Frequently Asked Questions

Vanderbilt Faculty Research Scholars ProgramInternal career development award
Vanderbilt Faculty Research Scholars Program Frequently Asked Questions

With your chair’s permission, any faculty researcher may be considered for the Scholars Program.  Projects may be basic, translational, or clinical research. Applicants may be from VU, VUMC, or Meharry.

How much protected time for research is required?

The program requires a minimum of 75% protected time for research. The application must include a letter from the chair spelling out how this will be accomplished and what activities will make up the balance of the effort.

Can the division chief write the letter or give permission to apply?

No. An email to the program manager (rebecca.helton@vumc.org) giving the applicant permission to apply and a letter for the application packet must come from the department chair, not the division chief.

When are applicants notified?

Applications are usually reviewed in the spring and applicants are notified as soon as possible after review. Funding typically starts with the beginning of the academic year on July 1, but may begin earlier if the applicant can accept.

What if the person does not have a faculty appointment?

The Scholars Program requires that the individual be appointed to faculty. The applicant will need a letter saying they have, or have been offered, a faculty appointment to begin no later than July 1 of the application year.

Must the mentor be at Vanderbilt?

The primary mentor must be at Vanderbilt unless the applicant is Meharry faculty, in which case the primary mentor may be at Meharry.

Is it acceptable to have a mentor experienced in the methods or research area of the applicant even though the exact content area may not be the same?

In general, quality of mentorship supporting you to launch in your own area is the key. We have had scholars funded who are launching new areas in which there are no funded investigators currently working on the topic.

I am not based in a physical laboratory. Where does the $10,000 my department provides go?

For applicants not based in a laboratory, the $10,000 from the department and $15,000 from the Scholars Program supports the candidate’s research or may support tuition. It does not have to pass through a mentor. You may include in your letter ways in which the funds would be helpful.

How do I include letters of support from important collaborators?

Although you may not have more than the required number of letters, multiple people can sign one letter to indicate intent to support you in your research, including collaboration. Please include all letters as part of your single PDF application packet; do not send separately.

Where does the candidate describe career development plans?

Career development plans are described as part of the 10-page proposal.

Is there a page limit on the cover letter?

Yes, the applicant’s cover letter may not be more than two pages.

Can I have an appendix?
Appendices must follow current NIH guidelines, which are very stringent about what is allowed.

Is there a page limit on the mentor letter?
No, but typical lengths are between 1 and 4 pages. Letters signed by multiple mentors tend to be longer.

To whom should letters be addressed?

The Vanderbilt Faculty Research Scholars Selection Committee.

Is there a recommended format for the proposal?

Include everything on the list in the application instructions. Many use a format similar to the NIH K. Successful K applications are viewable in our funded grants library; email adrienne.babcock@vumc.org for access.

I have recently submitted multiple grants to institutions such as NIH and NSF. How much of those grants should I include?

You should note any extramural grant applications in your cover letter. If applicable include a copy of your most recent career development award application as the last component of your application packet; send only the abstract, aims, and body of the grant (approx. 12 pages) and do not include budget, environment, etc.

Is it acceptable to apply for an individual K or equivalent at the same time as Faculty Research Scholars?

Yes, it is encouraged. If a scholar receives an individual K, he or she will graduate to that award from internal funding.

Can these awards run concurrently with other awards?

If a scholar gets an individual K award (K08, K23, etc.) or an R01, the individual comes off intramural funding with a transition period. If someone has a smaller award, for example a professional society grant, individuals will need to check the regulations of the granting organization and be in communication with Edge for Scholars at Vanderbilt to develop a plan. In general you may not hold concurrent career development awards.

I have a competitive score on my K or K equivalent, but won’t know for sure or won’t receive the award until after the scholars deadline. Should I apply anyway?

Yes. Many of our scholars quickly move from internal funding to an individual federal award.

How is it decided who is successful?

The process is competitive. Applications are reviewed as an NIH career development grant would be. Primary and secondary reviewers discuss and score them in a panel format. The score reflects the reviewers’ judgment of the strengths of the scientific proposal, strengths of the mentor and mentoring plan, as well as the individual’s potential for a successful academic science career.

Does everyone need to do the MSCI and MPH?

Some researchers who are undertaking clinical and translational research enroll in these programs, but the need for this can be tailored according to the individual’s previous training and career. If someone already has sufficient expertise/training an individualized program can be proposed.

How many open positions are there?

The number of open positions varies each year. We have supported up to 17 scholars at a time, including five federally funded KL2 positions. Positions open when a current scholar is awarded an extramural grant, such as a K or R01.

Can I reapply?

Yes, as long as you are eligible. Candidates who have not been funded on their first application have often been funded on a subsequent application.

How can I increase my chances of success?

Follow the instructions

Have a strong, funded mentor

Have a career plan that shows you are moving forward and shows where you are going

Have clear, hypothesis-driven aims

Am I competitive for these grants?

No threshold is defined and the competition varies from year to year. Someone with no publications and no research experience is unlikely to be successful. However, having a lot of publications doesn’t ensure success. The whole application is scored: The mentor, the science, and the applicant’s potential.

What is the success rate?

This varies from year to year, and ranges from 20 to 40%.

I have additional questions that were not covered in the information provided.

Please email rebecca.helton@vumc.org, who will respond to additional questions you may have.

VFRS at a Glance
VFRS Application Process

Email rebecca.helton@vumc.org.

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