CGSA Workshop Reflections 2017

Happy New Year!

As we begin a new semester, I wanted to reflect on the successful series of workshops put on by the CGSA in Fall 2017 and use it to propel us into the new term.  The CGSA is currently soliciting ideas for Spring workshops – technical or professional development – so please reach out to us!

In September, we held two Phylodynamics Chats with Dr. Maciek Boni and one ‘Figure Troubleshooting’ workshop with Dr. Amalie McKee, summarized in our previous post here.  The second phylodynamics chat covered the concepts of a molecular clock and delved into equations for how to calculate mutation rate and what sampling schemes would be required to do so.  These hand calculations were related back to the calculations that the software BEAST uses.   Maciek also delved into an introductory explanation of likelihood and how it related to BEAST calculations of the maximum likelihood estimate of the molecular clock.


Photo Credit: Catherine Herzog

In October, we launched our CGSA Grant Writing Workshop Series with 3 workshops, all of which were well attended and well reviewed by grads and postdocs (and even faculty!). The CGSA intends this series to serve as professional development training for grad students and post-docs to prepare us for a successful future in writing our own grants.  Each 1 hour session is on a different topic and has 1-2 presenters.  In the first workshop, Dr. Lorraine Mulfinger, Director of the Strategic Interdisciplinary Research Office (SIRO), provided an overview of the various ways to find funding across multiple agencies.  She provided  worksheets with examples of funding solicitations so attendees could learn to determine which funding opportunities fit their own research interests and to practice identifying differences among the agency solicitations and jargon.  Dr. Mulfinger also provided a structure and activity on how to plan a project timeline and break a proposal into reasonable component tasks.


Photo Credit: Catherine Herzog

The second workshop in the CGSA Grant Writing Workshop Series focused on EEID grants.  Dr. Peter Hudson and Dr. Kurt Vandegrift presented on grants (tortoises, ticks) they had shared with the attendees ahead of time for advance reading.  Broadly the 5 year EEID grants are about transmission, models, and generalizability.  The speakers discussed their experiences creating proposals, applying to EEID funding, and serving on EEID panels (both Peter and attendee Dr. David Hughes have served on the panel several times).  Some highlights of the discussion included:

  • Nothing is trivial in this grant application – focus on cutting edge, exciting research & clarity
    • Your first paragraph is REALLY IMPORTANT – hit it hard and hone it well
    • Your background is also very important – in fact, Peter often spends the most time on this!
    • ID big issues with bold or italics – often at end of paragraphs
    • Detail your methods well in your grants – you also must convince yourself of your methods!  Always do power analysis
    • Your team is important – if you can, publish together with your proposal team ahead of the grant
    • Make sure to budget for broader impacts – local teacher involvement in your research study area is a good approach – there is someone on the review committee solely looking at broader impacts
    • Speaking of budgets – use PSU’s ebuy and your current spending to ballpark estimate for your budget (people cost the most)
  • Do not submit a grant if you don’t think it is a winner
  • Can be a 5-6 month process (starting in summer with a draft before fall term) from starting writing to submitting the polished proposal
  • The Eberly College of Science Grants office will assist with many of the non-scientific aspects of the application, so reach out to them and be kind!  They are very helpful and detail oriented
  • EEID Panel chair may read 200-500 grants, make yours easy to read and stand out
  • You should apply to many sources for funding
  • Many times EEID panels do not fund really great grants, but it is recommended to submit again the following year…  In the case of EEID funding, it is worth your time to try submitting again
    • When resubmitting, you do not get extra space to provide your response to the reviewer so you may have to cut parts of your grant to fit your response
    • Look at abstracts of funded proposals on the EEID website to get a sense for what is fun
    • You can volunteer to be on a grant review panel



Photo Credit: Catherine Herzog

Also in November, Ellen Brandell helped organize a hands-on, technical skills workshop: Spatial Epidemiology with Dr. W. David Walter.  Attendees stepped through various pieces of code regarding wildlife data and handling various spatial objects in R including points, polygons, and raster data and how to project the data in appropriate coordinate systems.  Attendees also obtained code and self-learning resources for further study, including his Manual of Applied Spatial Ecology, available here.


Photo Credit: Catherine Herzog

Closing out the term, in December CGSA welcomed Pallavi Eswara, Director of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, for a presentation entitled ‘Funding Your Postdoc’.  Pallavi gave a great overview of the types of funding available, where to find it, when to apply, and why one might want to pursue each funding source.  She also highlighted the variety of post-doc experiences available including academia, national labs, and industry.  Importantly, she told attendees how the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs can help post-docs in finding and preparing applications for funding.  Pallavi pointed out that it is important to choose your letters of support carefully, take time to develop your research ideas, and identify research mentors early.  For post-doc funding, who your mentor is and what kind of funding they have already obtained may have a significant impact on your application.

The CGSA was happy to host the above workshops for the CIDD community in Fall 2017 and we look forward to hosting more in the near future.  The CGSA Grant Writing Workshop Series will continue in the Spring 2018 term, with potential sessions on NIH, NSF, USDA, and foundation grants.  The CGSA is taking suggestions for other professional development and technical skills workshops.  Information on upcoming workshops will be shared in the CIDD Weekly Digest emails.


About catherineherzog

Epidemiologist. Disease ecologist. Ballroom dancer. World Traveler. Currently studying transmission dynamics of peste des petits ruminants (PPR), a morbillivirus, affecting sheep, goats, and cattle in Northern Tanzanian in collaboration with the Huck Institute of the Life Sciences and the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology on a Bill and Melinda Gates funded project: "Program for Enhancing the Health and Productivity of Livestock."
This entry was posted in News. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to CGSA Workshop Reflections 2017

  1. Pingback: CGSA Workshop Reflections 2017 – psuphdtz

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s