I mentioned in a recent post that part of my job is going to involve specialising in something that I’d previously listed as a long-term career goal. As you’ve probably already guessed from this post’s title, I’m now ready (with permission from above!) to not only tell you what I’m up to, but also to ask for your crowdsourcing help with it!
In my last position, I always found helping trainees with their studentship and fellowship applications to be one of the most rewarding parts of the job. As I’ve mentioned, I always felt the most useful when helping the people who have the least experience in preparing grant applications, and less useful when helping the experienced senior PIs. And that’s what I get to specialise in – my new department has been looking for someone to act as a centralised point person to help trainees identify, apply for, and manage their own awards. I am soooooooo excited!
I really just started thinking seriously about this initiative on Monday, having spent almost all my time so far getting up to speed on the main project I’m managing and learning new processes, software, and science. Before I can really start talking to the trainees about what they need, I have some admin tasks to complete: I need to convert the current tracking system from a partially paper to a fully electronic format; help compile an updated list of trainees and their home institutions/departments*; populate the trainee section of the internal website with lists of upcoming awards, forms, processes, contact information, writing courses, timelines for getting PI CVs and internal signatures, and other important information; update the trainee-specific application cover sheet; contact the relevant people in three different offices of research services*; etc.
Once I’m done with all that I’m going to put together a focus group consisting of current trainees who’ve already submitted at least one application, to find out what information and support from PIs and other staff they found useful and – more importantly – what information and support they didn’t get that, with hindsight, could have helped them. The plan is to identify best practices from different labs that can be combined into improved centralised resources and processes, for which I will be responsible (the PIs will obviously still be responsible for mentoring their own trainees in proposal writing; the idea is to help both the trainees and the PIs with the other aspects of the process).
Before convening the focus group, I’d love to hear from my readers about their own experiences. I’ll use the examples you give (as well as my own experiences) as prompts if the trainees I talk to have a hard time defining specifics, and will also put them into the pool of examples from which to identify current best practices (although local needs and preferences will be given priority).
TRAINEES (current and former): what information and support are/were you given when applying for studentships, fellowships, and other awards? Which did you find the most useful, and which do you wish you’d had that weren’t offered?
PIs: what information and support do you offer your own trainees when they apply for studentships, fellowships, and other awards? What feedback have you had from your trainees, and how did your process evolve?
Any other nuggets of information you wish to provide would be most welcome!
Thanks in advance
*We’re a non-university research institution, but are affiliated to two local universities; the PIs are all alsoprofessors at one of those institutions, in various departments, and their students are enrolled in their supervisor’s university department.