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Trainee-Led Pilot Projects Program

The purpose of the program is to stimulate and support trainees to take on a “back-burner” project that aims to bridge two or more research projects in the Center. Center research is focused on growth and development, but the five research projects have independent goals and approaches. Pilot projects should aim to make or strengthen connections between the five research projects. Computational and mathematical approaches are especially encouraged. Collaborating trainees should be from different research projects or be independent fellows, they can be either mathematical or life scientists.

Eligible Applicants

Two or more trainees (fellows, postdocs and students) who are members or affiliates of the NSF-Simons Center for Quantitative Biology. Faculty are not involved.

Criteria for Consideration

Leadership is looking to fund projects with a primary emphasis on a mathematical or computational problem. The project can solve a purely technical problem or one that is hypothesis based. It should aid more than a single research project. The projects will be awarded based on the proposed scientific hypothesis, suitability of mathematical and experimental approaches, feasibility, and how the team will measure success.

Parameters of Program

Applications can be submitted effective immediately, and there is a rolling deadline for application submissions. Once approved, the project can begin immediately. The end date of the pilot project is open in that we recognize that “back burner” projects require time flexibility. Each pilot project will receive $2,000 for one year. Funds can be spent on consumables, services, computation, and undergraduate research support. Funds cannot be used to support salary/stipend, tuition, computers, or capital equipment. Awardees will also be recognized and highlighted at the Center’s Annual Conference.

Supporting Activities

To aid in the development and success of collaborations the center will host speed networking sessions after center meetings, provide workshops/resources on project management and tools for team success provide key training in interdisciplinary collaboration, and check-in monthly to help determine barriers to success and routes through them.


Send your application as an email attachment to Tiffany Leighton Ozmina at  Please write in the Subject line: Scholar-Led Pilot Project Application

Application no longer than one page (11-point font or bigger) should include:

  • Proposed personnel and relevant research programs
  • Problem statement
  • Project Description
    • Background/Significance
    • Objectives
    • Approach
Expectations & Evaluation

Awardees are expected to submit a one-page progress report at six months and a one-page final report at twelve months after funding has begun. In addition to the final report trainees are expected to record a short video overview explaining the results of their project.

All papers and presentations resulting from the funded work are expected to acknowledge the Center award. Finally, all publications and new external funding that result from this award should be communicated to the Center administration for tracking purposes.

Each funded pilot project will receive one-on-one and team evaluation and support from the Searle Center.


Does my PI need to know about my plan to apply?
Yes indeed, they need to know. All of the Center faculty have been informed about this new program and that they should encourage and facilitate your application and research on a pilot project. You can also consult with them about the proposal you put together.

How much time should I spend working on a pilot project if I am awarded one?
The majority of your time should be spent on your main research program. Work with your PI to carve out sufficient time for your primary project but allow progress to be made on the pilot project.

Can I fly solo on a pilot project and not involve my PI in it?
This is not encouraged unless you have the explicit blessing of your PI. We recommend that you work with them on it, recognizing that you “own” the project and are responsible for its success.

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