Work as an experimental physicist

May 29, 2015 research South Dakota grant

Sometimes your grant proposal will be reviewed by people from fields other than physics. What are they looking for in your proposal? How can you convince them with languages that they understand? I won the Competitive Research Grant provided by the South Dakota Board of Regents recently. Feedbacks from the reviewers gave me some hints to address those questions.

According to the review criteria listed in the grant solicitation, the proposed work should be able to

  1. establish the foundation for successful awards from external funding in the future
  2. align with the research agenda for potential funding agencies
  3. demonstrate the potential for producing significant research capacity or technology transfer and commercialization potential for the institution/state
  4. present effective and attainable strategies for meeting clearly identified objectives
  5. go forward to a potential external funding source with only minor revisions

Good feedbacks:

The PI has good training for the effort

You’d better provide convincing evidence in your CV that you have enough experience to carry on the proposed project.

The illustrations in Fig. x,y,z assisted in providing an understanding of the methods

Use figures, tables instead of long text to illustrate core concepts. This will help people outside of the field to understand them.

The proposal could benefit from some editing for external funding proposals

I emphasized in my proposal that I aimed at external funding

Bad feedbacks:

The proposed work is derivative to that already established in the field. The PI needs to clearly define their technology and differentiate it from the approaches that presently exist

I thought I clearly stated what I wanted to do. Apparently, it was not clear enough for people from other fields to catch the difference between what I proposed and presently existing approaches. I will explicitly state the difference next time.

The ownership of intellectual property developed under this project is the subject of some ambiguity. The PI should clarify the relationship between USD and xxx National Lab.

I never thought about this when writing the proposal. But yes, if my project has some commercialization potential, I really need to clarify the relationship between me and my collaborators from other institutions.

The following phrase is awkward:…

I should have asked some native English speakers to proof-read the proposal.


Blogs on physics research and educational activities of Jing LIU, an assistant professor in physics at the University of South Dakota. He is an experimental physicist developing novel particle detectors for astroparticle physics and civil use.