Tips and Tricks for Research Faculty

InfrastructureEquipmentCareer Dev.PersonnelFundingResearch BasicsSpecifics

1) If in a clinical department, consider a secondary appointment in a basic science department. This appointment is useful since it allows admission to the graduate faculty, enabling you to have graduate students in the lab, and can give you opportunities to fulfill teaching requirements for tenure.

2) Establish a relationship with a biostatistician, and work with him/her during the PLANNING stages of your research.  He/she can provide valuable input with respect to study design and modes of data collection.

3) Learn what regulatory requirements you will have, and submit your biosafety (IBC), animal (IACUC), radiation, and human subjects (IRB) approvals ASAP since approval can be slow. Work with mentors and members of these committees to submit strong applications.

4) Learn about and use departmental computer support (security and general IT) and administrative support (travel, dictation, ordering, personnel) services.

5) Be proactive in signing up for mailing lists or listservs of interest, including the IUPUI Research Reagents listserv for sharing reagents.

1) Prioritize your equipment needs: use daily, weekly, monthly, annually

2) For rare use and/or high cost equipment, consider applying for CTSI core pilot grants to allow access to a core laboratory.

3) Partner with a senior colleague who might be looking to upgrade equipment: less upfront costs, warranty contracts, repairs.

4) Be there for all renovations and equipment installations to troubleshoot and learn about equipment.

5) If possible, buy major equipment towards end of the year (Nov-Dec). Companies often have deals to move old inventory and it is traditionally a slow sales time due to holidays.

6) Maintain a list of LOCAL Sales reps to facilitate lab startup and inquire about new lab discounts.

7) If budget is very limited, consider buying used equipment from certified dealers.

1) Put together an Individual Development Plan (IDP). Work on aims for all aspects of faculty life, including teaching and service as well as research. Discuss the IDP with mentors.

2) Establish a network of multiple senior mentors, including people who:

  • Have successfully negotiated with your chair,
  • Have an understanding of your research area but no conflict of interest,
  • Can read your specific aims and grant drafts,
  • Can help you with teaching and service advice,
  • Have funding and are willing to offer you support at the start,
  • Serve on an NIH study section (preferably the one you think you will be submitting to, to find out what type of proposals are being funded).

3) Keep abreast of faculty development information and events on the Office of Faculty Affairs and Professional Development website

4) Get to know school’s Promotion and Tenure guidelines for your position.

5) Keep hard copy records of emails and letters to support the three missions (Research, Teaching, Service).

6) Guard your time carefully, establishing dedicated research time, yet also learn when not to say no to service or teaching opportunities that will help you raise your profile on campus, strengthen your dossier, or allow you to network.

1) Find a resident interested in a fellowship; they are usually very keen to do some research to get their name on a paper.

2) Get your name on the open lab list for rotation students if you’re considering graduate students.

3) Investigate undergraduate or medical student interns and summer students and find ways to engage them.

4) Think carefully before deciding to hire personnel. Do you have enough work for a technician or postdoc? If so, seek senior faculty advice during the hiring process.

5) Everyone is busy.  Respect the fact that you are not the only one trying to achieve greatness. Collaboration means working with other faculty, not merely demanding things from them. For a collaboration to work, it has to be mutually beneficial, whether scientifically or financially. Invest the time and effort to make this happen—faculty (and staff) will not respond well when they are treated like cogs in a machine.

1) Look for a new niche in your department and in the science community.

2) Apply for internal grants early and often.

3) Start off with small internal and specialty society grants.

4) Seek feedback from multiple people on your applications, and do so EARLY.

5) Outline a viable pathway for gaining needed research funding, from collection of pilot data, to submission of one or more extramural proposals, and stay focused on the critical technical objectives identified for each stage of the effort. (Somehow funding the sequence of: collection of initial pilot data; collection of additional pilot data; writing a comprehensive proposal; and performing the “definitive” experimental effort.)  Keep in mind that the financial requirements of the project may require division of the long-term effort into discrete steps that must be funded by separate grants, each with tightly focused Specific Aims that serve as stepping stones to the intended goal.

6) Make sure you have adequate publications before submitting an NIH R01 proposal.  Proof of productivity can be very important in successfully attracting funding.

1) Never assume anything. Ultimately, it is the investigator’s responsibility to make sure all aspects of the research can be carried out. Take the time to make sure you understand what is involved at each step of the process.   Delegation isn’t sufficient. If you don’t know how to do a piece of the research, don’t assume others will be willing (or have time) to do it for you. You need to provide the resources (salary, equipment, etc.) to make sure all aspects of the research can be carried out.

2) For clinical or translational research, seek out a clinician who is an expert on the subject in our institution to gain a practical understanding of the problem and determine how your research would impact the management of their patient.

3) Begin with multidisciplinary collaborative research projects, with dedicated time for each.

4) Know exactly what it is that you are trying to answer or clarify when you do research. Define the problem, what is known, how you intend to solve it, and what the outcome will mean. Why hasn’t someone else already done the project?

5) Sometimes you are ahead of your time. If you have a really good idea, stick with it but listen to others.

6) Seek to be an expert in a specific field and concentrate research in this field (instead of writing on varying subjects): focus is important for funding.

7) Read everything on your subject. Read not only the subject content but also how papers are written.

8) To produce real progress, you must be willing to design and execute experiments that can disprove your hypotheses.

9) Be sure to exploit what you have. Ex. If there are lots of patients with sarcoidosis, do that, don’t try to do Vietnamese drug resistant tuberculosis. Be prepared to relax your inclusion/exclusion criteria to improve recruitment or change your focus. Perfect subjects or research topics don’t exist.

1) Check for plasmids before ordering commercially. Often modified vectors are available for a fraction of cost. They also have mutant signaling proteins and other constructs deposited by investigators saving you time and money in creating them yourself.

2) Check Zotero for reference management/organization.  Open source – lots of automatic features that many find superior to Endnote. Other options include Papers (for Mac) and Mendeley.

3) NIH RePORT: a wealth of information on who has been funded, for what, and how.

4) Developmental Studies Hybridoma bank: an NIH-funded bioresource that provides selected antibodies at cost.

5) NIH Developmental Therapeutics Program: free samples of hard-to-find chemicals.

Do you have further tips to add to this document? Please forward any comments to the Office of Faculty Affairs and Professional Development (OFAPD) at