You are here

Faculty Peer Exchange

A campus-wide workshop series, the Faculty Peer Exchage brings together members of the faculty eager to share their knowledge and experience in various aspects of research program development with colleagues who seek to learn from them.  Experienced Lehigh faculty members have shown an eagerness to serve as mentors, and those who are developing new projects have benefited from sharing ideas with colleagues.  We plan to cover a variety of topics of interest to members of the Lehigh faculty in all fields of study who are working to build and sustain their research programs and have questions, answers and advice for their colleagues.

Past Sessions

Tuesday, May 5
Finding Funding from the Department of Defense

This year, the agency spotlighted for the workshop was the Department of Defense (DoD).  Four Lehigh faculty members who have been successful in finding funding from DoD presented short talks around topics related to their experience with DoD:

Martin Harmer (MSE)

Jim Hwang (ECE) - presentation

Dan Frangopol (CEE)

Rick Blum (ECE) - presentation

Jim Hwang was a Program Officer at the Air Force Office of Scientific Research recently and shared his perspectives on how research proposals are solicited/reviewed at that office.  Additional handouts from the workshops are below:

Faculty Peer Exchange DOD 2015 Handout

Recent Update on DARPA Biological Technologies Office

Added on September 8, 2015:

Guide to FY2016 Research Funding at the Department of Defense (DOD)

April 23, 2014
Finding Funding from the Department of Energy

Three mentors (Lehigh Faculty with current awards from the Department of Energy, Office of Science) presented the following talks at the meeting.  A copy of Arnold Kritz's presentation is attached below.  The mentors may also be contacted via email for further information/discussion.

Arnold Kritz (Physics): Overview of the Department of Energy as a funding source for basic research: agency and program highlights including funding from the Office of Science

Israel Wachs (Chem E): Identifying funding opportunities and finding funding at DOE: the DOE proposal development process

Anand Jagota (Chem E): Sustaining long-term funding from DOE and review process for DOE proposals

Copy of Arnold Kritz's powerpoint presentation on Overview of Funding from the Office of Science at the Department of Energy

November 18, 2013
Finding Funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) :  NSF Proposal Development,  Review process for NSF proposals, Experience with different NSF programs, Role of NSF Program Directors - an Insider's view -- with faculty mentors Alan Snyder, (Vice President and Associate Provost for Research and Graduate Studies), Dominic Packer (Psychology),  Kathy Iovine(Biological Sciences), Rick Vince (MSE), and Jean Toulouse (Physics)

Notes from mentors

Dominic Packer (Psychology) – Thoughts regarding NSF funding

  1. It’s a numbers game.  Given the highly competitive funding environment, a great deal of excellent work is denied funding on any given round.  As such, you should plan to submit proposals multiple times – responding to the feedback you get – and also probably to submit multiple proposals.  Looking beyond the NSF and NIH to other agencies and foundations is also a good idea.
  2. There is a tension at the heart of a successful grant between proposing transformative research and proposing feasible research.  You have to convince NSF reviewers that your project is simultaneously both of these things, which can be a bit tricky because you often don’t know whether work with true transformational potential is actually feasible, and work that is known to be feasible often won’t be transformative.  The solution is to (a) develop a truly transformative idea (either in theory/knowledge or application) and (b) then collect and describe extensive pilot/preliminary data.  Proposals are more likely to be successful if they can provide solid evidence for as many of the underlying assumptions or key components of the proposed research as possible.  If your proposal rests on several key ideas or processes or components – provide evidence for each of them before proposing how combining them in the way that you intend to will prove transformative.  The fact that you have evidence for each key piece of the puzzle will increase confidence in the feasibility of your project.
  3.  Broader impacts are often the component of proposals that scientists are most uncomfortable with – particularly the act of translating research from the lab to the real world.  Broader impacts can take many forms, but it is helpful to recognize that as the scientist, you don’t necessarily have to be the person who does the translation.  What you do have to do (and have a good plan for) is get your work into the hands of people who know how to make the translation.  This plan can include a range of communication tools including the standards (journal articles, conferences, talks at other universities), as well as public lectures and panel discussions at promising locations, websites and blogs (your own or as a guest – e.g., at Scientific American), Twitter and other social media, creating documentaries and books, press releases, making contact with relevant policy makers and industry types, etc.

Kathy Iovine (Biological Sciences) – thoughts about NSF’s Funding profile

  1. The focus of the NSF is fundamental research and broadening access to science. Proposals with a stated focus on health will be returned.

  2. Speak with the program director before you submit - make sure you are submitting to the correct directorate and/or cluster. You may need to speak with more than one PD. Speak with the program director before re-submitting to ensure that you address concerns they may have about the proposal.

  3. The pre-review (for pre-proposals) and review process is tough. For IOS, 10 % of pre-proposals move forward for full review. Of those, about 25-30% would be funded. The proposal needs to be written for a broad scientific group. Avoid field-specific jargon that will make it hard for some to understand what you are doing or why it is significant. the proposal needs to be written in an accessible manner. Think about the broader impacts early in the process of writing.

  4. Finally, the comment from my PD Dr. Steve Klein - "When you write a proposal, you love it. When you review a proposal, you hate it." Read your proposal like a reviewer - find the gaps in logic and fill them with an explanation or (better) with preliminary data.

J. Toulouse (was program director in the Division of Materials Research-Condensed Matter Physics program in 1996-1997)

How a program director (PD) operates

The process

Around the deadline, the PD receives a very large number of proposals. These must be looked at, reviewers must be identified or panels formed. This is a critical stage at which time your chances of funding may be decided. So, contact the PD well before that time, to explain to him/her what your work is about and what you intend to accomplish. This way they will select suitable reviewers or place your proposal in an appropriate panel.For the same reason, when submitting a proposal, suggesting reviewers is very important. In addition, PDs are always looking for new reviewers so as not to overburden the same individuals all the time.

The person

PDs are funding professionals and their career within the foundation depends on the success of their program, i.e. their grantees: make them look good with your work and they will return the favor. This also means that they try to have a diverse portfolio of projects. Know what the originality of your work is and highlight it.
PDs are not specialists in your particular research area. When meeting with a PD, be concise (they usually do not have much time), only present the main lines of your work, emphasize the originality and impact it can have in general terms. Do not get lost in the details. Be ready to answer pointed questions about why this work/study is important and why you are the right person to pursue it. Simple pointed questions like these can often reveal your level of preparedness and how much thought you have put in your proposed work.
Emphasize the potential impact.
Do not give the impression you are seeking preferential treatment or trying to influence a future decision. Keep the PD informed of your work, even before you have been awarded a grant. Send them highlights (one slide). You can find models of highlights on the NSF website.

November 13, 2012
Introduction to National Institutes of Health Funding, Session 2: Webinar with Dr. Hunziker, program director, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), on Grant Writing Tips for NIH Proposals

Power Point Slides used by Dr. Hunziker of NIH at the webinar by her on Nov 13, 2012 , some useful links from Dr. Hunziker's talk are also shown below

NIH Institutes and Centers’ programmatic descriptions

Currently Supported awards at NIH:

NIH – Grants A to Z

Human and Animal Subjects:

Office of Human Research Protections:

Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare:

Budgetary Issues

NIH Peer Review and You

Identifying the best study section

Cover Letters

November 8, 2012
Introduction to National Institutes of Health Funding, Session 1:  Funding mechanisms, Proposal Composition and Review,  with faculty mentors Alan Snyder, (Vice President and Associate Provost for Research and Graduate Studies) Kathy Iovine(Biological Sciences), Lynne Cassimeris(Biological Sciences), Dimitrios Vavylonis (Physics), and Matthias Falk(Biological Sciences)

Power point slides of introductory talk by Alan Snyder including links to outside resources.  Links are also copied below.

Reviewer guidelines:

Rock Talk, an informative blog by Dr. Sally Rockey, NIH's Deputy Director for Extramural Research:

Advice on cover letters:

Office of Vice President and Associate Provost for Research and Graduate Studies • Lehigh University • 7 Asa Drive, Bethlehem, PA 18015 • (610) 758-2585