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Lessons learned from mini-ME: How reviewing grants made me appreciate writing grants

The end of my graduate career is looming near—as I finish my fourth year, my research project is on solid ground, I’ve completed my required coursework, and I plan to finish my teaching requirements next semester. After focusing so much of my time and energy on being a successful graduate student, I’m now in a position to focus on my future plans. I realized that I didn’t want to continue in bench science or academia early in my graduate career. Dr. Mohamed Noor, a professor at Duke University, is developing alternative career resources for graduate students including a mini-externship (mini-ME) program. Dr. Noor knew that I was exploring potential career paths and encouraged me to apply as an intern in the Science and Technology Development Program at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

In just two short weeks working with Dr. Deborah Thompson as an intern, I had the opportunity to witness the granting process first hand as an analyst for one of the major granting programs at the NCBiotech Center. I was also given a grant proposal from a previous year to write a project summary, look at reviewer evaluations, and make a mock funding recommendation pitch to a committee composed of Drs. Maria Rapoza, Cynthia Sollod, and Deborah Thompson. I also took advantage of being at NCBiotech to meet with many others to learn about their positions and career paths.

I truly appreciate this opportunity and my time as an intern at Center was valuable on many levels—I only wish I could have stayed longer! This internship has given me confidence that there are many exciting ways to interact with science without being in the lab. I have made many connections and gained experience that will be crucial to my transition away from academia. Working with proposals far outside of my expertise helped me recognize that it’s fun to be exposed to new areas of science. Aspects of my internship have highlighted enjoyment of science writing. I also learned more about how non-profits work and that I can really relate to their mission. My understanding of the granting process will be invaluable to proposals I will write in the remainder of my graduate career.

The most important lesson I learned as an intern at the NCBiotech Center? Don’t make your analyst or reviewers angry!

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