Short-Term Innovative Research (STIR): Predoctoral Grant Competition

University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
BiologyComputer Science
Open Access
DOI: 10.18258/3031
Raised of $1,000 Goal
Funded on 9/13/14
Successfully Funded
  • $1,200
  • 120%
  • Funded
    on 9/13/14

About This Project

Writing grants is the number one skill required for a successful independent scientist. This project provides Ph.D. students with training in this crucial skill by creating a mock funding agency. Students will design and submit proposals for original research. These proposals will be evaluated by students, and those that score highest will be directly supported by funding from this campaign with every dollar going towards student research.

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What is the context of this research?

Many recent Ph.D. graduates lack any significant amount of grant-writing experience. This is a major hindrance in the development of successful independent researchers. Securing funding is a critical element of every successful research endeavor, and the ability to write effective grants and to understand the evaluation process is crucial to this endeavor.

What is the significance of this project?

This project aims to provide Ph.D. students with the opportunity to conceive of an original research project, write a grant proposal for it, and to potentially secure funding for a project they are passionate about. This will not only drive impactful research in the field of computational biology, but it will also provide Ph.D. students with valuable experience in writing and evaluating grants.

What are the goals of the project?

The 1st and most immediate goal of this project is to provide Ph.D. students with an opportunity to create, design, and implement a complete original research project, acquiring and honing grant-writing skills that will be invaluable throughout their careers.

The 2nd goal is to provide Ph.D. students with a complete understanding of the grant evaluation process, from submission to revision to scoring. Students will write the grants, and students will evaluate them.

The 3rd goal is to award the funds acquired from this campaign to outstanding proposals and allow the grantees to carry out their cutting-edge research. If successful, we envision this as a self-sustaining, student-organized annual grant competition, involving multiple departments and institutions.


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This page will be updated with the budget of the project that is awarded funding once the evaluation process has finished. For this pilot, only students in the CPCB program will be participating in submitting and evaluating grants.

The success of the pilot depends on securing funding for students to plan, develop, and execute original research. With a successful pilot, we envision future iterations that will be self-sustaining through the involvement of additional departments, universities, and other granting agencies. We have the backing of the Department of Graduate Studies at both the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon, as well as the enthusiastic support of our program directors, Dr. Daniel Zuckerman (Pitt) and Dr. Russell Schwartz (CMU).

However, to kick off the pilot and demonstrate the viability of this project, we need your help!

Meet the Team

Shannon Quinn
Shannon Quinn
Devin Sullivan
Devin Sullivan
Laura Tipton
Laura Tipton
Luong Nguyen
Luong Nguyen

Team Bio

Shannon Quinn
I started in the joint CMU-Pitt Ph.D. program in the fall of 2010. Devin was one of my new colleagues. As the only students from our year who entered bioimaging (and maybe 1 more has joined in the past 4 years), we developed a close working relationship that culminated in creating the student government for our program and helming its inaugural year as President and VP.

Devin Sullivan
When I joined the CMU-Pitt PhD program in computational biology four years ago, I was determined to create the best possible graduate experience for myself and future students. I became involved in the department and represented the students in the CMU Graduate Student Association before starting a student government for our program and as its inaugural president.

At a recent meeting for trainees at the NIH, we realized the significant dearth of grant-writing experience in most predoctoral programs. This was the inspiration for STIR.

Additional Information

Technical Details

This is a pilot project, exploring ways to give Ph.D. students greater exposure to the grant-writing and evaluation processes while respecting their significant time constraints. Proposals will adhere to NIH R03 format. Projects will be specific to each students' individual research, and will be scaled to 6-12 months. All funding will be used to defray costs for materials and supplies (e.g. reagents, AWS compute time); none will be used to supplement stipends.

Backers of this project will receive:
  • A complete copy of the grant proposal for the funded project, including a detailed breakdown of the budget
  • Progress updates [at least] every 3 months from the grantees and/or project organizers
  • Acknowledgments mention in publications resulting from this funding (unless you prefer to remain anonymous)
  • A pointer to the electronic version of any publications that result from this funding (publications will be Open Access); hard copies by request

This is the Oakland area, home to the University of Pittsburgh.

The cover photo at the top is Gates Hillman at Carnegie Mellon. Both world-class institutions are home to our joint Ph.D. program.

Project Backers

  • 27Backers
  • 120%Funded
  • $1,200Total Donations
  • $44.44Average Donation
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