New Training & Development Core Workshop Offers Specialized Training on Specific Aims

By Loretta Waldman

InCHIP’s new Training and Development Core (T&D) offers training, mentorship, research team development, and support for grant writing for UConn investigators at all stages of their careers, from graduate students to tenured faculty. A three-part Specific Aims Workshop held in November and December is the most recent example of how the T&D Core supports health researchers.

“The Specific Aims section is a one-page section of a grant application where researchers establish the premise and scientific rigor of their proposed project”, explains Amy Gorin, an Associate Professor of Psychological Sciences and Associate Director and Principal Investigator at InCHIP who oversees the core.

“In one short page, you need to excite the reviewers about your ideas, your study hypotheses and the potential impact of your research; it’s critically important that this section be as compelling as possible,” she says. “The workshop offers specific tips on doing this.”

Some 45 people turned out for the first session on Nov. 14, Gorin says. Along with the purpose of the Specific Aims page, participants learned what information needs to be included. Gorin and Grace Morris, a Research Specialist at InCHIP, shared examples of the Specific Aims pages from funded grants and discussed what about them worked well and what didn’t. At the close of the session, participants ready to pursue grants were invited to draft their own aims and have them peer-reviewed at the next session.

Twenty-three participants opted to do so and returned on Dec. 5. The group was a mix of graduate students, junior faculty, post-doctoral students and faculty who have not yet received external funding. A broad range of UConn departments and entities were represented, including UConn Health, School of Pharmacy, Human Development & Family Studies, and the Institute for Brain and Cognitive Sciences. The session focused entirely on peer reviews of the drafts, with participants dividing into smaller groups based on their content area. InCHIP faculty leading the small group discussions included InCHIP Associate Director and Associate Research Professor Deborah Cornman and professors Meg Gerrard, Rick Gibbons and Blair Johnson.

The third session on Dec. 12 employed an open office-hours style format. Having had a week to mull over feedback, participants were invited to return to ask questions and work on further refining their drafts.

Training and Development (T&D) is one of five new cores introduced by InCHIP. The T&D Core offers supportive services and training that engages with researchers at every stage of the research process and every stage of their careers through a variety of means that include one-on-one meetings with InCHIP Directors and staff, mentorship programs, training workshops, collaboration events, and Grant Proposal Incubator services.

The T&D Core grew out of early versions of grantsmanship training offered by InCHIP, including a two-day workshop and, last year, a six-week course. The Specific Aims workshop was developed based on requests for more in-depth training on each section of a NIH grant application, Gorin says.

“It was a very successful event,” she said. “We received lots of positive feedback. People were asking for more training opportunities around grant writing.”

The T&D Core is offering several additional workshops this spring including one on grant budgets on Feb. 7, creating a biosketch on Feb. 14, and training in team science in early May.