The application deadline is fast approaching for NIA’s prestigious summer training opportunity: the Butler-Williams Scholars Program. I hope that you’ve already applied, or have encouraged your mentees to do so.
To help you understand a bit more about this program and what it offers, I interviewed NIA Deputy Director Marie A. Bernard. Marie is a longtime advocate of this program, an intensive week-long training whirlwind to boost the careers of emerging scholars in aging research. Check out our conversation below, and apply by March 28, 2014.
Carl: What is so special about the NIA Butler-Williams Scholars Program?
Marie: The Butler-Williams Scholars Program—originally known as the Summer Institute on Aging Research—has a rich tradition of offering junior faculty an opportunity to be exposed to the NIH and the NIA.
Since 1986, NIA staff members, joined by senior grantee researchers, have worked with a group of visiting scholars every summer. This great team provides technical instruction on how to write a grant and succeed in a research career. We go over every step of the peer review process, and consult on research ideas.
The program also creates networks of graduates that share information about emerging research trends, funding opportunities, and important conferences and meetings. There’s a lot of camaraderie among graduates. My involvement in this program has been one of the highlights of my work here at NIA, a most rewarding experience to foster the growth of new talent in aging research.
Carl: What type of researcher benefits most from the NIA Butler-Williams Scholars Program?
Marie: We have been successful in offering important exposure and direction to many types of researchers. Scholars interested in aging biology, neuroscience, behavioral and social science, and geriatrics and clinical gerontology have all found it worthwhile. At the session, they hear directly from the NIA divisions about funding opportunities and interests in these areas, and they get to meet some of the leading scientists in these diverse fields.
Also, the program has been relevant for scholars in different stages of their career. The grants process at the NIA, and at the NIH, is always changing. When we talk grantsmanship, we discuss not only the fundamental information an applicant needs to succeed, but also updated details about programs and funding processes that are helpful to everyone. A recent analysis shows that program participants have often been successful in grant applications to NIA and NIH, and some have become leaders in their fields.
Carl: What about exciting, new features of this summer’s NIA Butler-Williams Scholars Program: what’s in store for us?
Marie: This year’s program has some great new features.
First, we have included health disparities as the overarching theme. This means that we have asked faculty to use, when possible, technical content and case studies that highlight NIA’s many approaches to health disparities.
Second, this year we will be located on the NIH campus, in Building 31. Many NIA and NIH staff use this building, enhancing opportunities for scholars to interact with relevant program officials and other staff.
And finally, we have a number of fabulous new faculty members set to participate, including James S. Jackson from University of Michigan and Janine Clayton, director of the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health.
Carl: What is the future for the NIA Butler-Williams Scholars Program? And what about other NIA health disparities research and training opportunities?
Marie: Well, of course, with your leadership, we will continue to evolve. I think we’d like to bring in more NIH Institutes and Centers into our discussions of research frameworks for examining disparities in healthy aging. And, we will continue with ongoing evaluation of the program, paying very close attention to identifying things we could do even better.
Of course, we keep a keen eye on emerging research topics and trends that might help participants be successful with future NIA grant applications. The NIA Office of Special Populations Webinar Series is an example of how we may reach many more interested scholars than in-person training sessions allow. Our success depends on the experience of our scholars and how this program enhances and expands their careers in aging research.
If you are a B-W Scholars Program or Summer Institute graduate, please share your memories by commenting below.