Advance at UNM panel discussion: NSF CAREER proposal workshop

Advance at UNM and the Faculty Research Development Office on March 21 hosted a panel discussion on writing an NSF CAREER proposal.

Nearly 50 people including junior STEM faculty from 16 departments on campus attended to learn more about the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program from a series of UNM faculty panelists who had themselves recently received the prestigious award.

Panelists Sang Eon Han and Brandon Schmandt discussed their experiences with the process of applying for and receiving their CAREER awards, each of them calling particular attention to their broader impacts efforts, the element of luck when it comes to being funded, and the importance of continuing your research throughout the process. Panelists Terefe Habteyes, Lydia Tapia, and Jose Cerrato discussed their experiences applying to the CAREER solicitation more than once.

Each panelist said they made changes e along the way to finally reach their successful award. A common thread of the panel was advice to seek out peers and external experts in the field. They also suggested having non-expert reviewers read through proposals in the last few weeks before submitting.

Director of the Faculty Research Development Office (FRDO) Mary Jo Daniel directed a CAREER mock review panel consisting of former CAREER awardees UNM Vice President for Research Gabriel Lopez, Interim Director of the Center for High Technology Materials (CHTM) Arash Mafi, and former Presidential Management STEM Fellow at the NSF Division of Earth Sciences and NASA Earth Science Division and now Associate Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning Amy Chen.  

The panelists called attention to the importance of writing a proposal that is suitable for both the expert panelists who scrutinize every detail as well as  the rushed panelists who skim through proposals while in transit to the panel discussion.

The workshop encouraged substantive discussion among the audience and panelists. Take away advice included:

preliminary data is a plus if not essential depending on your NSF organization

start preparing your proposal early

get others to read through your proposal before submission including expert and non-expert reviewers,

be creative and innovative, but still realistic when it comes to your broader impacts,

talk to your department early (about six months before the submission deadline) to ensure their support of your innovation which will be required through the departmental support letter from the chair.

Before leaving the workshop, the audience was encouraged to contact their NSF program officer to discuss their proposed research and education plan to better understand how it could best fit with the goals of sponsor. They also were urged to find a mentor on or off campus with CAREER experience, to start planning their realistic submission timeline, and to contact their college’s faculty research support officer when they were ready to begin the submission process.

See the slides presented at the event below.