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CIFAR Azrieli
Global Scholars

Global Scholars - Ajith Parameswaran

Overview

Accelerating the careers of emerging research leaders worldwide

The CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars program provides funding and support to help Scholars build their network and develop essential skills to become the next generation of research leaders. Researchers within the first five years of a full-time academic position from anywhere in the world are eligible to apply.

CIFAR invites exceptional early career researchers to participate in CIFAR's network of nearly 400 researchers from over 16 countries, who together are pursuing answers to some of the most complex challenges facing the world today. The CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars program provides funding, skills training, mentorship, and opportunities to collaborate with outstanding colleagues from diverse disciplines, positioning scholars as research leaders and agents of change.

CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars receive:

  •   $100,000 CAD in unrestricted research support
  •   A two-year term in a CIFAR research program, a global network of top-tier research leaders. Learn what it's like to be a CIFAR Fellow
  •   Opportunities to network, collaborate and form a community with colleagues from diverse disciplines
  •   Mentorship from a senior researcher within a CIFAR research program
  •   Specialized leadership and communication skills training, and support to put their skills into action

Submit an application now 

Eligibility

Applicants can be from anywhere in the world, must hold a PhD (or equivalent) and be within the first five years of a full-time academic position. Scholars’ research interests must be aligned with the themes of an eligible CIFAR research program. See the detailed program overview for full eligibility requirements.

NOTE: Postdoctoral fellows are not eligible to apply.

How to apply

All applications are submitted through an online application portal and must include two letters of reference.  See detailed overview of the CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars program for more information. 

Submit an application now 

The 2019 Call for Applications opens on December 3, 2018. The deadline for applications is February 5, 2019. 

Please contact us with any questions.


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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does my research need to be aligned with a CIFAR research program?

Yes, an applicant must apply to participate in one of the five eligible programs accepting Global Scholars in 2019. Eligible programs are listed under Question 2 below. CIFAR’s research programs are described in some depth at: cifar.ca/research. Profiles of participating Fellows and Advisors are also provided with each program description. Applicants are encouraged to make the case for how their research could contribute to a CIFAR research program, and also how their research could benefit from interaction and collaboration with other disciplines represented in the program. CIFAR strongly encourages applicants with diverse backgrounds and perspectives not presently represented in our programs.

2. Which CIFAR research programs are eligible to receive CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar applications?

In 2019, the eligible programs are:


3. What is a CIFAR research program?

CIFAR’s global research programs connect many of the world’s best minds – across borders and between disciplines – to shape new perspectives and spark ground-breaking ideas. By helping innovative pioneers push further, and inspiring young research leaders to join them, CIFAR’s programs are able to expand the boundaries of understanding in ways that would otherwise not be possible.

A central feature of each CIFAR research program is the sustained interaction among its fellows. Each program assembles a unique combination of researchers with different disciplinary perspectives and research approaches to collectively tackle a complex challenge facing the world. Programs hold one to three meetings per year over a five-year, renewable period. Sustained interactions create a “safe” environment that becomes highly conducive to sharing preliminary ideas and sparking innovative new collaborations. Fellows are inspired to think creatively, disruptively and without limitations.

4. Are postdoctoral fellows (or equivalent) eligible for this program?

No. Postdoctoral fellows are not eligible for this program. CIFAR requires applicants to be employed at an institution of higher education or research and be within the first five years of a full-time academic position, including responsibility for both conducting an independent research program and supervising/teaching graduate or postdoctoral trainees. Typically, applicants will be an Assistant Professor (or the equivalent in other academic systems). See the detailed program overview for full eligibility requirements. If you have questions, please contact global.scholars@cifar.ca.

5. If I do not have the title of Assistant Professor, would I be eligible?

CIFAR recognizes that different academic systems around the world assign different titles to junior faculty positions. We welcome junior faculty from all over the world to apply. Applicants requiring assistance to determine their eligibility may contact us by email: global.scholars@cifar.ca.

6. If I was appointed to a full-time faculty position more than five years ago, but I spent a portion of time away on a parental/medical leave, would I be eligible to apply?

Eligible applicants should be appointed to their first full-time faculty position no earlier than May 1, 2014. Applicants who were appointed earlier than May 1, 2014, but who have taken parental leave during this time, will be expected to provide an explanation in their application form as to why they should still be considered for the program. CIFAR reserves the right to make the final determination of eligibility.

7. If I am an early career researcher based in a country outside of Canada, would I be eligible?

CIFAR is seeking to develop a diverse and global cohort. There are no geographical restrictions on who may apply to this program.

8. Do I need to re-locate from my current institute to be part of this program?

CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars remain at their home institution and country throughout their two-year term. The research funding associated with the award is administered through the recipient’s institutional department.

9. If I am unable to attend the in-person interview on June 26-27, 2019 in Toronto due to a prior commitment, should I apply?

The interview consists of a series of individual and interactive group activities among invited candidates, taking place over a day and a half. In-person participation is required to ensure a fair and complete evaluation. Applicants unable to attend will not be considered.

10. How will CIFAR support me as a CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar?

CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars receive:

  •   $100,000 CAD in unrestricted research support
  •   A two-year term in a CIFAR research program, a global network of top-tier research leaders
  •   Opportunities to network and collaborate with like-minded colleagues from diverse disciplines
  •   Mentorship from a senior researcher within a CIFAR research program
  •   Specialized leadership and communications skills training, and support to put skills into action
  •   Annual meetings to network, collaborate and form a community with other Global Scholars

11. What is expected of a CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar?

During the two-year term of their award, Global Scholars are expected to:

  •   Attend CIFAR research program meetings (usually 2-3 per year, depending on the program) in Canada and various locations around the world. While at meetings and where appropriate, interact and collaborate with fellow program members on research areas of common interest to the program.
  •   Attend annual CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar meetings (usually in held in early May). CIFAR expects that each scholar will attend two annual meetings.
  •   Report on successes and activities annually, and where possible and appropriate, interact with CIFAR stakeholders and funders to share their experience.
  •   Acknowledge CIFAR as a funder in research publications and presentations supported by the program’s funding, use ‘CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar’ in their professional signature, and indicate CIFAR as an affiliation.

12. How can I use the $100,000 CAD in research support?

The research support aims to enhance a scholar’s capacity to conduct research. CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars are provided these funds over the two years of their term. Possible uses include, but are not limited to: research projects, teaching release, trainee support, conference travel, etc. CIFAR does not support indirect costs.

13. What is the purpose of the annual meeting of Global Scholars?

CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars meet annually for activities focused on strengthening core leadership and communication skills. The annual meeting aims to build a community of early career researchers and supports peer-to-peer sharing and collaboration. Over three days, scholars engage in interactive skill-building workshops led by expert facilitators and targeted to early career researchers. Invited guests provide opportunities for cross-sector engagement, mentorship and enhanced learning. Group activities, excursions and session times provide opportunities to explore potential collaborations and develop a peer group.

14. How are applicants selected?

CIFAR is strongly committed to diversity within its community and through the application review and selection process, described below:

  •   Basic Eligibility: CIFAR ensures all applications meet basic eligibility requirements.
  •   Application Review: A CIFAR research program sub-committee, comprised of CIFAR fellows and/or advisors, is assembled for each eligible program. The committee reviews and assesses the applicant based on three criteria: i) research excellence, ii) potential to contribute to a program by adding new and diverse perspectives and approaches that build on or complement existing membership, and iii) leadership potential both within and outside of academia. Each program selection committee shortlists up to 5 candidates per program.
  •   Final In-person Selection: CIFAR invites shortlisted candidates to attend a two-day Selection Meeting in Toronto, Canada on June 26-27, 2019. This meeting consists of a series of individual and interactive group activities. Assessments will be conducted by a diverse committee of researchers from academia and a mix of leaders with expertise in other areas such as policy, communications and leadership. The Selection Committee evaluates and assesses candidates’ capacity, potential and desire to actively engage with peers across a full spectrum of disciplines and their potential to have a broader impact.

15. What has been the success rate of applicants?

This year, each eligible CIFAR research program will be accepting 2 or 3 new CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars. Presently, the CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars program is conducting its fourth annual call for applications.

  •   In 2016, we received 173 eligible applications from 27 countries for 9 research programs. Thirty-five candidates were invited to attend in-person interviews in Toronto, and a total of 18 Global Scholars were selected.
  •   In 2017, we received 445 eligible applications from 48 countries for 11 research programs. Thirty-three shortlisted candidates attended the interview meeting, of whom 15 were selected to become Global Scholars.
  •   In 2018, we received 402 eligible applications from 55 countries for 5 research programs. Twenty shortlisted candidates attended the interview meeting, of whom 12 were selected to become Global Scholars.

CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars

  • Adrian Liu

    Adrian Liu

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2018
    • McGill University
    • Canada
  • HMB_AlexanderKwarteng

    Alexander Kwarteng

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2017
    • Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology
    • Ghana
  • BMC_AlonaFyshe

    Alona Fyshe

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2016
    • University of Alberta
    • Canada
  • Ami Citri

    Ami Citri

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2016
    • The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
    • Israel
  • Brian Dias

    Brian Dias

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2017
    • Emory University
    • United States
  • HMB_CorinneMauriceScholar

    Corinne Maurice

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2016
    • McGill University
    • Canada
  • BMC_CraigChapman

    Craig Chapman

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2016
    • University of Alberta
    • Canada
  • GEU_DarylHaggard

    Daryl Haggard

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2017
    • McGill University
    • Canada
  • Douglas Fowler

    Douglas Fowler

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2017
    • University of Washington
    • United States
  • BSE_GabrielaSchlauCohen

    Gabriela Schlau-Cohen

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2016
    • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    • United States
  • Gerhard Kirchmair

    Gerhard Kirchmair

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2016
    • University of Innsbruck
    • Austria
  • Giulio Chiribella

    Giulio Chiribella

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2016
    • University of Oxford
    • United Kingdom
  • LMB_GrahamTaylor

    Graham Taylor

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2016
    • University of Guelph
    • Vector Institute
    • Canada
  • Hannah Carter

    Hannah Carter

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2017
    • University of California San Diego
    • United States
  • Hyun Youk

    Hyun Youk

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2018
    • Delft University of Technology
    • The Netherlands
  • BSE_JeffreyWarren

    Jeffrey J. Warren

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2016
    • Simon Fraser University
    • Canada
  • Jenny Yang

    Jenny Yang

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2018
    • University of California Irvine
    • United States
  • Jessica Metcalf

    Jessica L. Metcalf

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2018
    • Colorado State University
    • United States
  • LMB_JoelZylberberg

    Joel Zylberberg

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2016
    • University of Colorado Denver
    • United States
  • QM_JudyCha

    Judy Cha

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2017
    • Yale University
    • United States
  • QM_KateRoss

    Kate A. Ross

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2016
    • Colorado State University
    • United States
  • BMC_KatherineMcAuliffe

    Katherine McAuliffe

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2017
    • Boston College
    • United States
  • HMB_KatherineAmato

    Katherine R. Amato

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2016
    • Northwestern University
    • United States
  • Khanh Huy Bui

    Khanh Huy Bui

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2017
    • McGill University
    • Canada
  • Kieran O'Donnell

    Kieran O'Donnell

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2016
    • McGill University
    • Canada
  • SS_KristiKenyon

    Kristi Kenyon

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2017
    • University of Winnipeg
    • Canada
  • SS_KristinLaurin

    Kristin Laurin

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2017
    • University of British Columbia
    • Canada
  • LMB_KyunghyunCho

    Kyunghyun Cho

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2017
    • New York University
    • United States
  • Lucina Q. Uddin

    Lucina Q. Uddin

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2018
    • University of Miami
    • United States
  • QM_LuyiYang

    Luyi Yang

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2016
    • University of Toronto
    • Canada
  • Maria Drout

    Maria R. Drout

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2018
    • University of Toronto
    • Canada
  • Mikko Taipale

    Mikko Taipale

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2016
    • University of Toronto
    • Canada
  • NaamaGevaZatorsky_webbio

    Naama Geva-Zatorsky

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2018
    • Technion
    • Israel
  • IOG_NatalieBau

    Natalie Bau

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2016
    • University of California Los Angeles
    • Canada
  • BSE_NathanielGabor

    Nathaniel Gabor

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2017
    • University of California Riverside
    • United States
  • QIS_NirBarGill

    Nir Bar-Gill

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2016
    • The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
    • Israel
  • Ajith Parameswaran

    Parameswaran Ajith

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2017
    • International Centre for Theoretical Physics
    • India
  • Prineha Narang

    Prineha Narang

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2018
    • Harvard University
    • United States
  • IOG_RaulSanchezdelaSierra

    Raul Sanchez de la Sierra

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2016
    • University of California Berkeley
    • United States
  • IOG_SaraLowes

    Sara Lowes

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2017
    • Bocconi University
    • Italy
  • Sarah Burke-Spolaor

    Sarah Burke-Spolaor

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2018
    • West Virginia University
    • United States
  • QIS_ThomasVidick

    Thomas Vidick

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2017
    • California Institute of Technology
    • United States
  • Yaniv Ziv

    Yaniv Ziv

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2018
    • Weizmann Institute of Science
    • Israel
  • Yogi Surendranath

    Yogesh Surendranath

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2018
    • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    • United States
  • Yue Wa

    Yue Wan

    • CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar 2018
    • Genome Institute of Singapore
    • Singapore
  • News about CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars

    • News
    • Humans & the Microbiome

    Q&A with Margaret McFall-Ngai

    by Katherine Amato
    Jul 31 / 18

    This Q&A is part of CIFAR’s series on building a research lab.

    Katherine Amato is a CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar in CIFAR’s Humans & the Microbiome program, Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Northwestern university and Associate Editor of Microbiome. Margaret McFall-Ngai is an Advisory Committee Chair for CIFAR’s Humans & the Microbiome program, a Professor and Director of Pacific Bioscience Research Center, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii at Manoa.

    Katherine Amato (KA): Could you start by telling me about your first faculty position and what it was like?

    Margaret McFall-Ngai (MMN): I had gone to UCLA as a graduate student – I'm sort of a Southern California girl – and then I did a postdoc in Jules Stein Eye Institute in protein biochemistry-biophysics, and then went back down to Scripps Oceanography and did a second postdoc with George Somero on protein chemistry enzymology. All the way along I’d been interviewing for jobs, and before that I’d been offered a couple of jobs.

    And then Ned (Edward Ruby) and I got together. At the end of the day, we wanted to get two positions together. That year we had three job offers. One of them was where he was at the University of Southern California. Southern California was like home to me … but, you might imagine, the problem was Ned was already there. And so I had to go into my first faculty position as a trailing spouse type-thing. I was not terribly excited about this, but it was the best job offer.

    It was 1989, and I was the first woman hired into a tenure-track position in the history of the marine section at USC.

    HMB_MargaretMcFallNgai
    Human & the Microbiome program Advisory Commitee Chair, Margaret McFall-Ngai

    KA: Wow.

    MMN: I was having all sorts of problems coming in under the shadow of being Ned’s partner. It made me crazy because I’d worked really hard on my career to be as close to top of the game as I possibly could.

    KA: What was the process of becoming a tenured professor like?

    MMN: I was researching something completely different then. I was looking at spectral tuning in rhodopsin, using natural experiments that animals had done with spectral tuning in rhodopsin. Very quickly, within four years, I had an NIH and NSF and an ONR grant.

    At the same time I was hired, there were four or five other faculty, junior faculty hired. So the Chair Maria Pellegrini came down and said to me, “You know what? You have to come up for tenure early because you have all these things happening, and I don’t want all of you coming up at the same time.” And so I went up for tenure early and I got tenure. And it was great.

    KA: Was getting a tenure position common among your peers?

    MMN: About four years into my faculty position, I went to a [Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology] meeting and my UCLA group all got together. We did really well as a cohort, there were about 25 of us who were in faculty positions at that point -- 24 men and me.

    The thing that was sad was we had graduated nearly 50/50. I was like, “Wait a minute. Where is everybody?” And it was just for a whole set of sociological reasons. At that point, we couldn’t have the kind of a life that most women want to have.

    So that was my beginning.

    HMB_KatherineAmato
    CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar, Katherine Amato

    KA: It really wasn’t that long ago, but it seems like a lot of the issues you might think were starting to be addressed then were not at all.

    MMN: Things have changed a lot, but I’ve always felt that if you just tell them what you need and what you want and don’t bargain, you’ll get what you need and want.

    KA: How did you move to Hawaii?

    MMN: The Squid-Vibrio system was working so Ned and I wanted to move to Hawaii. There was a really great cell, molecular, and development lab called Kewalo Marine Laboratory where they used marine animals to ask basic biological and biomedical questions. It was directed by Mike Hadfield and I walked up to him at a meeting and I said, “Do you have any job openings at Kewalo Marine Lab, by the way?” And it just happened someone was being offered a chair at Harvard. And so I popped into that position, and Ned – there was a guy who was going to open a lab at Berkeley. And so all the stars lined up and we were able to move over here, and I was the first tenure-track woman in Kewalo Lab. 

    KA: What do you think was maybe the best advice you received?

    MMN: The best advice that I got was when I was a graduate student. The most important thing was to begin to think about who you are and how you fit in. You can be at the cutting edge by being one of two things, in my opinion: You can be a pioneer or you can be a person who jumps onto a field or an area in which your elbows are really big.

    I feel that women are very, very good pioneers and very, very good at carving out things and do well on the frontier. When I think of you, I think of you as being the country’s primate microbiome person, I think of you as being a pioneer in that area and the idea that you are carving out a niche for yourself that is unique and where you’ll be at the top of the heap.

    My PhD was in functional morphology and comparative physiology, and then I went into protein biochemistry and biophysics. And so what I did was I combined fields and I asked the question, “How do animals live in in the environment in which they live?” and I was asking how they do that biochemically.

    At that point there were very few people who did that, and George Somero was the father of that field, and he was my second postdoc advisor. I’d done my first postdoc with Joe Horwitz at Jules Stein Eye Institute, UCLA, where I learned the basics of protein biochemisty and biophysics. It was really great for me because what it did was it gave me the broad understanding of animal evolution, ecology, physiology; and then I had some really deep skills in biochemistry.

    KA: What do you think is the most valuable thing you’ve learned about building a research program and a lab? You’ve had a chance to do it a couple times, change things and see how that works as well.

    MMN: I would say that one of the principal things is don’t take your position until your lab is completely remodeled. I saw this happen to a lot of my colleagues. The worst one was a guy came in and they didn’t have his lab ready for three years.

    KA: Oh my god.

    MMN: You want to make sure that your lab is ready for you to hit the ground running when you get there.

    KA: What are some of the best ways to recruit good students?

    MMN: I am extremely straightforward and honest with them. I tell them that I'm an academic and if they’re undecided about the direction they want to go, I may not be the lab for them. If they’re thinking about industry, or teaching – I'm probably not the best lab to be in because I'm a really hard-driver and I tell them that I will not be happy with their dissertation unless they have three first author publications. And so they know walking in the door what my lab is going to be like.

    Students have to have a certain GPA or GRE scores in order to make it into the graduate program; but I have not found any correlation between scores and success in the lab at all. In fact, I find that it gives me pause if the person has a 4.0 and perfect scores on their GREs because that means to me that they’re great book learners, and that worries me. And so I always look for people who love to be in the lab.

    KA: How often do you go out to the field to collect?

    MMN: I'm now in Hawaii but when we were in Wisconsin, we went three to four times a year. And when we were at USC, we would come to Hawaii three to four times a year.

    KA: Is there anything special there in terms of skillset or personality that you have to take into account for people working in your lab group?

    MMN: There are some people who really enjoy being in the field, and there are some people who really want to be in the lab, so there’s that tension there.

    I think it’s not a good idea to force people to do things they don’t like to do, but it’s very important that everybody go in the field at least once – because they do need to get an appreciation for that dimension, how critical that is and how much of an effort it is.

    KA: How big is your lab on average?

    MMN: One of the things that you will find is that for you there’s an optimal size.

    In other words, you want to keep a lab size that you can manage. Some people do really well having a group of postdocs that help the graduate students, and then they don’t have so much to do. Because each person in my lab has a very different project, everybody has something really different – it’s not so easy for that sort of dynamic. I find that it’s more effective for me to have a smaller lab.

    I’ve found for me, when I was in the lab all the time, six to eight people; and now that I have an administrative position, I have four people in my lab – two postdocs and two graduate students.


    ...going in and saying, 'You should give money to a squid,' is a bit of an art.

    KA: What’s your approach in the lab?

    MMN: I have to say that all in all my students and postdocs are very independent. And I do that kind of purposely. They each have their own, very different projects. And I think it’s because of the way I was raised in that I was responsible for being the expert in that area. So, to give you an example, at the moment I have a postdoc working on epigenetics. And we’re one of the only groups, because of the nature of our symbiosis, i.e., being a binary one and one in which you can culture the bacteria, we can study epigenetics in the bacteria and know exactly who’s influencing or what’s influencing these bacteria.

    KA: That’s cool.

    MMN: The squid-vibrio system is so broad that they can take something with them, and Ned and I won't be competing with them. So this June we had the 30th anniversary of the squid-vibrio system. It was a big party at Scripps Oceanography in La Jolla, where it all began. And there are now 15 or 16 labs that work on different aspects of it. We have this annual meeting so then everybody knows what everybody’s doing and nobody steps on anybody’s toes because it’s not necessarily. You can do ecology, you can do evolution, you can do biochemistry, you can do whatever.

    KA: Have you done a lot of industry collaboration?

    MMN: I have been approached many times to do industry collaboration, and it largely has to do with a reflecting protein that my lab discovered. I just don’t have any interest in doing that, but I’ve fostered interaction. There’s a young guy, Alon Gorodetzky at UC Irvine, who has taken the reflecting protein commercial. It’s making all sorts of products with these stable biodegradable biological molecules.

    I just love the basic science. Now, that makes it very hard thinking about grant writing and all that kind of work. Ned and I have been very lucky, and I personally have been extremely lucky because Ned is a phenomenal grant writer. He somehow knows what people want to hear and he can see the problems with a grant. I'm more about, “You know, why don’t you just give us the money? We’ll do good things with it.”

     

    You just have to fight and fight and fight and make sure you do all the right things to make it happen and not settle for anything....Obviously, I'm a fighter.

     

    KA: Yeah, right? So, what was your experience like with grant writing?

    MMN: I’ve had big grants on my own, and in collaboration with Ned and other people. You ask three really good questions – one you’ve got so much preliminary data that it’s almost done; you have a second one that’s very feasible, a very exciting question; and you have a third one that is ‘pie-in-the-sky, i.e., a bit risky, but you can show that it’s very doable.

    Ned and I have been very lucky. We’ve been NIH and/or NSF-funded almost the entire time. And let me tell you, Katherine, going in and saying, “You should give money to a squid,” is a bit of an art.

    What I think you have to do with your grant is figure out compelling questions, and what you do that’s unique and innovative that nobody else can do.

    You’re really selling a concept and you have to think about where they’re coming from and what they want to hear.

    KA: Should you aim for large grants or smaller, more accessible ones early on?

    MMN: Well, here’s my opinion. The average age of the first RO1 is 43 –

    KA: Yes, which I refuse to accept, even though that is a fact.

    MMN: That is a good attitude. It’s important that you get in the game as soon as possible. The head of the marine section when I came in to USC, not Maria Pellegrini, who was department head, would bring me grants that were specifically for women on a regular basis. One day I turned around to him and I said, “I will not go for these grants, and I’ll tell you why - because any time that I spend on going after a grant that’s specific for women, I am not in the principal arena in which I'm going to have to be competitive.”

    And so my feeling is that at first, as a beginning investigator, you will have a chance to go to both NSF and NIH with the same idea, and you should do it.

    KA: Do you have any other grant writing suggestions?

    MMN: One of the things you want to do is have somebody who you can give your grant to review. If you can find a very high-quality person in your field who would be willing to look at your grant and say what you will need to do in order to make it competitive, I would strongly recommend doing that.

    Trying to go in by yourself when you’re junior is really, really tough because of this. You can't be clairvoyant. You can't know the culture without having somebody to help you put it together.

    KA: Is there anything that we missed that you’d like to tell new faculty?

    MMN: The only thing I can say is to hold your head high, to not be timid. I have some postdocs right now – they seem a bit scared. Why are you scared? You don’t have to be scared. You know, get out there and fight like a dog. In other words, if this is your dream, you’d better fight for it. You fought very hard to get this far and there will be people who will fall away because they don’t fight hard enough. And you just have to fight and fight and fight and make sure you do all the right things to make it happen and not settle for anything.

    Don’t settle for anything, in my opinion. Obviously, I'm a fighter.

    KA: I love that about you, and I like that sentiment, so I’ll take it.

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