Dear SIT members,
This is my first time as author of the SIT Committee Newsletter, so please try not to laugh too much while reading it. I will start with the topic of our times: as you know, we are -again- in the middle of another surge of cases of the coronavirus almost worldwide. I bet you are probably sick of it by now, so I will just repeat the key message to find the exit strategy from this: largescale vaccination. If you are not already, I urge you to talk to your doctor to see if the science supports you as a good candidate for the many options that are now available free of cost in the US and many other countries. And if you are already vaccinated, urge others to seek the advice of their doctors too! That is going to be necessary, for instance, for us to have an exciting, fruitful RRS annual meeting in Puerto Rico next October. Did you forget to register? Do it now! Oh, and join our exciting SIT workshop on Saturday to kick off the meeting! Also, if you submitted an abstract and applied for the SIT Travel Award, check the announcements! (this is the last time I command you, I promise).
As excited as I am to meet you all there, there will be another newsletter before the RRS Annual Meeting to focus on it, so I’ll rather talk about something I have recently experienced that is an essential part of the SIT life: the process of writing and submitting a grant for review. I applied for the Early K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award from the NCI/NIH last February. Briefly, this is a two-stage program for postdoctoral researchers (see the F99/K00 for you doctoral students!) with a mentored phase in which you get equipped with all the skills necessary to run your own lab, which then happens during the second, or independent phase. Of all the NIH-based career development grants, this one is the only one allowing non-US citizens to apply, so if that is your case (as is mine), it may be worth having a look at. If after looking at it you think you may be suitable for it, congratulations, you made the first step! Unfortunately, it is not the last step. You need months in advance to outline your idea in a single page with specific aims, and even when you have that, just collecting all the needed documents can be overwhelming. But don’t despair, in the end it is an enriching and rewarding process in which you gradually learn a lot of valuable skills for your future (and present) career.
The last few months for me, however, have been about learning by whom, how and why your application is reviewed and scored. NIH recruits a roster of experienced PIs and your application is assigned to 3-4 of them, which evaluate your candidate skills, your career plan, your proposal, your environment and your mentors. A meeting with the entire roster takes place after some months (from February to June in my case) and your reviews are discussed (if you made it to the top 50%). Each member of the panel evaluates your overall application with a single score, and you get the average from all of them, which you learn several (painful and endless) days later. I finally discovered my score a week after the meeting and… it wasn’t bad. Let’s say I have a chance. I won’t count the chicken before they hatch though. So I’m now facing the last part: being patient until I hear something definite one way or another. Wish me luck!
Hoping this was not as narcissist as it seems to me now, receive my warmest greetings, and see you in Puerto Rico!
SIT Committee Member