Comparative Biomedical Sciences at LSU SVM

Comparative Biomedical Sciences at LSU SVM


From The Chronicle of Higher Education:
10 Tips on Grant Writing From a Seasoned Reviewer

If you understand how grant decisions are made, you’ll know on which parts of the application to focus your time and energy.

By Jude P. Mikal JUNE 18, 2021

You spent weeks, or even months, putting together your grant application — assembling tens to hundreds of pages of documentation. So you might not want to know that the typical busy review panelist spends, at most, a few hours reading it before deciding its fate.

It’s understandable — given the length (dozens of pages) of these applications — that every page does not get a close reading. But for applicants, it would be helpful to know: On which parts of an application do reviewers spend the bulk of their time? Which parts do they skim or skip altogether? In short, how do reviewers evaluate proposals, and how can understanding that process help you to write a better one?

For the past 15 years, I’ve worked in higher education on research development and grant writing, with a particular expertise on applications for National Institutes of Health grants. I’ve also served as a reviewer for two federal agencies (NIH and the National Science Foundation). The insights I’m offering here are based both on my experience and on that of colleagues who have served as grant-proposal reviewers at a variety of agencies and foundations. But first, a bit of background on proposal review at most large funding agencies:

*When you submit a proposal, it is reviewed internally for completeness and assigned to an agency officer who selects a primary, a secondary, and a tertiary reviewer — often from a standing panel of researchers.
*Usually the primary reviewer will have expertise in the area of study being proposed, while the second and third reviewers will have more tangential topical or methodological expertise. All three reviewers assign preliminary scores to your application.
*Once those reviews are done, the standing panel meets as a group to discuss the grant proposals and resolve discrepancies in scores. This meeting is generally referred to as a “review panel” or “study section.” More information and a video of a mock study-section meeting ( can be found on the NIH website.

As a grant applicant, I used to think of reviewers as curmudgeonly and nitpicky — ready to kill proposals for any minor error. Serving as a reviewer, participating in panel discussions, and meeting other grant reviewers, I have found the opposite to be true: Most review projects with great interest and empathy. But sometimes, in poring over voluminous documents, we get overburdened, lost, confused, or frustrated.

Here are 10 tips to help you, in writing your grant application, to guide reviewers to the information we need to advocate for your research.

Pay close attention to your summary statements. Not only are grant proposals dense and difficult to decipher, but reviewers are often reading outside of their area of expertise. So whenever you have a chance to summarize key elements of your projects — on a required abstract, aims page, project summary, or other spots throughout your application — use clear and accessible language. Reviewers rely on these summaries to prime our reading of the longer, more dense “project description” (more on this below). To loop in reviewers of varying expertise, gear these summaries to the “educated nonexpert.” Save any necessary jargon or technical detail for later in the proposal.

If you think it’s important, mention it in the “project description.” This section is where you lay out your detailed plan for the proposed research, and it’s where the reviewers will spend the bulk of their evaluation time. A project description can run from four to 20 pages, with an additional 60-plus pages of supporting administrative and other documentation. You might assume that you can save important details for the supporting documents, but I advise against that. Hidden information is likely to be missed by reviewers, and some agencies expressly forbid new information in ancillary documents. So any information that you deem important for reviewers to see should be included in the project description.

Build your project description around the grant agency’s criteria. Large funding agencies have their own core evaluation criteria, easily found on the agencies’ websites or their requests for proposals. Reviewers will evaluate your proposal with a form that lists the agency’s criteria and leaves space for us to comment on how well your project fits each measure. You can make it easier for reviewers to complete the form and advocate for your proposal by organizing your project description around the agency criteria, spotlighting each one in a bold heading.

Use supporting documents to buttress your idea and establish its feasibility. In a 90-page proposal, the 12-page project description may not be found until page 50, after the “science” (i.e., documentation of what you hope to do). As a grant reviewer, I usually scan Page 1 for the project title, administrative information, and name of institution, and then I skip past all the supporting documentation and begin reading on Page 50. Questions arise as I read your project description: How are you going to access that “hard to reach” population? Do you and your team have the expertise and resources to fully integrate the varied departments, areas of study, or research sites involved in the project? How will any sensitive information be accessed, stored, and maintained? To find answers, I may scroll back to the supporting documents. Make sure to use an established template that makes it easy for reviewers to find information in your supporting documents. Ask your colleagues for sample templates.

Biographical information is important but should be easy to skim. Nearly all grant applications require you to include biographical information and/or your CV. Reviewers tend to glance over this biographical information, mostly to confirm that you and your team have the knowledge and experience necessary to complete the proposed course of research. Guide their skimming by keeping your personal narratives short. Use bold, bulleted headings to identify key contributions to science. Emphasize the strong match between the researchers and the proposed research, rather than focusing on awards or accomplishments.

It’s not such a small world, after all. As the principal investigator for the grant, you will lead a research team. That team plays an integral role in establishing the feasibility of your project. Some new investigators — hoping to boost their funding chances — try to give their proposal added weight by bringing in a senior scientist to the team. They mistakenly assume that name recognition or senior rank will help carry the proposal. That approach often backfires. First, reviewers outside your field won’t recognize the “big name.” And those who do recognize the name may know the professor well enough to recuse themselves from the review and the panel discussion of your grant proposal. More important, adding senior scholars can make a project seem top-heavy, diminish the role of the lead investigator, and make the team feel out of sync with the goals of the project.

You are writing for three different audiences: program officers, primary reviewers, and panelists. Best practice says you should build relationships with agency program officers to improve your chances of getting a grant. Program officers guide research toward their agency’s funding priorities. Yet it may surprise readers to know that program officers often do not participate in — and may not even be present for — panel review. As reviewers, we are not privy to your conversations with program officers; our focus is on scientific advancement, societal impact, and feasibility, rather than programmatic relevance. In practice, what that means is that a program officer may encourage you to propose a certain line of research because of its importance to the agency. However, grant reviewers may think your team is not equipped to pursue that particular area, so you won’t get a grant. If you are feeling like your conversations with a program officer have pushed your proposal too far away from your original interest and expertise, that probably means you should look elsewhere for funding.

In your budget projections, aim for alignment over a bargain. It is not uncommon for investigators to fret over their research budgets. If you’re a new investigator, you may think that proposing an austere budget will give you a competitive advantage over more lavish, spendy proposals. Yet that’s not really how the process works. Budget considerations arise generally after the conclusion of scientific evaluation. Sure, reviewers may look at your proposed budget to ensure that you have accounted for all necessary supplies, equipment, personnel, participant incentives, and data-processing and management fees — without indulging in wasteful spending. But in practice, the money matters come after the science. And program officers often pare down budgets for funded proposals, so make your budget request align with what you think you’ll need, not what you think will appeal to grant reviewers.

Highlight any connections between the proposed project and the agency’s goals. Every grant proposal is submitted to a specific agency, often in response to a specific request for proposals. The agency’s RFP describes the purpose, the type of research being solicited, and the criteria by which projects will be evaluated. The RFP may be the only information the agency gives reviewers, regarding what to look for in a grant application. And yet some reviewers still won’t bother reading the RFP. So if a key selling point of your proposed project is how closely it aligns with the agency’s RFP, spell that out clearly and prominently.

Applicant pools and reviewers vary, and sometimes you’re just unlucky. New grant-proposal reviewers are required to attend a two-hour training in which, among other things, we are told not to rank-order a batch of grant proposals. Rather, we are encouraged to begin evaluating each application with a midlevel score, and then note features that caused us to raise or lower that score. One problem with this approach: Some reviewers start with a higher average score than others; to remedy that, some agencies try to standardize reviewer scores. But that raises yet another problem: You might be unlucky enough to have your application fall into a batch of high-quality proposals. Other agencies leave reviewers’ scores alone, leaving the possibility that a project won’t get a fair shake, owing to a curmudgeonly reviewer. The practical takeaway here is: Be sure to resubmit a proposal you are excited about, even if it does not score well on its first outing. It may fare better in a different mix of applications and reviewers.

Comparative Biomedical Sciences is a department in the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine that performs research and academic instruction in cell and molecular biology, anatomy, and a host of related subject areas.

Within the professional curriculum, the department teaches the bulk of the courses offered to the first year veterinary students, courses that include physiology, gross anatomy, histology, cell biology, neuroscience and developmental anatomy. In the second year of the curriculum, the department teaches pharmacology and in the third year, a course in clinical toxicology. The department prides itsel

Operating as usual

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Ish*ta Choudhary, Ph.D. candidate in CBS, published a manuscript titled "Postnatal Ozone Exposure Disrupts Alveolar Development, Exaggerates Mucoinflammatory Responses, and Suppresses Bacterial Clearance in Developing Scnn1b-Tg+ Mice Lungs." The manuscript has been selected for the Immunotoxicology Best Paper of the Year Award by the Society of Toxicology. Ish*ta will receive the award at the 2022 SOT Annual Meeting in San Diego on March 29.


Congratulations to Dr. Shisheng Li!

LSU Vet Med honored several faculty members for special accomplishments at our recent Research Day event. Dr. Shisheng Li, professor in the Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences, has earned the Veterinary Medicine Distinguished Scholar Award for significant contributions to the advancement of veterinary medicine through research and scholarly activities. Dr. Li (right) was presented the award by Dean Oliver Garden (left). Congratulations, Dr. Li! #WeTeach #WeHeal #WeDiscover #betteringlives


Congratulations, Dr. Alexandra Noël!

LSU Vet Med honored several faculty members for special accomplishments at our recent Research Day event. Dr. Alexandra Noël, assistant professor in the Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences, has earned the Zoetis Award for Research Excellence. Zoetis presents the award to a faculty member who has excelled in veterinary medical research during the past two years. Dr. Noël (right) was presented the award by Dean Oliver Garden (left). Congratulations, Dr. Noël! #WeTeach #WeHeal #WeDiscover #betteringlives


Congratulations to our LSU Alumni Rising Faculty Award recipient, Alexandra Noël. Well done, Dr. Noël!

Lod Cook Alumni Center ·
November 17 at 3:43 PM · Baton Rouge, LA ·


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LSU faculty spanning multiple disciplines across campus were awarded more grants and contracts this past year than ever before.
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Photos from Comparative Biomedical Sciences at LSU SVM's post 06/18/2021

Dr. George Strain, national expert in deafness in dogs and cats, administers hearing tests to a litter of Dalmatian puppies who are 6 weeks old. The tests measure the nervous system’s response to acoustic stimulation. Thirty percent of all Dalmatians are deaf in one or both ears. Dr. Strain has tested more than 16,000 dogs over the years. His seminal book, Deafness in Dogs and Cats, was published in 2011. Dr. Strain has been a professor of neuroscience at the LSU SVM since 1978. #WeTeach #WeHeal #LSU #dalmatian


Tanya Gandhi has received a Dissertation Year Fellowship Award from the LSU Graduate School

Tanya is a doctoral student in the Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences, conducting her dissertation research in the laboratory of Dr. Charles Lee. Her research focuses on the neural, biochemical, and behavioral alterations underlying autism spectrum disorders. This highly competitive fellowship is awarded to graduate students with outstanding academic records across the university and provides stipend support during the final phase of their dissertation.

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The Professor Is In.

The gift you need for all the academics in your life (and it's free!)


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#MaskUpLSU and remember our campus is tobacco free, smoke free and vape free. Smoking of any kind potentially spreads the coronavirus.

LSU School of Veterinary Medicine



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LSU School of Veterinary Medicine 08/10/2020

Dr. Alexandra Noël, Assistant Professor in CBS, received the 2020 ‘David V. Bates Award’ for promising investigation in the field of environmental and occupational health from the American Thoracic Society (ATS) Environmental, Occupational and Population Health (EOPH) Assembly. This distinction recognizes the best abstract in the field of environmental or occupational health submitted to the ATS international conference by a fellow or junior faculty. Dr. Noël was scheduled to give a platform presentation entitled: “JUUL aerosol exposure reduces lung function and induces mucous production in a comorbidity mouse model of elastase-induced emphysema/atherosclerosis” highlighting research conducted in her laboratory. Unfortunately, the ATS 2020 international conference, which was scheduled to occur May 15-20, 2020 in Philadelphia, PA, was canceled due to COVID-19.

Congratulations, Dr. Noël! 08/04/2020

Ten simple rules for reading a scientific paper

"Published papers are not truths etched in stone. Published papers in high impact journals are not truths etched in stone. Published papers by bigwigs in the field are not truths etched in stone. Published papers that seem to agree with your own hypothesis or data are not etched in stone. Published papers that seem to refute your hypothesis or data are not etched in stone.

Science is a never-ending work in progress, and it is essential that the reader pushes back against the author’s interpretation to test the strength of their conclusions. Everyone has their own perspective and may interpret the same data in different ways. Mistakes are sometimes published, but more often these apparent errors are due to other factors such as limitations of a methodology and other limits to generalizability (selection bias, unaddressed, or unappreciated confounders). When reading a paper, it is important to consider if these factors are pertinent.

Critical thinking is a tough skill to learn but ultimately boils down to evaluating data while minimizing biases. Ask yourself: Are there other, equally likely, explanations for what is observed? In addition to paying close attention to potential biases of the study or author(s), a reader should also be alert to one’s own preceding perspective (and biases). Take time to ask oneself: Do I find this paper compelling because it affirms something I already think (or wish) is true? Or am I discounting their findings because it differs from what I expect or from my own work?" Affiliation Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health, Department of Medicine, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, Virginia, United States of America 07/03/2020

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Active voice: I love your writing

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The Professor Is In.


LSU School of Veterinary Medicine
Names Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs

Joseph Francis, BVSc, MVSc, PhD, Everett D. Besch Professor in Veterinary Medicine, has been named associate dean of faculty affairs at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, effective July 1, 2020. Dr. Francis will be responsible for matters that directly affect the LSU SVM faculty, including promotions and tenure, professional development, mentoring, retention and recruiting, academic policies, and faculty-related HR issues, as well as administering an online system that allows faculty to keep track of their academic and professional activities.

“I am honored and grateful to be chosen to serve as the associate dean of faculty affairs, and I look forward to supporting the mission and vision of the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine in this role,” Dr. Francis said.

Dr. Francis is a professor in the Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences. He received his veterinary degree and master’s in veterinary virology and immunology from Madras Veterinary College in India. He received his PhD in neuroimmunoendocrinology from Kansas State University. Dr. Francis began working for the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine in 2003.

“Dr. Francis has been a longstanding faculty member who understands the mission of the school. He is an established and successful scientist, a veterinarian, and an entrepreneur who will be an outstanding advocate for all faculty,” said Joel Baines, VMD, PhD, dean.

The Everett D. Besch Professorship in Veterinary Medicine, which Dr. Francis holds, was established in honor of the school’s founding dean, who served in that role from 1968 through 1988.

His research interest is on understanding the role played by central nervous system cytokines in the pathophysiology of heart failure, hypertension and renal diseases. More recently, he has started working on inflammatory molecules in the brain in post-traumatic stress disorder. He uses pharmacological and non-pharmacological intervention including blueberries in his research. He has published 101 peer-reviewed articles in high-impact journals and he is currently conducting several clinical trials using blueberries.

Since arriving at LSU, Dr. Francis has received several grants from various funding organizations including, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Defense, the American Heart Association, and the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. This year, he received a $3.9 million multi-principal investigator grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to study the role played by iron in hemorrhagic myocardial infarction.

The LSU School of Veterinary Medicine is one of only 30 veterinary schools in the U.S. and the only one in Louisiana. The LSU SVM is dedicated to improving the lives of people and animals through education, research and service. We teach. We heal. We discover. We protect. 05/29/2020

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Congratulations to former CBS graduate student and now Pennington assistant professor Emily Qualls-Creekmore, VCS assistant professor Jenny Sones, and Biological Sciences/Pennington professor Jacqueline Stephens on their award of an NIH COBRE Metabolic Basis of Disease Center grant! For more information, contact our Media Relations Manager, Ted Griggs, 225-763-2862 or our Communications Director, Lisa Stansbury, at 225-763-2978. Our news email box is also available at [email protected]. 05/14/2020

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Advice for the worried.


When we all get back, we're setting the halls up like this. My lab can be jail. Pass Dr. Dugas' office, collect $200.


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