NIH Grantsmanship Personal Coaching Program Spring 2017


The Iceman’s Run

Advanced NIH Grantsmanship and Personal Coaching Program for Preparing Your NIH Grant

March 2 - May 11, 2017
Presented by
Tom Hollon, PhD  Grant Consultant at OVPRGS

This spring semester course consists of workshops, webinars, and personal and group coaching to help you write an NIH R01, U01, or R21 grant that wins. Advanced NIH grantsmanship will be taught by example — revealing writing tricks and strategies taken from more than 50 funded NIH R01 grants for lab research, social science research, statistics and bioinformatics research, and clinical trials.

About the instructor
Tom Hollon has nearly 15 years of experience helping researchers win federal grants and contracts and has helped MSU professors win more than $17,000,000 in NIH grants.  For more on his services, see:

Registration is now closed. If you'd like to be placed on a waiting list for next time, please email

This course is restricted to MSU faculty preparing an application for an NIH R01, U01 or R21 grant by June or July of 2017.  Enrollment is limited to 15.  Preference will be given to faculty applying for R01s and U01s. Sorry, postdocs and faculty writing R03 grants are not eligible. 

What makes this program different? Five things. You will:

  • learn to gather competitive intelligence about NIH funding possibilities in your field
  • learn advanced NIH grant writing by seeing other people’s R01s analyzed for what makes them great
  • get personal attention in solving grant problems
  • get your research plan peer-reviewed prior to submission
  • get professional editing of your research plan for clarity and persuasiveness

Program overview and schedule

The course runs for spring semester and is limited to 15 faculty. The number is small so Tom can help each person individually.  Workshops and webinars every two weeks last 60 to 90 minutes and are recorded, so if you miss one you can catch it later. Each month you get at least one hour of personal attention from Tom on any grant problem you’re grappling with. Then, after your research plan is reviewed by peers of your choosing, OVPRGS’ editors will edit it to help make your application its very best. If your grant isn’t ready to submit by June of 2017, you’re still eligible for editing later on.

Mar 2 Webinar: Competitive advantage in NIH R01 grant writing
In the fight for grant money, what can you do to be more competitive besides just writing your grant the best you can? Plenty! The kick-off webinar focuses on competitive advantages in NIH grant writing that most professors could use but few do. This webinar lays the foundation for everything else to more.

Mar 13-17 Individual grant strategy sessions
Tom will be on campus to meet with you by appointment to discuss anything in your grant you’re struggling with.

Mar 16 Workshop: Competitive intelligence using the NIH Reporter grants database
This free, online database can reveal what sort of research NIH has funded in your area, for how much, through which study sections, and all sorts of other things. You’ll learn to use the Reporter to prepare to discuss NIH’s interest in your work with Program Officers, find the best study section to review your grant, and find copies of grants in your field to study as models.

Mar 30 Webinar: How to write Specific Aims and Abstracts that get reviewers excited
Specific Aims is often your grant’s most important page. We’ll get under the hood with examples of winning Specific Aims pages to show you what makes them great. Then we’ll do the same for abstracts.

Apr 10-14  Hotseat session: Specific Aims and Abstract
You’ll meet by conference call with Tom and two other class members to review and improve your Specific Aims and Abstract.

Apr 13 Webinar: How to write exciting Significance and Innovation sections
Unexciting projects don’t get funded. We’ll study winning grants to see how the authors wrote Significance and Innovation to make their work exciting.

Apr 17-21 Individual grant strategy sessions
Tom will be on campus to meet with you by appointment to discuss anything in your grant you’re having a problem with.

Apr 27 Webinar: How to make your Approach seem like a guaranteed sure thing
NIH doesn’t fund projects reviewers doubt can work. We’ll examine winning grants for better ways to write the main parts of Approach, two different ways to present prelim data, how to describe risky experiments, how to summarize experiments and sell them at the same time, and better ways to use figures and tables.

May 1 - 5 Hotseat session: Significance and Innovation
Your hotseat group will meet by conference call with Tom to review and improve your Significance and Innovation sections.

May 11 Webinar: Odds & Ends
Here we cover everything else, beginning with reading the tea leaves in a Summary Statement and writing the Introduction to a revised application. Then biosketches, budget justification, facilities, Early-Stage-Investigator support, human subjects protections, multi-PI statements, minority inclusion, data sharing plans, letters of support, and cover letters.

TBD Peer review and editing
As a condition for acceptance in the course you agree to have your research plan peer-reviewed by at least two others in your field. After peer review you may schedule with OVPRGS to have your R01, U01, or R21 research plan professionally edited prior to submission.

End Result
The end result is likely to be the best application you’ve ever submitted, and a better understanding than ever of what it takes to win when NIH paylines are short.

Who’s the Iceman?  Race horse with jockey
The Iceman’s Run is named in honor of George Woolf, one of the all-time great jockeys, known for his performance under pressure as the Iceman. In his heyday of the 1930s he won more races than anyone else thanks in no small part to the unusual preparations he made to race ¬— preparations other jockeys could have copied, but didn’t. This program will help you prepare your grant as Woolf might have, by focusing on competitive advantages in grant writing that most researchers could use, but few actually do. Photo right: The Iceman and Seabiscuit.