Confidence. Experience. Career-long advice. These are just some of the things that post-doctoral fellow Amy Schuster has gained while in the Clemson University/Prisma Health National Institutes of Health (NIH) Accelerator Program.
The NIH Accelerator Program is a mentoring program for faculty investigators seeking NIH funding. Participants have access to a variety of mentors from the Health Sciences Center at Prisma Health, which includes Furman University, Clemson University, University of South Carolina and Prisma Health, who provide mentorship and consistent feedback throughout the grant application preparation process. These mentors have been chosen due to their success with K, R, and other NIH grants, and these partnerships serve as development activities to support the growth of research and collaboration at the University.
“Health research has become a focus on Clemson’s campus, and has brought researchers together from all seven colleges,” said Windsor Westbrook Sherrill, associate vice president for health research. “The NIH Accelerator program supports our Clemson Elevate focus on health innovation, and this program has enabled Clemson faculty to be more competitive for health-related research funding.”
Applicants are selected for the program in recognition of their strong health research questions and applications. Participants ‘learn by doing’ in this training program, as they develop a draft proposal over the course of the year. They receive feedback from experienced researchers who have been funded by NIH and other agencies. While it is easy to simply hear about best practices, actually developing a proposal and getting feedback from more experienced researchers is incredibly valuable.
“Grants are a huge aspect of doing research,” Schuster said. “Being able to think through all the different components of doing research and getting feedback from mentors with more detailed knowledge is an amazing experience.”
This is the third cohort of the program. In the first year, there were six mentees, and in the second year, there were 12 mentees. Out of the past two cohorts, four researchers submitted and received NIH funding so far, such as Lior Rennert, a professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences. Rennert is a mentor this year. In the past year, he received an R01 for his research focus on South Carolina Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare, called “A data-driven approach to identify and target high-risk rural communities via mobile health clinics.”
“Securing funding from federal agencies is hard to do for individuals who are not experienced in grant proposal development – and for researchers in general,” said Shelia Cotten, a mentor in the program. “The NIH Accelerator program strives to provide foundational training in developing proposals for NIH.”
This year’s mentees are:
- Gregory Cranmer, associate professor, Department of Communication, College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences
- Amy M. Schuster, a postdoctoral fellow, Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice, College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences
- Matthew Browning, associate professor, Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences
- Heather Dunn, assistant professor, Department of Bioengineering, College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences
- Ashley McKenzie, assistant professor, Department of Communication, College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences
- Shivani Arora, a postdoctoral fellow, Department of Bioengineering, College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences
- Sriparna Bhattacharya, assistant research professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, College of Science
- Nicole Davis, associate professor, School of Nursing, College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences
- Nick Potisek, physician, Pediatrics, Prisma Health
- Jackie Cha, assistant professor, Department of Industrial Engineering, College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences
This year’s mentors are:
- Alain Litwin, physician, Prisma Health; co-director, Professor of Practice, Department of Psychology, Clemson University Center for Addiction and Mental Health Research
- Moonseong Heo, professor, Department of Public Health Sciences, College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences
- Xia Jing, associate professor, Department of Public Health Sciences, College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences
- Amy Crockett, Clemson University School of Health Research clinical professor; Prisma Health physician
- Lesley A. Ross, associate professor/endowed chair, Department of Psychology, College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences
- Lior Rennert, assistant professor, Department of Public Health Sciences, College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences
- Sarah Bauer Floyd, assistant professor, Department of Public Health Sciences, College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences
- Shelia R. Cotten, associate vice president for Research Development, Division of Research
- Thomas Britt, professor, Department of Psychology, College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences
Schuster is an emerging researcher, who is still developing grants for her research on the use of technology by nursing home residents to combat loneliness. She is working with Cotten as her mentor to further develop her NIH grant proposal to see how nursing homes with low financial support provide residents with technology, how they relate to the technology, and how it impacts their emotional well-being. As a recent Ph.D. graduate from the University of Kentucky in 2020, Schuster said she has a hard time thinking of herself as a seasoned researcher.
“One of the things that Dr. Cotten emphasizes to me is that I do know what I am talking about,” Schuster said. “I still think of myself as a novice researcher, and I don’t want to appear I have more knowledge than I do. I’m aware there are more experienced researchers out there, but the NIH Accelerator Program has given me the confidence to trust my capabilities.”
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