There are many types of fellowships to apply for and this number is greatly expanded if you are a US citizen doing your PhD in the US. The most popular one at the three institutions I’ve attended is the NFS Graduate Research Fellowship Program. I applied for those a few years ago when you could apply up to 3 times (Senior year of undergrad and your 1st & 2nd year of graduate school). I received two Honorable Mentions but was not awarded the fellowship. A problem that plagued those applications was that my research proposals had obvious biomedical applications, which is not the main focus of the NSF. Thus, an application to the National Institute of Health (NIH) F31 fellowship was an obvious choice for my thesis work, which deals Type 1 Diabetes.

For those who have also applied for the NFS GRFP and are now looking to apply for the NIH F31 be warned that this is a whole different world. Put simply, the NIH F31 fellowship is a beast of an application. It is not for the light-hearted or those looking to repurpose a different fellowship application. Here I will walk you through the main sections of the F31 fellowship (as of early 2018) and share with you tips I learned from several denied and accepted application examples.

Disclaimer: Always read the current F31 Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) and follow those guidelines. Any information disclosed here is my opinion and samples of writing are either publically available or used with the author’s consent. 

Who should apply for the NIH F31 fellowship?

Here is where you should read the FOA. If you met those requirements then I would recommend applying for this application either as a second or third-year graduate student. Why? This fellowship expects that the research you purpose is the research you are doing for your PhD thesis. Thus, it helps to have a well-defined research plan and to show that you already have some preliminary data that supports that this research is feasible and is what you are actually doing. Most of these applications are rejected the first time around, but you will get feedback from reviewers and have a chance to resubmit the application while addressing the reviewer’s comments. Thus, it helps to start before too far into your 3rd year.

Additionally, the project you are proposing to do in this fellowship should already be funded or fall under a funding source that your PI (sponsor) already has. It is important that this source of funding does not end before the fellowship period will end. The reviewers will see that and they will count it as a medium to major issue in your fellowship. Remember that this fellowship does not provide money for the actual research, only for your stipend. Thus, you need to have a stable source of money available in the lab to do the actual research.

What is the purpose of the NIH F31 fellowship?

Yes, this is a predoctoral fellowship. But you need to know what the NIH’s purpose is for giving this F31 fellowship. Without knowing their goal you won’t be able to show them that you are the right applicant.

Here’s what the NIH has to say:

“The purpose of the Kirschstein-NRSA predoctoral fellowship (F31) award is to enable promising predoctoral students to obtain individualized, mentored research training from outstanding faculty sponsors while conducting dissertation research in scientific health-related fields relevant to the missions of the participating NIH Institutes and Centers. The proposed mentored research training must reflect the applicant’s dissertation research project and is expected to clearly enhance the individual’s potential to develop into a productive, independent research scientist.” –NIH F31 PA-16-309 Purpose

They are looking for “promising” students that with the support of this fellowship and their mentors can develop into “independent research scientist”. Those are important factors. It means you need to clearly show them in your application that you have a clear, achievable, goal of becoming an independent research scientist.

So, what qualifies as an “independent research scientist”? Does this mean you have to show them you want to be a Professor with your own lab or does it mean you can do research in industry for a company? There isn’t any other guidance to go off of, however, I have seen applications that state they are looking into a career in the biotech industry. The reviewers of that application did not appear to count that as a negative. Yet, you need to be clear. That applicant also stated they were still deciding between industry and academia. It was that indecision that the reviewers saw as a negative in their application. So my advice is to be true to yourself and make it clear what you want and how this fellowship will lead you to it.

Timeline for the F31 application

Start early. I know you always hear this for applications but let me tell you a short story of my application.

I told my PI a year in advance that I wanted to apply for the NIH F31. This was before my oral exam, which required a 10 page NIH style proposal. Thus, I figured I could do all the heavy lifting during my oral exam period and repurpose the written portion directly into the F31 application. Hahaha, yeah that didn’t happen.

My Aims were all dependent on each other which is something that will kill your application (I base this on reviewer comments from 3 applications: 1 successful and 2 denied). Fortunately, I already had backup methods for achieving my overall research goal through 2 different means that answer the question in different ways and also probe the disease state differently. But I had to come up with all of that original writing only a week or two before the application deadline, which added unneeded stress.

I kept putting off writing the application because I was trying to fit in more experiments for preliminary data. That was a mistake. You need to show preliminary data, but you don’t have to have a whole Aim almost done before applying. Thus, I didn’t start the whole process until 1.5 months prior to the deadline. That timeline can work…unless the administrator who needs to help you with the application (this has to be submitted through your institute) gets hit by a car while biking home and no one in the department knows of this or why they aren’t replying to emails. Yeah, that happened. Luckily they survived the encounter and were able to make a full recovery. But this shows you that life happens and you need to plan for that in your timeline.

Three months. That is how long prior to the deadline you should start the process. Perhaps not all the writing, but you need to get your grant administrator involved very early. You will also need to get your university to change your NIH eRA Commons status to PI. You are the PI of this fellowship and often times your university will not understand that and may think they know better and won’t give you PI status. This leads to your letter writers not being able to submit their letters of recommendation (ask me how I know…). Speaking of letter writers. This is also why you need to start 3 months early. You need to give them a heads up. More on letter writers latter.

The final page count of my application was 74 pages. That takes time to write and fill out those forms correctly. Start early.

The F31 fellowship 424 R&R

F31 fellowship

This document is going to be your best friend. The 424 R&R fellowship instructions is a 99-page document that will guide you through every section’s requirements and it can be found here. You will also want to rely on that page for links detailing your page, text format, and letter writer requirements. Some key considerations include:

  • You need 3 letter writers. They cannot be your PI, co-sponsor, or listed collaborators. Although this appears limiting it can work in your favor. Your PI and co-sponsor (I’ll describe below why you might need one) will write “letters of support” in your training plan, then you get 3 letter writers, and if you have collaborators they get to include letters of support too. You can also include committee members and letters from them, which doesn’t count towards your 3 letters. Thus, you can get a lot of letters of support from different sources. It is important to use each of them for a directed purpose though. I’ll discuss more below.
  • As of early 2018, you are allowed 0.5 inch margins and Arial 11. If you use 0.5 inch margins for your research strategy section then also do it for all the other sections. Be consistent. There is nothing worse than scrolling through the PDF of applications and seeing the margins go all over the place between each section.
  • You don’t have to use their pre-made tables. Make your own and make sure it conforms to the margin and text limitations.
  • If at any point you have questions that the 424 R&R and the FOA don’t answer then email the program contact. There is typically a contact within each NIH Institue that awards the F31 fellowship. If you aren’t sure which Institue your application falls under (you should have a pretty good idea…ask your PI where they submit their grants) then email more than one. I did this and got quick replies to my questions. They are there to help but remember you don’t want to waste their time with something you should have been able to find an answer to. Do your research first and ask a clear question.

Once you have fully read the 424 R&R and have highlighted all the key things you need read it again. Then print it out and read it again. Seriously. I printed it out by section and wrote notes for exactly what I needed and how to address specific points in each section. It’s easy to forget some small part and when you spend so much time and effort you don’t want something like that to kill your application.

Now you are ready to actually start the application

F31 fellowship

Mentally prepare for some late night writing after a day in the lab.

After completing the above you are ready to identify where to actually start the application process. This isn’t a comprehensive guide, but will highlight some key steps and people:

  1. Identify who is your grant administrator and contact them. Set-up an appointment and tell them you are applying for the F31 fellowship. They should help you fill out the general forms, check that you have all sections filled out, provide you with the required budget (at least mine did, so I can’t help you if yours doesn’t, sorry).
  2. Tell your grant administrator that you need PI status on your eRA Commons account. If you don’t have an NIH eRA Commons account then you need to apply for this ASAP. Ask your grant administrator how to do this.
  3. Identify if you have any collaborators or if there is a part of your project where you would benefit from a collaboration. Importantly, this shouldn’t be used as a means to get more work done simply by having someone else do it for you. You want a collaboration to highlight that you will be learning new skills that you otherwise would not have the chance to learn. The collaborator’s letter should highlight that fact.
  4. Identify if you need a co-sponsor. Okay, so when do you need a co-sponsor? Has your PI a well-established reputation, well published, well funded, mentored and graduated many PhD students, and has sponsored prior NIH F31 fellows? If you answered “no” to any of those, then I recommend finding a co-sponsor that fills that gap and who strengthens your research goals. This person does not have to be at your institute, but I would recommend staying in-house if you can.
  5. Now you can identify your 3 letter writers. I recommend finding 4 if you can. There are instructions here for what you need to send them. But you want to give them the following after they agree to write you a letter:
    • Your NIH biosketch. This is an important part of the application. You don’t need it finalized when you send to them but it needs to highlight your research background and specific research/career goals. Use the words independent research scientist where appropriate.
    • What you would prefer that they focus on in their letters. It is of course up to them and you should make sure that is clear, but you also want to use these letters strategically.
    • A brief summary of your proposed research. 1-2 sentences is plenty.

At this stage, you are ready to start writing the actual sections of the F31 fellowship.

F31 fellowship

Representative contents and length based on my F31 fellowship application

The first F31 fellowship sections to write

There are two sections that will drive the whole direction of all the other sections of this fellowship. Your research proposal and your training plan (aka career development plan and how you are going to achieve all of these goals). Which you start with really depends on how well defined your thesis project is. I’ll address the training plan first.

Background and Goals for Fellowship Training

This section is composed of 4 components: research experience, preliminary narrative of doctoral dissertation, training goals and objectives, and activities planned under this award. Here are my thoughts on the outline and the content you should include in each:

Research Experience

  • Have an initial paragraph that summarizes everything you are going to tell them. This should show a logical path towards your thesis. It’s fine if you don’t actually have a logical flow of the actual research. I went from transcriptomics of photosynthetic bacteria to neuroscience to organic chemistry and chemical biology. But you should be able to show logically show your progression as a scientist though these experiences.
  • Bullet each research experience and bold it (i.e. Undergraduate Research: blah blah blah).
  • Give the Institution and time of experience first.
  • Explain briefly the research, the outcome, and importantly what you learned. This needs to show the progression of you as an independent scientist leading to the logical conclusion that you are doing a PhD on the topic you are studying.
  • The last bullet should be your current doctoral thesis research. I ended this paragraph saying these studies are described in the Research Strategy section of the proposal.

Preliminary Narrative of Doctoral Dissertation

  • Chapter outlines showing what will be discussed in each chapter. This should correlate with the research you are proposing.
  • Keep it simple, but informative. The reviewers should be able to read this and understand what you are doing before they even read your Specific Aims page.

Training Goals and Objectives

  • This section is crucial and needs to align clearly with the training plan you develop with your PI/co-sponsor in their section.
  • Start by stating clearly what your career goals are, how the training you have had prepares you to achieve these goals, and how the proposed research will help you realize those goals.
  • You should highlight something about the reason you chose the research, institute, PI. Something that makes it clear that you are in the right place at the right time to achieve the goals.
  • I then suggest outlining in detail the skills you plan to develop and hone during the F31 fellowship. I broke this down into Synthetic Chemistry, Biophysics, and Immunology. I then bulleted matter of fact skills (i.e. How to perform T-cell activation assays or Growing a fragment lead compound).
  • You should have an Additional Skills section that details other skills yet highlighted. For instance, you should highlight career development skills or scientific communication skills.
  •  End with a short summary of how these skills will allow you to realize your career goals.

Activities Planned Under this Award

F31 fellowship

  • This section is best handled neatly in a table format. Give the time period by year and months (I chose to break it down by 6 month periods), the activity (this should be what research you are doing under each Aim and any professional development activities), and the percent of time spent on these activities.
  • End with an Others section that lists specific examples. For instance, I listed outreach events that I do, meetings with my sponsor and co-sponsor. If you do mechanism lunches or journal clubs make sure to mention those. All those seemingly trivial time-consuming activities that you will look back on and be glad you did. Those all contribute to your unique experience and training.

Training Plan

This section is found in the Sponsor/Co-Sponsor statements. The first part is basically a letter of recommendation form your PI and co-sponsor, followed by a list of their qualifications as your sponsor/co-sponsor and available funding, and then a list of who your sponsors have trained before. Then comes the training plan. There are many ways to go about writing this section. You can do it with your PI, you can write it all, or something in between. However, you do it keep in mind that what is in this section should match what you just wrote in the training goals and activities planned section. This plan should reinforce your sponsor’s commitment to helping you realize your career and research goals. Each part of this section should have an attention getter (bold, underlined, italics) followed by specific examples of how you are already on track and what more is planned.

This is a great exercise that should show you whether you and your PI are on the same page for your research and PhD training. It is also an excellent time to bring on another faculty member as a co-sponsor to fill gaps in your training that you discover when writing this F31 fellowship.

Your sponsor and co-sponsor will then need to state how many people they will be training during your fellowship. A smaller number is better here as it shows more attention will go to your training. Thus, if you are in a big lab (even a big name lab) it might be good to find a co-sponsor who has a smaller lab with a good history of mentoring.

Selection of Sponsor and Institution

This honestly was the hardest portion for me to write. Even though I intuitively know why I decided to do my PhD at my institution and with my PI. Putting that into words that are clear and make sense to someone outside of your head was difficult. Ultimately, I focused on my PI’s and co-sponsor’s expertise and the achievements they have had in their fields. I recommend using specific examples of their expertise in mentoring. The rest is personal. For me, it was the independence I was given as the first graduate student to set-up the lab and explore multiple projects.

F31 fellowship

Image Credit: http://slideplayer.com/slide/10840247/

Explaining why I chose to come to Boston was easy. Biotech mecca. Walk down the street and you have all the resources you could ever want to achieve your research aims (theoretically of course). It may be harder to explain this or spin this if you are at a smaller university away from other resources. However, there was a reason you applied there in the first place. They must have excellent resources for someone in your field to do your work, otherwise, you probably wouldn’t be there. Highlight those resources. Highlight the uniqueness of your situation.

Note that there is also an Environment and Research Facilities section in your Sponsor/co-sponsor Statement section. Your reason for choosing the institution should match the reasons your sponsor thinks the institution is great for doing this research.

The all-important section: Research Strategy

The Specific Aims and Research Strategy section are the heart of this F31 fellowship. Every different type of research and project should be presented and formatted in a different way that makes logical sense. So, I won’t outline exactly how I set mine up. I will offer some critical do’s and don’ts though.

Do:

  • Make strategic use of bold, underline, and italics in the text. Think about it, the reviewers are reading how many of these applications and how much else do they have going on in their own lives? You need to make it so if they just skim over these sections in 30 seconds they should know exactly what you are doing, why it is important, and how it is innovative.
  • If your research is centered on any structural biology, organic chemistry, and the like make sure you are showing structures. There is nothing that will piss a reviewer off more than you talking about a molecule they can’t see. You want your scheme to be clear. All you chemist out there should know to number your structures and make sure your numbering in the text matches your ChemDraw figures. Also, for the chemist, use color to your advantage in your structures. The reviewer should be able to easily glance through and see the strategy you are employing without having to linger.
  • Every proposal should have a figure that shows the project workflow. I kept it simple with text boxes leading to other text boxes (which is not what I recommend when making a powerpoint presentation, but this is different as you are limited by space). However, I also included my criteria for each step of what would let me move on to the next step. This way the reviewers know what we are basing our success on.
  • Break down the Aims into sub-aims (if this makes sense for your research).
  • Have a “Potential Pitfalls and Alternative Strategies” section. This shows that you have a backup plan in case something critical fails. You have thought the experiments through and know how to still find success.
  • End with a conclusion paragraph. If they read nothing at all, what would you need them to know about this section?

Don’t:

  • Only state the point of an Aim or the novelty of the research once. Instead, find multiple ways to say it and make sure it is clear and visible.
  • White space is your friend…kind of. Don’t sacrifice content for making things pretty and clean. If you normally leave room after each paragraph you will likely find yourself deleting that room in the 6 pages allocated. To make up for this you need to use bold, underline, and italics in the text. Are you seeing a pattern here? Good.
  • Abbreviations. Don’t forget to spell out and define every abbreviation. Also, for important abbreviations don’t only define them once in the Specific Aims section and not again in the research strategy.
  • Don’t make the reviewer work for it. This means taking the time to ensure your through process is clear, logical, and flows.
  • Don’t forget to be creative and unique. All the style guidelines I have given here are just that: guidelines. Not hard fast rules. Bend them to suit your needs.

The final critical section: NIH Biosketch

F31 fellowship

Who we are is not always clear to others or ourselves. Use the biosketch to paint a picture. Maybe more clear than Picasso did.

Okay. All sections are critical and need to show a complete picture. However, the ones I’ve discussed above and this one are the largest and most commented on sections (i.e. the research, your background/goals, your sponsor/environment, and your grades). Yes, grades and the GRE. Personally, I think it is crazy that grades and especially the GRE are still used as indicators of a successful independent researcher, but the reality is that reviewers are given criteria and sometimes the only thing that really distinguishes you from other applicants comes down to the numbers associated with your grades/GRE.

If you don’t have an NIH Biosketch yet, that is fine. Ask your PI for their’s and see how they have done it. But be aware that you’re Biosketch will differ (see the 424 R&R for the current template you should follow). The major features after your educational background are:

Personal Statement

  • This should match what you wrote for your career goals.
  • It can be as long or short as you like (as long as you adhere to the overall page limit). Mine was 3 large(ish) paragraphs and one summary paragraphs. I included a rationale for my choice of research with an overview of the skills I currently have and will accumulate. I then gave specific examples of the research highlights that have given me these skills and what impact that work has had. Followed by a summary of how I am suited at the perfect place with the perfect PI to do the research I am proposing, which will allow me to achieve my career goals.

Positions and Honors

  • List positions and employment that is pertinent to your application. Your summer job at Walmart probably isn’t, however, an internship in industry is great.
  • I also listed experiences and professional memberships. This is where I listed all of my outreach.
  • Finally, I listed all of my honors. I had a hard time deciding how far back I should go. Do you list something from High School? Well, that depends. I chose to do that for several honors I received because they were national honors that highlighted scholastic and leadership excellence. If the honor clearly shows something like this, then include it.

Contribution to Science

  • For every step in your education that you have done research, this is where you want to summarize the impact of that research.
  • Give citations that back up your claim of its impact. This can be posters, abstracts, talks, papers, news articles, etc. They do not have to be from a conference, however that is helpful.
  • The last bullet should be your current Doctoral research. This gives you another chance to highlight the proposed research.

Additional Information: Scholastic Performance

  • Use double columns that each have headings for the year, course title, and grade. I further categorized this by the institution and I separated all of my science-related courses on the left columns and my other courses on the right columns.
  • After you give your list you should say what each GPA was from each institution. This has two purposes. First, it provides the reviewers with the number they want/need to mention in their comments (i.e. make their job easy). And second, what if you have grades that appear to be low when just scanning through? Maybe those B’s start to look like you are just a B student, but it doesn’t tell the full story of your GPA. This prevents that bias.
  • You should then list for each institution what their grade scale is and what any strange course grades mean (i.e. non-letter grade).
  • Then list your GRE scores. I gave the date taken and registration number, which probably is overkill but it has been 5 years since I took the GRE and the scoring system has changed. I further broke this down by giving the score in each section with the corresponding percentile. Remember that the score doesn’t always tell the whole story.

Just note that you need Biosketches from your sponsor/co-sponsor, collaborators, and anyone you list as a committee member. Their Biosketch will look different from yours, but be sure to look them over and make sure they are using an updated format (the expiration date of each should be listed in the top right corner). Also, don’t feel weird if you have to change something in their Biosketch because of formatting issues or content issues. Of course, run all changes by the person who gave it to you.

The other F31 fellowship sections:

Here I’ll briefly list the other major sections you need to complete and a few notes about each section. My advice here is less because these sections are more standardized and custom to each project/institution.

Project Summary

One paragraph concise summary of your research. What is the issue, what is your approach and how is it innovative, what goals do you have for the project, and what will be learned? This was one of the last sections I wrote.

Project Narrative

Only a one to three sentences long. This section becomes publicly available if you are awarded the fellowship, so keep that in mind.

Citations

If you aren’t using a citation manager here is your chance to change that. I don’t understand why some people don’t. Anyways, keep your citations to a smallish number. I had 30 something. You don’t want to be exhaustive.

Facilities and Equipment

If your PI has applied for NIH funding then they have this section already. Ask for it and then go about tweaking it. What do you need? Any facility or instrument that you will need to accomplish the research you have proposed. If you are collaborating with another lab make sure to get a list of their resources and list it under their lab name. These two sections were 9 pages for me. They do not need to be that long, but for my project, I felt the need to include any and all instruments that we may need since my project covers so many different disciplines.

Responsible Conduct and Research

Reviewers take this section very seriously. Make sure to read the 424 R&R closely. If someone else in your institution has applied before ask them for their RCR section and for the reviewer comments about this section. Mine was a full page long and listed: Format, subject matter, duration of instruction, faculty participation, and frequency of instruction. If you are like me and took RCR during your first year as a course be aware that it is only good for 4 years per the NIH. Thus, you will need a refresher during your 5th or 6th year and you need to show them that you have plans for doing that.

Description of Institutional Environment and Commitment to Training

If I recall correctly, this is in the Sponsor/co-sponsor statements or comes directly after those statements. Either way, I used a standard outline of what our department provides in terms of PhD training, the requirements of PhD students, and the average time to graduation. If possible, have your Director of Graduate Studies or someone in admin help you with this section and sign off on it (a signature is not required).

Vertebrate Animals

Note I do not work with human subjects or non-human primates, thus I cannot speak to those sections. However, I do work with mice and rats. We had an approved animal protocol and I was able to take this section (with modification) from my PI’s NIH grant proposals. Essentially you need to address the following: description of procedures, justification of procedures, minimization of pain and distress, and euthanasia. If your proposed research will work with vertebrate animals and you do not have an approved protocol yet, I highly recommend getting that process started now. The NIH takes that very seriously (as they should) and it could hurt your application if you don’t have this. Why? Well for one, what if your protocol never gets approved? How will you do the research you are proposing?

Resource Sharing Plan

Don’t scoff at this section. I’ve seen reviewers comment on applications that didn’t have a well-defined way to share their data, especially if you are generating large databases.

Respective Contributions

This section is pretty self-explanatory. Don’t take credit for things or sections you didn’t write. Detail out everyone’s contribution to your application. In this section, I also detailed out the Future Respective Roles of all contributors. This allowed me to reiterate some of my training plan and activities planned during the fellowship with regards to mentoring and collaboration.

Actual Reviewer Comments

(Updated) After publishing this post I almost slapped myself for forgetting to add this section. But I have now added it.

I think it is important for potential applicants of the F31 fellowship to get a look at what reviewers are saying about successful applications and ones they turned down. To fully appreciate these comments I would suggest finding both current fellows and people who were turned down and ask them for their full application and reviewer comments. This way you can correlate specific feedback with the actual context. I did not get permission to use the reviewer comments of the regected application. If that changes in the future I will update this post with them.

Comments from a winning application:

The following is a review of an applicant I know. I have removed their name and any information that is sensitive for the project or identifying any of the individuals.

CRITIQUE 

Fellowship Applicant: 2

Sponsors, Collaborators, and Consultants: 2

Research Training Plan: 3

Training Potential: 2

Institutional Environment & Commitment to Training: 3

Overall Impact/Merit: BLANK has BS and MS degrees in mathematics from BlANK and BLANK and began their PhD studies at BLANK with their former mentor, BlANK PI Dr. BLANK PI is Co-Director of the Center for Quantitative Medicine and their focus is on applying mathematical models to specific biological systems. BLANK PI has extensive mentoring experience and extensive research support and is well qualified to mentor the applicant. The applicant is outstanding with 1 publication from their master’s work and 2 other publications in the pipeline. In one year in graduate school, they have passed their qualifying exam and seem extremely motivated. They have assembled an outstanding group of two immunologists and one statistician along with their primary mentor to help with the proposed studies. The focus of the study is to build a mathematical model that is coupled to statistical regression analysis in order to predict BLANK. This is a very big challenge but all of the players seem quite excited about the prospects. The research plan includes additional training in biostatistics and immunology, they will examine a number of BlANK. The candidate has described their training program very well and their models can be refined experimentally by their collaborators. This is viewed as an outstanding proposal.

1. Fellowship Applicant:

Strengths:

  • The PI has mathematics degrees from BlANK and BLANK. They have one publication from their master’s work.
  • The PI is in their first year of the PhD program and has already passed their qualifying exam, indicating their motivation to get started on this project.
  • The PI has assembled an outstanding group of immunologists and mathematicians to help (Redacted). Their letters of support indicate that they are very bright, dedicated and hardworking and believe that they will be able to handle the task at hand.

Weaknesses: This is a very complex undertaking, but the PI does seem to have a lot of support for this project.

2. Sponsors, Collaborators, and Consultants:

Strengths:

  • BLANK PI is Co-Director of BLANK at BlANK. BLANK PI is well funded and has trained 23 graduate students and 19 PhD students. BLANK PI is well qualified to mentor the PI.

Weaknesses: None noted.

3. Research Training Plan:

Strengths:

  • The PI will test the hypothesis that BLANK.
  • BLANK

Weaknesses: How well this will work is unclear.

4. Training Potential:

Strengths: The mentor and training environment are outstanding for the proposed studies.

Weaknesses: None noted.

5. Institutional Environment & Commitment to Training:

Strengths: An extensive training plan is in place and the institutional environment is excellent for the proposed studies.

Weaknesses: None noted.

Protections for Human Subjects: Not Applicable (No Human Subjects)
Vertebrate Animals: Not Applicable (No Vertebrate Animals)
Biohazards: Not Applicable (No Biohazards)

Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research: Acceptable

Comments on Format (Required): All first-year students are required to take a 3-credit RCR course.
Comments on Subject Matter (Required):
Topics covered include criteria for authorship, data ownership, intellectual property, ethics of animal and human subjects, scientific misconduct, conflicts of interest, and ethics of collaborative research.
Comments on Faculty Participation (Required): Different lectures are given by a variety of faculty.Comments on Duration (Required): 3 credit hr course.

Final notes on the F31 fellowship

F31 fellowship

Show the reviewers you have grit. Keep coming back. Image credit: http://liveyesand.com/grit-it/

Hopefully, this guide has given you some (good) insight into what is involved in applying for the NIH F31 fellowship. It can seem like a daunting task, but if you start early and break it down section by section it is quite manageable.

Keep in mind that most new applications are not funded. That is okay and you shouldn’t be disheartened. Take the comments to seriously and address them. Then resubmit. You may feel like the reviewers are picking on things you can’t change (like your institution, PI, project flow which was determined by your PI, etc…), but stop and ask yourself what the reviewers are really getting at. Is it something you can’t change or won’t change? Just take a step back.

If this has been helpful, if you have further questions, or if you have applied for the F31 and have your own experiences/tips you’d like to share please comment below. I always love hearing your feedback and stories!

-ChemToolman

 

 

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