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.

Recap of Building Research Capacity of New Faculty in Biology (BRC-BIO) Webinars

Repost from the Division of of Biological Infrastructure (DBI) DBInfo blog.

In the early winter of 2021 and 2022, the BRC-BIO program participated in several webinars, including the IOS Virtual Office Hours in November, a BRC-BIO specific webinar on December 15, and during the MCB Virtual Office Hours in early January. Below are some of the questions asked during these engagements with high-level responses.

While the January submission window ended on January 31, the next submission window is June 1-30, 2022. If you are interested in the BRC-BIO program, we encourage you to read the full solicitation (22-500) and reach out to the BRC-BIO working group via email (BRC-BIO@nsf.gov) with any additional questions.


Q: Does this activity support medical research?

A: Research that falls within the purview of one or more of the following divisions is appropriate: Division of Biological Infrastructure, Division of Environmental Biology, Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, and Division of Integrative Organismal Systems. As indicated in the PAPPG, biological research on mechanisms of disease in humans, including on the etiology, diagnosis, or treatment of disease or disorder, is normally not supported. Biological research to develop animal models of such conditions, or the development or testing of procedures for their treatment, also are not normally eligible for support. Contact BRC-BIO@nsf.gov if you have questions about a specific research idea.

Q: What if I’ve moved institutions but just started in my current position as Assistant Professor at a PUI? Do I need to count my prior experience in determining eligibility?

A: No, if you are at the Assistant Professor rank (or equivalent) at your current institution (but see eligibility for institution types) with service at that rank for no more than 3 years by the proposal submission date then you are eligible.

Q: If the PI was recruited before the COVID-19 pandemic, would the two-years interrupted by COVID (2019 and 2020) be excluded from the ‘no more than 3-year assistant professor’ rule?

A: This solicitation was written with the COVID context in mind. Hence, no further accommodations will be made on this basis.

Q: My institution is an MSI but is also classified as R1 in the Carnegie scale, am I eligible?

A: No, this opportunity is focused on building research capacity at Predominantly Undergraduate Institutions (PUIs), Minority-serving Institutions (MSIs) that are not among the nation’s most research-intensive institutions, and other institutions that are classified as R2, D/PU, or M1-3 (see Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education http://carnegieclassifications.iu.edu/)

Q:  How are leaves of absence counted when figuring out whether a PI is eligible?

A:  Official leaves of absence (for illness, family, etc.) should be subtracted from the total time in the position, as certified by the PI’s department chair/head as part of the institutional letter.

Q: I have served as a Co-PI on a funded NSF grant. Am I still eligible?

A: Yes. There are no restrictions related to prior federal funding.

Q: Can I reapply to BRC-BIO if I’m not successful the first time?

A: Yes, as long as you continue to meet the eligibility requirements.

Q:  Do faculty have to be in a BIOLOGY Department to apply? 

A: No, but the project must be focused on research questions appropriate for review in one or more divisions in the Directorate for Biological Sciences.


Q: What is the review process for the BRC-BIO proposals?

A: They will be reviewed in interdisciplinary panels specific to the BRC-BIO program.

Q: How important is it to be specific about how this research will lead to a sustainable research program?

A: The goal of this program is to tap the wealth of expertise and opportunities at PUIs and MSIs by supporting new faculty through enhancing their research capacity and building independent research programs. Proposals should articulate research plans that will enable the PI to build and maintain an active research program, and the Impact Statement should detail how the plan will positively impact the PI’s research capacity, career, and influence on undergraduate research experiences.

Q: Can you clarify how the ‘broader impacts’ and the ‘impact statement’ should differ? Both should address how the project will increase participation of under-represented groups?

A: The Broader Impacts section of any NSF proposal should articulate the broader impacts of the project, including societal impacts of the proposed research and any broader impact activities proposed, including their justification. The BRC-BIO Impact Statement should articulate the impact of the proposed project on the PI’s career development and research capacity, as well as the institutional impact on undergraduate research experiences, such as expectations for retention and diversification of STEM majors, and/or preparation of students for advanced degree programs.

Q: Can the awards support science education research like evidence-based teaching like CURE labs?

A: The Intellectual Merit section should include a research plan that focuses on topics relevant to one or more of the divisions in the Directorate for Biological Sciences. However, the Broader Impacts could include other related activities like science education research or CUREs.


Q: Must collaborators and Co-PIs be at the Assistant Professor level for less than 3 years?

A: No, collaborators can be at any faculty rank and at other institutions, regardless of Carnegie Classification, including international collaborations. However, as described in the PAPPG chapter I, IE6 (PAPPG 22-1), funding is rarely provided for a foreign individual or organization’s involvement.


Q: Can I budget for student support? Including as an REU student?

A: Yes, you can support students at any level.  Anything you would normally budget in an NSF BIO Core Program submission can be budgeted in a BRC-BIO project.

Q: My institution has limited institutional staff to support grant administration. Can the BRC-BIO provide support for my institution’s SRO?

A: Yes, BRC-BIO can support some time for your institution’s SRO.  Or if you need to hire a consultant or a part time employee in that capacity to help administer the project that can also be budgeted. 

Q: Does the total budget limit of $450K + $50K for equipment include the indirect costs?

A: Yes.

Q: Can postdocs hired under this initiative teach classes at the institution as well as support the research?

A. The responsibilities of the postdoc(s) will depend on what is allowable at your institution and justified in the proposal. If a postdoc is requested, a Postdoctoral Mentoring Plan is also required and should be uploaded as a Supplemental Document.


Image of Dr. Jose Garcia (Investigator at UPRC), Dr. Karilys González Nieves (Investigator at UPRC), Dr. Luis Cubano (Co-Project Director, UPRC Title V), Dr. Reyda González-Nieves (MCB Acting Operations Manager), Dr. Larry Halverson (SSB Program Director), Ms. Raquel Marti (Project Director, UPRC Title V), Dr. Linda Hyman (MCB Division Director), Dr. Wilson Francisco (MB Program Director), Dr. Jose Alvarez (Faculty Development, UPRC Title V), Dr. Moisés Orengo Avilés (UPRC Chancellor), Dr. Awilda Nueñez (Academic Dean at UPRC), and Dr. Jose Santiago (Investigator at UPRC)

Workshop Coordinators and Presenters (from left): Dr. Jose Garcia (Investigator at UPRC), Dr. Karilys González Nieves (Investigator at UPRC), Dr. Luis Cubano (Co-Project Director, UPRC Title V), Dr. Reyda González-Nieves (MCB Acting Operations Manager), Dr. Larry Halverson (SSB Program Director), Ms. Raquel Marti (Project Director, UPRC Title V), Dr. Linda Hyman (MCB Division Director), Dr. Wilson Francisco (MB Program Director), Dr. Jose Alvarez (Faculty Development, UPRC Title V), Dr. Moisés Orengo Avilés (UPRC Chancellor), Dr. Awilda Nueñez (Academic Dean at UPRC), and Dr. Jose Santiago (Investigator at UPRC)

MCB Program Directors and Division leadership regularly attend scientific meetings and workshops to garner input from the scientific community, spread the word about funding opportunities, recruit panelists, and otherwise provide information to encourage the submission of grant proposals. In September, Dr. Linda Hyman (MCB Division Director), Dr. Wilson Francisco (MCB Program Director for Molecular Biophysics (MB)), Dr. Larry Halverson (MCB Program Director for Systems and Synthetic Biology (SSB)), and Dr. Reyda González-Nieves (MCB Acting Operations Manager) traveled to Puerto Rico to support the “How to Write an Excellent Proposal” workshop hosted by the University of Puerto Rico at Carolina (UPRC).

This workshop provided an overview of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and MCB, discussed best practices in NSF grant writing and submission, and highlighted funding opportunities in MCB and across NSF. Prior to the start of the workshop, Drs. Hyman, Francisco, and Halverson met with workshop coordinators at the University of Puerto Rico at Carolina to strategize how best to conduct personalized outreach during the workshop given the larger than expected number of registrants. The workshop was attended by over 60 participants from eight different institutions throughout the island of Puerto Rico. During the morning session of the workshop, MCB representatives gave three presentations: “Overview of NSF and the Directorate for Biological Sciences,” “Cluster Overviews and Opportunities between MCB and other Divisions/Directorates,” and “How to Write an Excellent Proposal.”

Image of MCB Workshop Presenters: (top) Dr. Linda Hyman; (bottom left) Dr. Wilson Francisco; and (bottom right) Dr. Larry Halverson

MCB Workshop Presenters: (top) Dr. Linda Hyman; (bottom left) Dr. Wilson Francisco; and (bottom right) Dr. Larry Halverson

These presentations were followed by individual meetings between MCB representatives and PIs, faculty, and graduate students from the University of Puerto Rico at Carolina to discuss project ideas and their fit for funding opportunities within MCB and NSF. These personalized sessions provided attendees the opportunity to have their questions answered by MCB experts, and to get to know MCB Division Leadership, Program Directors, and staff. In post-workshop feedback, attendees rated their experience “excellent.”

Drs. Hyman, Francisco, Halverson, and González-Nieves felt this workshop was a unique opportunity to encourage new collaborations, cultivate new ideas, discuss funding opportunities, and keep inspiring new and undiscovered talent in the scientific community. The Division of MCB would like to thank the University of Puerto Rico at Carolina for hosting MCB at Your Meeting. To find out about our future travel plans, visit the “MCB at Your Meeting” page on the MCB Blog.

MCB at Your Meeting: Annual Biomedical Conference for Minority Scientists (ABRCMS)

By Chloe N. Poston, PhD

Program Directors in MCB regularly attend scientific meetings and workshops in an effort to garner input from the community,  spread the word about funding opportunities, recruit panelists, and encourage submissions to our division. Last November, Dr. Suzanne Barbour, Program Director for the Cellular Dynamics and Function cluster traveled to San Antonio, Texas for the 2014 Annual Biomedical Conference for Minority Scientists (ABRCMS). There, she presented the breadth of opportunities at MCB available to biomedical researchers through a very well attended panel hosted by the MCB-funded American Society of Microbiology LINK program.

As a part of the same session, ASM LINK (Leaders Inspiring Networks and Knowledge) representatives presented data outlining their initiatives to improve mentoring through in-person workshops, webinars, and discussion forums known as “Mentoring Mondays”. ASM LINK seeks to build strong “links” between established research investigators and early-career scientists, undergraduate faculty, and trainees (students and fellows). In addition to these on-going activities, ASM LINK also sponsored travel awards for NSF eligible post-doctoral scientists and research faculty to serve as presentation judges at ABRCMS. Travel awardees were invited to participate in a two-day Mentoring Strategies Workshop before the meeting. This workshop focused on tackling the greatest mentoring challenges, especially as they relate to building interdisciplinary research teams and broadening participation in STEM.

Dr. Barbour views attending ABRCMS “a unique opportunity to showcase research/ training opportunities in MCB, with the goal of inspiring underrepresented bioscientists to work on projects in the MCB mission area”. She is optimistic that her presentation in conjunction with the ASM LINK program will lead to a range of positive outcomes especially with respect to broadening the community of applications to MCB.

Summer Interns Shine at MCB

Last summer the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences hosted 3 summer interns pictured above. NSF’s Summer Scholars Internship Program (SSIP) is designed to develop undergraduate and graduate student potential through exposure to relevant science and engineering policy, research, and education issues and programs. The students come to NSF for a ten-week summer experience to work in an office that aligns with the students’ academic interests.

Summer 2014 MCB Intern Ariel Parker (second from the left above) shares her experiences:

What was your project while at NSF?

My project was to study the representation of underrepresented minorities (URM) in MCB proposal submission and award allocation. In addition, I began to collect data about the increasing number of proposals submitted by PIs who choose not to report their gender or race/ethnicity.

How did your experience enrich your university experience?

This internship provided my first experience in science policy.  Before this past summer, all of my science experiences were in laboratory research; I had no knowledge of how science policy and funding worked.  This summer at NSF taught me that science is not just the research but is also about outreach, education, and ensuring that research can be funded.  This internship expanded my ideas about what science entails and about science careers. At my college, I now have a greater appreciation for basic science research and am exploring some of the alternative science careers I learned about at NSF.

What was your favorite part of the internship?

I enjoyed everything about the internship – the helpfulness of all my mentors, the openness of the program directors, the group meetings, and the division retreat.  However, I think my favorite part was the trip to the Plant Biology 2014 Conference in Portland.  It was here that I saw how important NSF’s and specifically MCB’s work is: many of the posters were possible due to funding from MCB/NSF, and a great number of principal investigators came to the NSF co-sponsored workshop to learn about funding opportunities.  I learned a lot on the sixth floor of the NSF building, but it was not until I went to the conference that I saw first-hand how far-reaching MCB’s work is.

Do you know a graduate or undergraduate student who might be interested in a summer internship at NSF? For more information on the Summer Scholars Internship Program, please contact Sherrie Green, Program Manager, at sbgreen@nsf.gov or visit: http://www.nsf.gov/od/iia/activities/interns/index.jsp