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Symposium gives young scientists research grant tips

BY: BILL SNYDER

10/20/2011 - More than 300 young scientists crowded into a Light Hall lecture room on Tuesday to hear how they can jumpstart their careers with research grants and fellowships.

The daylong workshop was sponsored by the Office of Biomedical Research Education and Training (BRET) and the Clinical and Translational Scientist Development Program (CTSD), and supported by the Vanderbilt Medical Alumni Association.

Obtaining funding “is just a fact of life if you are in biomedical research training,” Susan Wente, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research and senior associate dean for Biomedical Sciences, told the graduate students and research fellows in the audience.

Funding allows young scientists to focus more on their research. It also demonstrates to future employers and granting agencies that “you have a mastery of the scientific method, a depth of knowledge … and good communication skills,” Wente said. “These benefits will apply to any future career.”

Heidi Hamm, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Pharmacology, described how applications for grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are peer reviewed.

Scientists from around the country who serve on peer review panels consider grant applications carefully and with “incredible fairness,” said Hamm, a member of the Center for Scientific Review Advisory Council at NIH.

“The United States’ peer review system is really at the heart of our preeminence in science, technology and medicine,” Hamm said.

More than 30 faculty members participated in the workshop, either as speakers, organizers, or contributors to two Vanderbilt-produced videos on peer review.

Other speakers included Kimberly Petrie, Ph.D., director of Career Development at BRET, and Abigail Brown, Ph.D., director of Program Evaluation and Outcomes Research, who helped organize the event; and Katherine Hartmann, M.D., Ph.D., associate dean for Clinical and Translational Scientist Development.

Wente noted that in an era when early career and fellowship awards from the NIH are leveling off nationwide, they’re rising at Vanderbilt, a testament to the University’s commitment to career development.

“You’re in a great environment,” she said. “Take advantage of it.”

Workshop presentations were recorded and may be viewed at https://medschool.vanderbilt.edu/bret/funding.

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