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National Institutes of Health Grant Boot Camp

UC Irvine's National Institutes of Health (NIH) Boot Camp is a comprehensive, multifaceted mentoring program designed to help university faculty researchers successfully apply for their first research grants from NIH.

Teams of established faculty members with strong NIH funding track records and peer-review experience guide mentees through the process of developing NIH research project grant proposals, while encouraging peer support and feedback.

The Boot Camp program pilot launched in 2017. During the last four years, 63 faculty mentees have utilized the program representing the Schools of Medicine, Biological Science, Engineering, Information and Computer Sciences, Physical Sciences, Social Sciences, Social Ecology, Public Health, Nursing, and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Numerous faculty members have served as team coaches and subject experts.

The NIH Boot Camp is a campus-sponsored program supported by UCI's Office of Research and several schools across campus, and organized through the School of Medicine Office of Research. It is based on the University of Michigan Medical School's highly successful Mentored Research Academy: R01 Boot Camp.

Applications for the 2021 cohort may be submitted from December 14th, 2020 through February 12th, 2021 at UCI Review.  

About the NIH Boot Camp Program »

This comprehensive, multi-tiered mentorship program is comprised of the following:

  • Large group events and workshops designed to provide mentees with the tools and knowledge they need to write a successful NIH research grant application (e.g., proposal writing seminar, mock review). View a list of planned group events ›

  • Self-directed interdisciplinary peer group activities of about four to eight faculty mentees and one or two established faculty coaches. Under the guidance of the coaches, mentees write and review proposal sections, provide constructive feedback to one another, and address problems and needs of mutual interest.

  • Faculty coaches with established track records of external funding and a commitment to mentoring meet with and advise their assigned mentee peer group. Coaches also communicate with the mentees' department chairs and the boot camp manager.

  • Internal subject matter experts (ISME) provide counsel on mentees’ research plans and help mentees prepare and present a "Chalk Talk," review and critique proposal drafts.

  • External subject matter experts (ESME) review mentees’ final proposals.
Goals for Boot Camp Mentees »

Boot camp goals are to:

  1. Map your research career strategy using a research roadmap. Along with your peers, you will develop a strategic path to build a national reputation and become a leader in your field of science. Sample research roadmap topics include:

      • What do I want to be known for as a researcher?
      • How crowded is the field? Given the competition, can I build a national reputation in this area?
      • Are my research questions significant? Innovative? Fundable?
      • What further skills/knowledge/abilities do I need to acquire?
      • How many people will I need in my lab? What qualities/expertise will they need? Where will I get them from?
      • How much will it cost to conduct this project?

  2. Learn to present a well-conceptualized grant idea persuasively, which is usually a combination of "offense" and "defense":
      • What are reviewers looking for when they evaluate an NIH proposal? Know what to expect and be prepared! Anticipate weaknesses/criticisms and learn to deflect with well-prepared justifications. 
      • Identify the best study section to review your proposal.
      • With the help of your coach and peers, prepare for a dialogue with your program officer.
      • Become a reviewer of your peers’ proposals to role-play the perspective of the reviewers.
      • Prepare and present a "Chalk Talk" to get expert feedback on your specific aims.
      • In one of the large group events, widely-acclaimed experts at Grant Writers' Seminars & Workshops, LLC will demonstrate how to “Write Winning Grant Proposals,” with a focus on NIH. You will be provided with their workbook, The Grant Application Writer’s Workbook (NIH version), at no cost.

  3. Meet investigators from other departments and fields. Participating in small groups of scientists fosters camaraderie, stimulates research ideas and encourages transdisciplinary and translational research.

View frequently asked questions about becoming a mentee ›

Please send inquiries to

Role of Faculty Coaches  »

For the NIH Boot Camp, one or two UC Irvine faculty coaches work with a group consisting of four to eight mentees. Volunteer coaches guide their group through a research roadmap, which helps mentees identify and confirm a specific scientific field, determine the skills and resources necessary to become an expert in the research topic, and develop an NIH grant application.

In much the same way that an athletic coach is not an expert at all team positions, a boot camp coach is not necessarily an expert on the scientific expertise needed for each mentee’s grant proposal. Rather, the coach is a process expert. Each mentee also is required to work with an internal subject matter expert, or 1:1 scientific mentor, who is contracted to consult with the mentee on the scientific content of the proposal.

Small group activities include helping to determine a realistic deadline for each mentee, advising them on developing sections of a proposal, and reviewing proposals in the group. Coaches help the group find answers to other issues that may surface, such as questions about NIH policy or how to engage NIH program officers. The boot camp manager serves as a resource for the coaches and can arrange for additional support when requested by the group.

Each team is self-governing. Coaches will have a hosting budget ($500/team) to support meetings and — together with the group members — determine when the group will meet (e.g., breakfast meetings, pizza after work, etc.). The boot camp manager provides a dedicated team folder for team members to upload and share proposal sections for review.

Individuals interested in serving as faculty coaches should email a statement of interest and recent version of their NIH biosketch to:

Why should you apply to be a coach? How does the role of coach benefit the program and the mentees?

  • Share knowledge you have gained
  • Guide and encourage new researchers
  • Learn about new technologies and discoveries
  • Work in an interdisciplinary/translational group
  • Contribute to the research mission of UC Irvine
  • Have fun!
  • Receive $5,000 in discretionary funds per coach, plus $500 for hosting expenses per team

View frequently asked questions about serving as a coach for our NIH Boot Camp program ›

Please send inquiries to

Internal Subject Matter Experts (ISME) »

Internal subject matter experts (ISME) serve as 1:1 scientific mentors for mentees. ISMEs should be selected by the mentee in consultation with coaches, department chairs and other leadership as appropriate.

ISMEs provide counsel on mentee research roadmaps, help them prepare and present "Chalk Talks," and review proposal drafts.

If you are interested in becoming an ISME, contracts must be completed prior to the start of the NIH Boot Camp. Contracts ensure ISME commitment to their mentees and facilitate compensation at the end of the program.

View frequently asked questions about becoming an ISME ›

Please send inquiries to

External Subject Matter Experts (ESME) »

External subject matter experts (ESME) work with mentees to review their proposal in advance of the NIH application deadline.

To obtain an ESME review, the mentee must contact the boot camp manager with completed materials (i.e., request form and draft proposal) at least six (6) weeks in advance of the NIH deadline. The boot camp manger facilitates the review process, and once completed, the ESME receives $500 for his or her service.

If you need assistance finding an ESME to review your proposal, please let us know!

The ESME is expected to return the review within two (2) to three (3) weeks. Please note that it is best to obtain this review at least six (6) weeks in advance of your NIH deadline to allow time for further refinement and data assimilation.

View frequently asked questions about working with an ESME ›

Please send inquiries to

NIH Video Resources »

NIH held a Virtual Seminar on Program Funding and Grants Administration in November 2020. All presentations, transcriptions, and PowerPoint presentations have been posted here.

The seminars have been organized by general topics below.  The associated PowerPoint and transcript (if available) are posted here.

General Information about NIH and Funding

Finding & Understanding Funding Opportunity Announcements

NIH Grants Administration Take 5: NOSIs

Fundamentals of the NIH Grants Process and Need-To-Know Resources

Using RePORT to Understand Who & What NIH Funds

Dr. Michael Lauer (Deputy Director, Extramural Research – Keynote-Extramural Research: Money, People, and Science

Early Career Researchers

Navigating NIH Programs to Advance Your Career

Grant Writing for Success

Ready! Set! Submit! Application Preparation & Submission

How NIH Processes and Assigns Your Application

Rigor and Reproducibility: Back to Basics

Let’s Look at Peer Review

NIH Peer Review: "Live" Mock Study Section

Notice of Award Arrives….Now What?

After Your First Award: Next Steps in Your Journey with NIH

Data & Resource Sharing: Firming Foundations for Future Frontiers

R&D Contracts (Part 1 of 2): Contract Administration and Getting Paid for Your Work

R&D Contracts (Part 2 of 2): Finding Opportunities and Writing Proposals

NIH Loan Repayment Programs (LRP)


Budget Building Blocks for Investigators

All About Costs: A Post-Award Primer 

Career Development and Mentoring

NIH Next Generation Research Initiative: Training Future Biomedical Researchers

Understanding NIH Career Development "K" Awards

Writing an Effective "K" Application

Understanding NRSA Fellowships “F” and Training “T” Grants

Developing and Optimizing Your Mentoring Relationships

Mentoring: NIH and the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN)

Human Subjects & Clinical Trials

An Overview of NIH Policies on Human Subjects Research

Including Diverse Populations in NIH-funded Clinical Research 

Registering & Reporting Results to 

Simplifying Informed Consent (With OHRP)

Policy and Data Management

Addressing Sexual Harassment in Biomedical Science

Commitment Transparency

Common Compliance Pitfalls & Strategies for Success

Current Issues at NIH: Grants Policy Updates

Data & Resource Sharing: Firming Foundations for Future Frontiers

Financial Conflict of Interest (FCOI)

How Changes to Title 2 Code of Federal Regulations Affect You

Intellectual Property: Understanding Requirements, Rights & Recipient Responsibilities

Research Involving Animals: OLAW 

Research Misconduct & Integrity

Master Class in Review Integrity (case studies)


Advanced Administrative Topics: Post-Award Issues

Advanced Administrative Topics: Pre-Award Issues

eRA Overview

eRA Commons: Interacting with NIH Electronically Post-Submission

eRA: Streamlining Administrative Supplements  

Waddayawannaknow? Ask a GMO!

International Organizations and the NIH Grants Process


Diversity in the Biomedical Workforce

Including Diverse Populations in NIH-funded Clinical Research

Scientific Workforce Diversity in Extramural Research

Innovators and Small Business

Beyond Funding: NIH Support for Innovators

Digging Deeper into Small Business Programs and Policies (SBIR/STTR)

From Bench to Boardroom: Support for Small Businesses

Helping Academics Address Unmet Medical Needs- Small business Education and Entrepreneurial Development (SEED)

SEEDing Healthcare Solutions

Intellectual Property: Understanding Requirements, Rights & Recipient Responsibilities

Inventions, Bayh-Dole & Reporting Requirements

NIH provides a myriad of additional videos on the NIH YouTube Channel