This post is from WomanOfScience, Prof. Robin Selinger, Professor, Chemical Physics, Kent State University Liquid Crystal Institute. Thanks you for sharing and for sharing your name! That way other WomenOfScience can email you directly. Robin is a great mentor, and I am glad to have her on the WOS team. Other guest posts are welcome!
I suggest you read “A PhD is NOT Enough,” a very helpful book written by Peter Feibelman. Get the newer edition (about 2011 I think.) It has plenty of useful advice about many of the issues you will confront in the next year or two.
One of your most important goals is to bring in some grant funds. As a new assistant professor in the mid 1990′s, I found it helpful to get advice from a senior colleague who was a former NSF program officer. He was a great coach and provided very useful feedback.
Some new faculty resent the idea that they might benefit from this kind of input from a senior colleague. The way I see it, even superstar athletes work with coaches who help them to achieve their full potential. Why should scientists be any different?
Don’t wait until the proposal deadline is looming to get advice from your grant-writing mentor. Start bouncing research ideas around and working on your proposal and budget plan at least 60 to 90 days before the deadline. Every campus and funding agency have their own particular rules about budgets and you don’t want to waste valuable time figuring them out when the deadline is pressing.
The most important page of your proposal is the project summary. Many panel members will vote having read only this small piece of the proposal with care and perused the rest.
Remember that some programs such as the NSF Career Award are sufficiently interdisciplinary that many members of the panel will not be experts in your exact field. Make sure your summary is accessible to the panel. If you don’t know what kind of panel to expect, talk with the program officer at the funding agency for advice prior to submission.
Make your project summary memorable and really clear without excessive jargon, and have three people proofread it to make sure it is 100% flawless.
Check the agency’s formatting rules for total proposal length and font size and abide by them. Something as silly as using the wrong format for cited references can result in a proposal returned without review. Also don’t forget required elements such as a “postdoc mentoring plan” or “data management plan” that the funding agency may demand.