two informational webinars on the HBCU-EiR solicitation are scheduled. One will be held April 15, 10-10:30 am EST. The other will take place April 21, 2-2:30 pm EST. Read the text below for information on how to register.

In April, MCB will offer two informational webinars reviewing relevant highlights of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities – Excellence in Research (HBCU – EiR) solicitation (NSF 20-542). The webinars will introduce the solicitation and encourage prospective principal investigators to communicate closely with program directors before submitting a Letter of Intent and will feature program directors from each of the four divisions of NSF’s Directorate of Biological Sciences (BIO):

  • MCB – Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences
  • DBI – Division of Biological Infrastructure
  • DEB – Division of Environmental Biology
  • IOS – Integrative and Organismal Systems

Faculty from eligible institutions are encouraged to attend the webinar. To register and receive the Zoom meeting link, please click on the following links for the session you wish to attend.

In June, MCB will also offer webinar-based, interactive workshops on proposal-writing and the merit review process to HBCU faculty and staff interested in submitting a proposal to the EiR solicitation. MCB has provided these workshops to HBCU institutions for the past two years, and they are making a difference.

Information about the June workshops will be emailed to department chairs or grants offices at HBCUs in the next few weeks. If you work at an HBCU and wish to receive these emails directly, email your request to webreg@nsf.gov. Please share this information with appropriate faculty and staff.

HBCU-UP EiR: Webinar on Writing Competitive Proposals

MCB will host a workshop-based webinar on writing competitive proposals for faculty members at HBCU institutions. The webinar will familiarize interested applicants with program directors within the BIO directorate, review the merit review process, provide tips on writing a strong proposal, and encourage prospective PIs to communicate closely with program directors before submitting a Letter of Intent. The deadline to register for this webinar is March 26.

The webinar will focus on the EiR component of NSF solicitation NSF 18-522, the track which supports proposals that enable STEM and STEM education faculty to further develop research capacity at HBCUs and to conduct research. Letters of Intent for the HBCU-UP EiR solicitation are due July 23, 2019. Letters of Intent are required before full proposals (due Oct. 1, 2019) may be submitted.

Valuable information including registration information has been emailed to department heads in departments of biology, life sciences, or related disciplines. If you are a faculty member in a biology-related discipline at an HBCU and have not received this information, please send an email to MCBwebreg@nsf.gov. Interested PIs will indicate their availability from eight possible dates and the webinars will then be scheduled to maximize participation. The registration deadline for the webinar is March 26 to allow MCB time to develop content appropriate to participant interests.

HBCU-UP: Historically Black Colleges and Universities-Undergraduate Program

HBCU EiR announcement expected to be released in December

Dear Colleague Letter DCL 17-138 was released Sept. 19 to introduce a new program expected to be announced next month. The program, titled, “HBCU Excellence in Research” (EiR), will be open to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). (more…)

Exploring Non-Academic Science Careers: Assistant Dean for Diversity Initiatives in the Natural Sciences in Princeton University

What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a difficult question for many people to answer. Do you have a degree in science, but don’t know what your next career move should be? Are there any options outside academia? For reasons related to recent trends in funding and employment, the scientific community is looking for information regarding opportunities outside the traditional academic environment.

This series, called Exploring Non-Academic Science Careers, will highlight options that allow you to use your scientific expertise in ways that you may not know are out there! Our first and second post in this series highlighted the Presidential Management Fellowship and Peace Corps, respectively.

In the third post in our series, we interviewed Dr. Vanessa González-Pérez. She has had a very successful professional trajectory. Although Dr. González-Pérez works in academia, she has taken a non-traditional path. This is what she had to say about scientists interested in non-traditional academic science careers.

Dr. Vanessa González-Pérez currently works as an Assistant Dean for Diversity Initiatives in the Natural Sciences for the graduate school at Princeton University. She acquired a Bachelor’s in Biology from the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras Campus and a PhD in Genetics and Molecular Biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH).

Dr. González-Pérez, why did you get into science?

It was an organic decision. I’m naturally curious and I love to learn. As a result, I spent much of my childhood playtime asking myself things like, “How do things work?” and “What are they made off?” and often seeking the answers in books, encyclopedias, or simply driving my parents crazy asking the question, “Why?” Thus, it was no surprise that when I was introduced to science in school, I was captivated by the thought of understanding the complexity of living organisms, how they work, and more importantly what science could do to improve human health. My interest for science was further increased while I was pursuing a college major in Biology and even more when I started doing undergraduate research, an experience that allowed me to discover new fields of study and to develop new skills. And, in case you are wondering–YES!–I’m still as curious and as hungry for knowledge as when I was a child!

What did you do after your Ph.D.? How did that help you decide what to do next?

I first did a short postdoctoral fellowship at North Carolina Central University, a small Historically Black College and University (HBCU) located in Durham, NC and then continued with a 2.5 year postdoc at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), both in the field of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Each postdoc opened up the possibility of continuing a career in academia. I was then exploring an exciting new scientific field, constantly keeping in mind how my trajectory and skills as a scientist would translate into life after a postdoc, while deciding whether my future would be in academia or industry.

Interestingly, my postdocs also provided me a new perspective on academia versus the time I was in graduate school. This time academia was different, mainly due to the lessons learned while in graduate school, including critical thinking and many scientific technical skills. It was also different because as a postdoc I was more confident and I was able to take control of my training, and I was able to identify and seek great mentors who helped me further develop as a scientist and empowered me to become my own advocate. That way, I learned how to establish professional boundaries, manage the expectations of a workplace, and believe in my true talents—all tools and skills I didn’t have while in graduate school.

During my training as a postdoc, I also developed leadership skills and a stronger professional network, which led me to co-found and co-chair the Minority Postdoc Alliance and to lead the 1,000+ members from the UNC-CH Postdoctoral Association. These volunteer roles were motivated by the need to help others, especially my peers who were seeking a sense of community, a safe and reliable platform to navigate traditional and non-traditional careers in science, and support outside of their research space. I started volunteering for the National Postdoctoral Association as a Diversity Officer and gained the additional perspective that the local problems I was familiar with were also national problems and that, as a peer and a leader, I was able to support the career success of others.

The combination of my growing research portfolio and leadership experiences while I was a postdoc led me to realize that academia needed more caring and passionate leadership to support scholars undergoing strenuous scientific training programs. I also realized there are great mentors who actually care and want to support those interested in an academic career, and I wanted to be part of that cohort. These are some of the reasons why I stayed in academia and pursued an Assistant Research Professor position at Washington State University and now serve as an administrator at Princeton University.

What alternate avenue from the traditional professoriate in academia did you take? Why? How did this make you feel?

I recognized early during my training as a graduate student and a postdoc that there was a need for leaders in administrative roles to support all trainees, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds. These leaders need to not only be willing to fulfill their yearly academic duties, but be knowledgeable of the scientific community to become an advocate and to go above and beyond to make a difference for the overall experience of young scientists. Thus, I recently chose to pursue a career in the administrative sector of academia.

This role makes me very happy. I’m happy that I will be able to inspire and support other students, and that in addition to or regardless of the conduct and behavior of others and how they contribute to a given campus climate, I can make an impact in the development and success of a trainee. It also makes me feel fulfilled that I’m able to share with others the tools and resources that I have collected over the years that have and will help me navigate my career development.

What are you currently doing? What does your day to day look like?

Currently, I’m an Assistant Dean for Diversity Initiatives in the Natural Sciences at Princeton University. My days are always different, but they typically include attending student group meetings and research talks, holding one-on-one meetings with students who are seeking resources to support their graduate career, engaging with research faculty and program administrators, and also participating in staff meetings for the graduate school to best support the strategic planning and initiatives set to strengthen our graduate student pipeline. My favorite part of the day is when I engage with the students and get to learn about their research, career goals, and dreams so I can find the best way to support them.

Any advice you would give to someone who is interested in pursuing a non-academic science career?

The most valuable lesson I learned throughout my career is to be yourself! Once you realize what makes you happy and learn to acknowledge your strengths and not your weaknesses, you will be motivated to follow your true calling. I also advise to never stop fostering your creativity, and stay focused on your goals and dreams. These are the kind of thoughts and desires that are going to help you stay strong and to succeed and more importantly to overcome the many challenges you will encounter in any area that you chose to develop your career into, even if it’s not in academia. And finally, I advise for everyone to seek out a mentor, which will help you both to build a support network and to provide guidance during your career trajectory.