Nih F99 K00 Grant Tips Example And Personal Experience
Oct 31, 2018
NIH F99/K00 Grant Tips, Example, and Personal Experience
In 2017, I applied for and received an NIH Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Fellow Transition Award (F99/K00) from the NCI. I was a 4th year PhD student at the time. I transitioned to the K00 component approximately a year later. I’ve included my F99/K00 grant and full summary statements as an example for those currently applying.
Please note that, being a very new grant, the application requirements for the F99/K00 changes slightly every year. So READ the instructions on the official RFA for your funding year! Also be on the look-out for informational webinars from the NIH that will be more relevant for your funding year.
Enjoy and good luck!
The NIH Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Fellow Transition Award (F99/K00) is (according to the RFA) intended to encourage and retain outstanding graduate students and facilitate the transition into research postdoctoral appointments. Frankly, I don’t know if most graduate student need a lot of help transitioning into a post-doc. What students, including myself, do need, and what I think this grant provides, is experience in preparing a grant, and a stepping stone to getting the bigger grant (the K99/R00), which is then a stepping stone to getting the even bigger grant (the R01). Getting my F99/K00 definitely encouraged me to stay in academia by helping me develop a concrete plan, vision, and path moving forward in academia, especially at a time when I was also considering industry biotechs and startups.
So why apply?
- Applying to and receiving the F99/K00 convinced my PhD advisor that I was ready to graduate: “I have a grant and I’ve figured out what I want to do next. You gotta let me go!”
- Having a F99/K00 meant I was able to walk into any post-doc position because I had my own funding. Having my own funding provided me with the leverage (and, perhaps more importantly, the confidence!) to negotiate things from salary, to equipment, to travel.
- “Because getting this grant will help you get the next one.” Getting started in grant writing early, especially as a trainee, will help you develop the skills and confidence to apply to larger grants later on as an independent PI.
Should I apply for the F31 or F99/K00?
I would recommend the F99/K00 over the F31. The F99/K00 comes with the opportunity to take funding into your post-doctoral training. The F31 does not. The F99/K00 also provides career development resources such as the annual F99/K00 conference for your cohort. Because there is only 1 nominee per institution, the group of F99/K00 recipients is quite small so you get a great opportunity to network among a small group of peers with similar scientific interests.
That being said, I previously applied for and received the F31, which I terminated prematurely to be able to receive the F99/K00. In hindsight, I would have preferred to apply for the F99/K00 directly but was unaware of its existence until I had already applied to the F31. My F99 ended up overlapping substantially with my F31. However, having my F31 funded definitely made my F99/K00 application more appealing to reviewers as noted in the summary statements. The F99/K00 application is also much more competitive, as there is only one nominee per institution, compared to the F31.
If I were to do it all over again, in the 3rd year of my PhD, I would seek my institution’s nomination for the F99/K00. If I get my institution’s nomination, I would proceed with the F99/K00 application. If I didn’t get my institution’s nomination, I would apply for the F31 as the backup.
Why I am sharing my grants (and why you should too contribute to Open Grants)
Writing a grant is a daunting task. Having examples gives you a sense of what to expect. My hope is that by sharing our grants as examples, we can help reduce some of the anxieties and barriers to entry into grant writing, and ultimately help bridge the funding gap in science.
Getting your institutional nomination letter
Unlike other NIH F-series grants, the F99/K00 grant requires an institutional nomination letter. Only 1 nominee per institution is allowed. I actually learned of the F99/K00 grant through my PhD program and department’s solicitation announcement for nominees. If your institution has a search, you will need to apply (application requirements will likely be specific to department and institution) and if you are chosen, you can then move on and submit the entire F99/K00 grant with the help of grant administrators from your institution.
My F99/K00 grant as an example
The F99/K00 grant application and process is very very very similar to the F31. The only real difference (as of 2017) is in the Specific Aims, which must be organized as:
- Aim 1: The Dissertation Research Project: progress thus far
- Aim 2: The Dissertation Research Project: work to be
- Aim 3: The Postdoctoral Research Direction
Please note that this has changed in 2019 according to the RFA, which now requires only 2 aims (Specific Aim 1: The Dissertation Research Project; Specific Aim 2: The Postdoctoral Research Direction). So be sure to read the instructions for your year!
I was able to apply many of the lessons I learned from my F31 (like choosing a good co-sponsor!) in my F99 so take a look at the notes from my F31 as well. Many of the tips for the F99 are the same as for the F31. Same goes for what you can expect after you submit.
Application contents / F99 checklist (as of 2017)
- Cover letter – 1 page
- Project Summary – 30 lines
- Project Narrative – 3 sentences
- Bibliography Cited – no page limit
- Facilities & Resources – no page limit
- Equipment – no page limit
- Biosketch – 5 pages
- Sponsor’s biosketch – 5 pages (omitted for privacy)
- Institutional nomination letter – 2 pages
- Specific aims – 1 page
- Applicant’s Background and Goals for fellowship – 6 pages
- Research strategy – 6 pages
- Human subjects, if applicable –no page limit
- Vertebrate Animals, if applicable – no page limit (not applicable in my case)
- Select Agent Research, if applicable – no page limit (not applicable in my case)
- Resource sharing Plan – no page limit
- Respective Contributions – 1 page
- Selection of Sponsor and Institution – 1 page
- Responsible conduct of research – 1 page
- Sponsor and co-sponsor statements – 6 pages (omitted for privacy)
- Letters of support from collaborators, contributors and consultants, if applicable – 6 pages (omitted for privacy)
- Institutional Environment and commitment to training – 2 pages
- Letter of reference – 3-5 letters (unavailable)
Transitioning into the K00
4 months before you’re ready to graduate with your PhD, you should get in touch with your program officer to discuss transitioning into your K00. This transition will require what is essentially an entirely new grant! As such, it will require an entire new set of documents more or less identical in composition to the documents from the F99 checklist (ie. a new Facilities & Resources, Equipment, Specific Aims, Research Strategy, etc). You do not need a new set of letters of reference though (as of 2018).
Transitioning into the K00 was very challenging for me. The science was the easy part. But it took me a lot longer than I expected to get all the other supporting documents. Unlike with my previous grants, where I had amazing institutional administrative support and multiple sample grants from my PhD advisor to reference for documents like Facilities & Resources, I suddenly had no reference. Since I was moving to a new institution, I didn’t know what resources and facilities were available to me. I didn’t know what my new institution’s course offerings were on responsible conduct of research. I wasn’t there yet! My new institution was also unaware of this award (no one has had one previously). I had substantial difficulty acquiring an institutional letter of support from my new department’s dean. The K00 transition also introduced a budget and a budget justification. Unfortunately, this document will be extra-ordinarily difficult to fill out on your own without administrative support from a budget office (you simply can’t Google for your institution’s fringe benefit and indirect cost rate). Find your new institution’s departmental budget office. I basically had to write a lot of emails and knock on a lot of doors (or cold call) when my emails were ignored. If you find yourself in a similar situation, remember to assert yourself. Don’t worry. It’s ok. Just. Get. It. Done.
The review process for the K00 transition however will be very different from the F99. There are no summary statements or even submission portals (as of 2018). My grant administrative officer simply emailed my program officer the compiled K00 grant application as a PDF, and that was it. My program officer actually asked for multiple revisions (to help ensure that the transition would be approved) before she sent it off to the K00 transition committee review board for approval. And it was approved!
I received my PhD before I was able to transition into my K00. This is typical and the F99/K00 allows you to stay up to 6 months at your PhD institution with funding provided through your F99 before transitioning to a new institution with your K00. Your PhD institution may not be aware of this though! Because I had graduated, my PhD institution was technically no longer required to administer (ie. pay me) the remainder of my F99 grant. Similarly, my PhD institution was also technically no longer required to provide me with healthcare or other benefits, as I was no longer a PhD student. Yet, I couldn’t be hired on as a post-doc at my PhD institution because doing so would invalidate my transition into a K00. What a bureaucratic nightmare! Luckily, my program officer was able to schedule a call with all my PhD institution’s admins and straighten everything out so I could get paid and have healthcare! So the lesson is, when in doubt, talk to your program officer!
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