Research Development

Research Development

Sharing the secrets of research funding success

The Research Development team is a resource of the Sealy Center for Structural Biology and Molecular Biophysics. Our primary focus is to provide research development/proposal development support to faculty within the SCSBMB and the departments of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Neuroscience & Cell Biology, and Pharmacology & Toxicology. And it pays to work with us. It pays well.

The most recent stats indicate that UTMB investigators who work with us are awarded ~250% more grant money compared to those who do not work with us.

We provide strategic, proactive, catalytic, and capacity-building services designed to facilitate individual faculty members, teams of researchers and central administrations in attracting extramural research funding, creating relationships, and developing and implementing strategies that increase institutional competitiveness. We provide technical and professional support to faculty in writing research proposals. While faculty are encouraged to work with Research Development staff on any and all proposals, the level of our involvement in the proposal process varies widely based on the needs of the individual faculty and/or proposal and by the lead time provided. At a minimum, Research Development staff attend all faculty Chalk Talks/Research Concepts presentations and provide feedback as appropriate. Our services are meant to supplement, not replace, faculty mentoring. Common levels of service are described in more detail on our Services page

Let us help you get funded!

The SCSBMB Research Development Team is here to help you get funded. We have extensive expertise and experience in all aspects of grant writing as well as the scientific knowledge base to really help guide you in mapping your research goals and targeting the funding agencies that would serve you best.

Our Team Members:

Karon Cassidy, M.D., Senior Research Development Specialist
Karon has over 10 years of experience in grant writing and proposal development. She received her undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and obtained her medical doctorate from Baylor College of Medicine in 2006. She then joined the University of Houston in 2007, first co-authoring grants for a small handful of faculty in the Biology & Biochemistry department and then joining the College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics Research Office to provide grantsmanship guidance to new investigators in six departments and three active research centers. She joined the Sealy Center for Structural Biology & Molecular Biophysics at UTMB in May of 2012. Over her career, she has been instrumental in securing more than $70 million in new funding for faculty. E-mail Karon.

Heather Lander, Ph.D., Research Development Officer
Heather received her Ph.D. from UTMB and has over 10 years' experience in combined angiogenesis and infectious disease pathology research at The Scripps Research Institute and UTMB. In addition to her own publications and funding, she has over 5 years' experience in helping UTMB faculty and students in several departments secure funding and publish manuscripts. Since joining SCSBMB Research Development in June 2013, she has made significant contributions to the success of grants scoring better than the 10th percentile. Her considerable scientific expertise and extensive scientific writing experience have provided a distinct edge and proven her to be an integral and critical part of the team. E-mail Heather.

Our Services include:

  • Identification of funding opportunities (federal and non-federal – including foundations)
  • Technical, scientific proofreading/editing of research proposals and publications
  • Development of agency-specific spin of research projects
  • Coordination of multi-investigator, multi-institution program project style grant proposals
  • Preparation and review of proposal forms and documents (budgets, budget justifications, facilities, project summary, data management plan, CV, current and pending, etc.)
  • Assisting in submission of supplements and training fellowships (working with faculty, post-doctorates, and/or graduate students)
  • Other research development, proposal-related services as identified. (If you do not see a service listed, call or e-mail us and we may be able to help.)

  • Grantsmanship and Limited Scientific Review - The most comprehensive level of service
  • We will review drafts of faculty research proposals and provide feedback to improve the overall presentation and best align a given proposal to the expectations and/or priorities of a given study section or sponsor. We will review the scientific content to ensure that the aims are non-dependent and reasonable to the hypothesis and to the specific scope of a particular solicitation. We also provide editing to maximize the effectiveness of the organization, flow and communication of the scientific concepts.

    The average turnaround time for this level of service for a traditional R01 application is two to three (2-3) business days per draft. PIs are encouraged to provide two (2) iterations of the proposal draft, though we will work with faculty on as many drafts of a given proposal as the PI wishes and time permits. In certain situations, we may recommend that the PI delay submission of a proposal, e.g., to attain additional data or publications, or to better synchronize the submission with a particular agency's schedule of priorities/funding.

    In addition to the scientific/technical portions of the proposal, we highly encourage the PIs to provide drafts of the supplementary sections, e.g., facilities, budget justification, biosketches. Each of these documents will be reviewed in conjunction with the scientific proposal to ensure the most cohesive and targeted presentation of the information for a given sponsor.

  • Basic Proofreading, Formatting and Administrative Review
  • The PI may request a less in-depth level of review. In such cases or when insufficient lead time is given, we will provide basic editing for grammar, consistent formatting, and adherence to minimal solicitation requirements (fonts, margins etc). Turnaround time for such services for a common R01 or equivalent proposal is approximately one to two (1-2) business days.

  • Manuscripts
  • We also provide these editing services (including for organization and effective communication of scientific concepts) for manuscripts. Due to their deadlines, grant proposals always receive priority over manuscripts in the Research Development work queue.

  • Post Submission Review and Consultation
  • The PI may wish for us to review previously submitted proposals and help plan for resubmission, identify alternative funding options or offer general grantsmanship advice for targeting a specific study section or sponsor. Please let us know, when you contact us, the purpose for your post submission consultation, and provide the complete submitted proposal and summary statement (if available). We will review the submission and follow up within 5 business days. If the purpose of the review is to identify alternative funding sources, we may provide only general guidance at the meeting, and follow up with specific opportunities via e-mail as appropriate solicitations become available.


PLEASE NOTE: We do not provide administrative grant support. Work with your departmental administrative staff to get everything to OSP by the 10 working day deadline.

Proposal Development Timeline

Do you have your eye on an upcoming submission deadline and would like to work with us to make your proposal as strong as possible? Here are the steps you should take, and an approximate timeline that will provide you with the most helpful and effective services.

To increase your chance of success, think ahead, plan ahead, and act ahead.


  • ~3 Months Prior to Deadline
  • This is the time to present your idea at a departmental Chalk Talk or Research Concepts meeting to obtain feedback on overall concept, need for preliminary data, collaborations etc. For more information on this, check out our Chalk Talks page.

  • 6 Weeks Prior to Deadline
    • Notify your departmental Pre-Award staff of your intent to submit a proposal
      • Departmental Pre-Award staff should review program-specific guidelines, begin to assemble required form packages (both internal and external) for submission and begin working with you to draft budget and budget justification. Make sure you communicate with them and that they are clearly aware of what you need from them.
    • Send a draft of the Specific Aims to your mentor &/or Research Development (us!) for feedback.
    • Let us help! We are experts in helping you present your aims in the most effective way possible.
    • This first contact with us is critical and will get you on our "board". Once you are on our radar, you have priority. We work on a first-come, first-served basis, so the sooner you tell us you will be submitting, the better. Let us know to which agency and deadline you will be submitting.
  • 5 Weeks Prior to Deadline
    • If the project involves subawards, Pre-Award staff should contact the subaward institution(s) at this time to request required documentation:
      • Scope of Work
      • Budget
      • Detailed Budget Justification
      • Institutional Letter of Intent
      • Any additional information as needed for individual program requirements
  • 4 Weeks Prior to Deadline
    • Send an initial draft of entire proposal to mentors &/or Research Development (us!) for feedback. In close contact with you we will work to give your proposal strong impact and make it highly competitive. We do everything with track changes so you can see what we've done and accept/reject the changes as you like. We save all our drafts by date/team member, so your original will never disappear. Our team members are excellent scientific writers with significant grantsmanship expertise, and can make a profound difference in the effectiveness of your proposal.
    • If we have this much lead time, you will get the most comprehensive service we provide. We will have plenty of time to review and re-review your draft for:
      • overall grantsmanship
      • agency spin
      • effective scientific writing with reviewer-friendly flow and organization
    • You or your Pre-Award staff should send Research Development (us!) a near-final draft of the budget justification. We can assess it within the context of the proposal draft and provide valuable feedback regarding best presentation of costs based on specific agency funding trends. This is critical because we can help prevent serious budget cuts at award time.
    • Pre-Award staff should begin collecting and formatting necessary auxiliary grant components:
      • biosketches
      • letters of support/collaboration
      • facilities
      • etc
  • 2-3 Weeks Prior to Deadline
    • Pre-Award staff should provide the completed internal routing package to the Department Chair for signature. This package consists of:
      • Signed Routing Form
      • Final Budget and Budget Justification
      • Program announcement/guidelines
      • Draft of abstract or specific aims
      • Any subcontract documents
      • Any prior approval requests
      • This fully approved internal routing package is due to OSP no later than 10 working days (two weeks) before the deadline.
    • You should provide a near-final draft of the proposal to Research Development (us!) for final polishing review, e.g., grammar, typos, formatting, figure placement etc.
  • 1 Week Prior to Deadline
    • Final draft should be sent to Pre-Award staff
      • Pre-Award should compile a mock assembled application package and provide to the PI for final review/approval
  • 3 days Prior to Deadline
    • Applications should be sent to OSP for submission

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FAQ: Do my drafts need to be "near final" when I give them to you? NO! In fact, we prefer really rough drafts. We don't even need all the pieces at the same time. If you have one part scribbled on a Post-it note, go ahead and give it to us. If you spend a lot of time polishing before you give us a draft, you are not really allowing us to do our job. Our goal is to free up your valuable time. Get a rough draft down then let us work with it.

FAQ: What if I miss the suggested timeline? Will you still work with me if I don't provide anything until say, 1 or 2 weeks before the deadline? Yes, we can still work with you. We are more than happy to help no matter when you get us your drafts. However, the time we will have available to help you will be dictated by how many grants are already ahead of you on our board. We will do as much as we can, but it is possible if you wait until 2 weeks before the deadline that we will only have time to do basic editing for grammar and formatting. If you wait until 1 week before the deadline, then we will do what we can, but we only will be able to guarantee editing to ensure compliance with the solicitation, rather than grantsmanship.

Chalk Talks and Research Concepts

Chalk Talk/Research Concepts meetings are intended to give faculty the opportunity to informally present their scientific projects to their peers and obtain feedback such as the need for specific preliminary data, or the possibility of collaborations. Participation in these meetings is recommended for all faculty, either as presenters or in the general discussion. All junior faculty, as well as any faculty without current extramural funding, are strongly encouraged to present their project idea and invite their collaborators or other domain experts. In addition, these sessions are attended by Research Development staff who provide feedback regarding targeting of the project to specific funding agencies or study sections. Intended to be very informal and dynamic, these talks are not conducive to the use of Powerpoint, except as strictly necessary to display selected key data.

These meetings are scheduled ad hoc, preferably three or more months prior to the intended proposal submission to allow sufficient time to incorporate feedback, collect additional data, etc. Faculty are simultaneously registered with Research Development Staff for proposal assistance at the time of their presentation. To schedule a Chalk Talk/Research Concepts, faculty should complete a proposal rubric and send it to their departmental point of contact.

Departmental Chalk Talks/Research Concepts Points of Contact:
Department Contact E-mail Phone
Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Dr. James Lee jclee@utmb.edu (409) 772-2281
Pharmacology & Toxicology Ms. Pam Arbour pearbour@utmb.edu (409) 772-9678
Neuroscience & Cell Biology Dr. Lisa Elferink laelferi@utmb.edu (409) 772-2775

If your department does not have an established Chalk Talk or Research Concepts, feel free to get in touch with one of the departmental contacts. They welcome the opportunity to hear from researchers in other departments.

Templates and Links

Here are some templates, forms and examples that might help you with your NIH proposals.

Links

SciVal funding link

NIH SF424 link

NIH RPPR Instructions

NIH Biosketch Template

NIH Cover letter Info

UTMB OSP analysts

Templates

SCSB Budget Template

SCSB Budget Justification Template

SCSB Animal Cost Estimate Template

BMB Chalk Talk Rubric Template

Pharm/Tox Research Concepts Rubric Template

NCB Grant Development Rubric

Pertinent UTMB Information (for filling in grant forms)

Reviewer Instructions for vertebrate animals section

SCSB Resources Page August 2013

Helpful Information

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Manual for SCSB Research Account Projection System)

If there is a template you need, that is not here, then please contact us and we will do what we can to get it for you.
E-mail Karon     kacassid@utmb.edu
E-mail Heather     hmlander@utmb.edu

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How can SCSB Research Development actually help me get funded?
A. We can read your proposal, or part of your proposal, and tell you what reviewers are likely to think, where the weaknesses are and how to address them. We won't try to change your science, but we can help you present it in the strongest, most effective way possible. For example:

  • Are your aims effective or ineffective (e.g, dependent)?
  • Do you have enough publications and/or preliminary data ?
  • Do you have the necessary collaborations?
  • Is the proposal organized/presented in the most effective way?
We also edit for grammar, English and general writing, and we have the scientific expertise needed to revise the science writing to be significantly more clear and concise. Our team members are excellent scientific writers with significant grantsmanship expertise, and can make a profound difference in the effectiveness of your proposal.

We also know tricks and tips for making your proposal easier on a reviewer's eyes, which always helps when someone has to read dozens of proposals in a day.

Q. What if I miss the suggested timeline? Will you still work with me if I don't provide anything until say, 1 or 2 weeks before the deadline?
A. Yes, we can still work with you. We are more than happy to help no matter when you get us your drafts. However, the time we will have available to help you will be dictated by how many grants are already ahead of you on our board. We will do as much as we can, but it is possible if you wait until 2 weeks before the deadline that we will only have time to do basic editing for grammar and formatting. If you wait until 1 week before the deadline, then we will do what we can, but we only will be able to guarantee editing to ensure compliance with the solicitation, rather than grantsmanship.

Q. Does my draft need to be "near final" when I give it to you?
A. NO! In fact, we actually like rough drafts.

Q. What if I don't like the changes you made, or you simply don't understand my science?
A. We do everything with track changes so you can see what we've done and accept/reject the changes as you like. We save all our drafts by date/team member, so your original will never disappear. We work in close contact with you to make your proposal more effective and highly competitive. If we are struggling to understand the science, then a reviewer likely will too. We will meet with you so that you can help us understand your science better and to figure out how best to edit the proposal for improved clarity.

Q. Is my proposed research too ambitious? Not ambitious enough?
A. The Chalk Talks and Research Concepts meetings are the best place for you to get this kind of feedback. As a general rule of thumb, one Specific Aim for an R01 should be close to what one graduate student can complete in 4 years (or a post-doc in 2).

Q. Can you help with the budget or budget justification: PI effort? Amount allocated for travel, supplies, etc?
A. Yes!! This is one of the areas in which our significant experience can really benefit you. We can help work with you and your Pre-Award staff to develop a budget and justification that will not only help your proposal get funded but also significantly reduce the risk of getting your budget slashed once it is funded.

Q. Can you help me find funding opportunities suited to my research?
A. Absolutely! We have experience with many funding agencies besides NIH and can help you find new funding opportunities.