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Chasing CAREER Aspirations: ORE’s Proposal Writing Institute

Each spring, a select cohort of faculty learn more about and support each other as they pursue the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) through the Office of Research and Engagement’s Proposal Writing Institute.

Diana Moyer, research development manager, says that this year’s format will be slightly different and geared to getting an early start in the process. The PWI will include one-on-one consultations, discussions with department heads, and creating a concept paper. This new format is based on a similar program that Harry Richards, research development coordinator for the Tickle College of Engineering, teaches.

The PWI consists of a series of five sessions, scheduled every two weeks from April to June. In addition to learning from other UT faculty who have received CAREER awards, the sessions will break down the significant proposal components like the research plan, education plan, and broader impacts statement.

The concept paper is a new element of ORE’s program and is designed to help assistant professors capture ideas in the NSF format and prepare to have a conversation with a program officer. Drafting a concept paper helps faculty develop strong and compelling statements of purpose, problem, innovation, and intellectual merit.

In addition to connecting with peers and engaging with ORE’s research development staff, faculty benefit from the accountability built into the program. Participants set goals at each session and report back on their progress at subsequent sessions. The end product is a competitive proposal, ready for the July 27 deadline.

The PWI has a history of helping UT faculty successfully fund their research, especially for the CAREER program. Moyers recently assisted Maitreyi Das in Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology and Nicholas Wierschem in Civil and Environmental Engineering, who received their CAREER awards in 2019.

An NSF CAREER award provides up to $500,000 over five years to untenured assistant professors.

Moyer notes that, while the CAREER program is offered throughout the NSF, each directorate is different, with minimum budgets ranging from $400,000 to $500,000.

“The review process also differs by program,” she says. “It’s always important to talk to the program officer and your research administrator.”

Moyer and Richards have identified and reached out to nearly 200 eligible faculty at UT. Moyer invites all who are eligible to contact her or Richards for more information—even if they don’t participate in the PWI—so they can take advantage of best practices and existing knowledge.

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CONTACT

Diana Moyer (865-974-590, dmoyer@utk.edu) in the Office of Research and Engagement

Harry Richards (865-974-6312, harry@utk.edu) in the Tickle College of Engineering.