Brainstorming a Grant Proposal

Hello there,

Recently our lab decided to brainstorm ideas for a possible grant proposal.  Dr. Wawersik thought it might be a good idea for us four summer lab members to get an idea of how the grant process works, how grants are structured, and how one goes about writing one.  Before we got to brainstorming ideas he had us read past grant proposals that he has written that have either been successful or unsuccessful.  We looked for similarities and differences between the two, and tried to apply what we learned into creating a new proposal that hopefully might get funded.

Overall I thought it was a very rewarding experience.  I had no idea what grants written by professional scientists for agencies like the NSF, etc. actually looked like or how they are formatted.  The goal of our brainstorming session was to come up with three specific aims that our lab could investigate over the next three to four years.  Underneath each aim or broader research question we wrote down specific questions that we felt our lab could undertake to answer that aim.  With decreased funding for science research by the federal government, grants nowadays can’t just be good or really good, they have to be excellent.  A very large pool of applicants who are all doing great research is applying for a very small number of grants.

Before coming to our meeting we all came up with our own three specific aims, and then we wrote them up on a white board.  After a long period of group discussion, and a trip to the daily grind, we came up with what we thought of as three excellent specific aims for our grant proposal, which included the specific questions we would study to answer the aims.  We tried to avoid choosing aims that were too far reaching, but at the same time we didn’t want to be investigating something that was not far reaching enough.  Additionally, we tried to make one of the aims transformative for the field.  Dr. Wawersik thought that was important for making our grant proposal stand out and appear “excellent”.

When we finished Dr. Wawersik told us that he plans to go through this process when writing future grant proposals.  In the past he has written grants by himself.  Science is a collaborative effort.  It is good to listen to the opinions of others because they can provide insights and perspectives one might never have thought of.

So long,



  1. jameshamarquaila says:

    Hi Marc,
    Thanks for posting this! I have never seen a grant proposal, let alone had any part in creating one. However, I have always been very curious about the process. Your experience was a great opportunity to learn a little bit about writing a grant proposal. I was very interested to learn that this process could be a group effort, and that this detail can make the difference between a great proposal and an excellent one. Thanks again for sharing!
    Jamesha Gibson