We're a little crazy, about science!

R21 Grant update

We’re not even two weeks aways away from the deadline for the grant submission that I’m working on with my Co-PI and things are getting close! It feels like there is still so much to do that I don’t see how we would ever make it to the end, but really a lot of it comes down to polishing everything to make it look pretty. Part of writing a grant is telling a story, that story needs to be backed up by science, but without the story the grant will fall flat.

For those who need a quick recap or just finding me. I’m a PhD candidate and this is yet another installment of my daily blog about the things I’m doing to get that damned PhD. Lately it’s involved a whole hell of a lot of writing, I’ve been trying to secure funding for my project which doesn’t really fall in either of the two labs I work in, it’s a blend of the two, but that’s my thing I like finding ways to combine work. So funding for that specific project is super important (and for your PhD in general). The first grant was an NIH small grant (literally what it’s called. The one I’m working on now, as the title suggests, is a NIH R21 grant. Compared to my first grant writing experience, the one with my main-PI, this is more structured. Maybe what I really mean is that my Co-PI is more hands on. I’ve gotten far more feedback and it feels more personal or direct, not the general feedback I typically get from my main-PI. They both have different teaching styles and I think I prefer my Co-PI’s way of teaching.

This grant is due mid-February, I believe the date is the 15th, so we’re rushing to get it written, edited, and finalized. I’m on revision 6 or 7 now, frankly I’ve lost count. There’s been a lot of back and forth with my Co-PI and I’ve learned a lot over the past few months writing grants and fellowship applications. Anything I can do to get funding basically. To make things even more interesting my main-PI has suggested that I write a F99/K00 proposal after this. That’s an interesting choice because it’s for late stage PhD and early postdoc’s which means my main-PI thinks I’m almost done. Personally, I still think he’s trying to see how much writing I can do before my fingers and eyes bleed. It’s been non-stop writing and that doesn’t even include the writing for the blog!

I’ve got yet another meeting today with my Co-PI to go over the grant, what still needs to happen, and how to finish a couple of sections that have given me trouble. Grant writing, like writing code, or any type of writing in general is an art. One that takes practice to master, one that I (unfortunately) have little experience with! Thankfully he’s spent a considerable amount of time helping me learn and making sure the grant is as good as it can possibly be. It’s “only” seven pages, but each page needs to be perfect and explain exactly what we’re doing, how we will do it, why we are doing it, the benefit to society, the innovation, etc. We’re attempting to show that not only do we know what we’re talking about, we’ve given it a significant amount of thought.

If I had more time I’m sure the proposal would be a lot more polished, but we don’t so we’re trying to edit it as quickly as we can, hence today’s meeting. I’m slightly nervous about the whole thing, just because I know my Co-PI would much rather be doing something else. Or at least that’s the feeling I get, maybe that’s not actually the case. The plan for the next few days is more edits, processing more data from the experiments we did, and get some good figures for the paper made.

The figures will take a long time to get right, so I tend to put that off toward the end because then I can focus on them specifically instead of jumping from paper to figure and back again. There’s a surprising amount of art involved in neuroengineering. I have to create pictures of internal structures to go with the photos of the experiment, show things concisely, and make sure that any text in the image is large enough that it’s easy to read. I’m reminded of that last one because my Co-PI threw a note in on one of my placeholder figures letting me know that the text was too small.

We’re in the final stretch! Maybe we’ll get funded, maybe we won’t, but at least I’ll have learned something.


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