The Mentored Research Academy: R01 Boot Camp

A comprehensive, multi-tiered mentorship program to support and increase the success rate of Texas A&M faculty applying for their first NIH Research Project Grants (R01). 

Texas A&M University’s Mentored Research Academy: R01 Boot Camp is a 9-month comprehensive, multifaceted mentoring program, funded by the Division of Research, to support and increase the success rate of faculty who are applying for their first National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Project Grants (R01s).

Teams of established faculty members with a strong record of experience in NIH funding and peer-review experience will guide groups of mentees through the process of developing NIH research grant proposals. The team structure encourages peer support and feedback.

Faculty mentees benefit from early input on research focus to ensure they are addressing significant, innovative, and fundable questions. They will identify needed resources and potential collaborators, and make pre-proposal contact with NIH program officers. They will learn “tricks of the trade” from experienced Texas A&M faculty that can help throughout their careers.

The boot camp program pilot launched in 2021 and is based on the University of Michigan Medical School’s highly successful Mentoring Program.

Applications for the 2022–23 R01 Boot Camp are due by April 26 and must be submitted in InfoReady. Notifications will be sent in June/July 2022, and the program will kick off in September 2022.

Informational workshops about the program will be held on the following dates:

  • March 29, 2022, 3:00–4:00 p.m., Virtual – Register
  • April 6, 2022, 10:00–11:00 a.m., Virtual – Register
  • April 14, 2022, 1:30–2:30 p.m., Rudder (Room TBD) – Register


About the NIH R01 Boot Camp Program

This is comprehensive, multi-tiered mentorship program to support and increase the success rate of Texas A&M faculty applying for their first NIH Research Project Grants (R01). The R01 Boot Camp is a 9-month program and comprised of the following:

  • Mentees receive specialized training, guidance, and camaraderie as a participant in this 9-month program. Participation is limited to faculty members who have not yet been principal investigators on R01 grants.
  • 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 heads and the boot camp manager.
  • 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). 
  • Self-directed interdisciplinary peer group activities of about three to four faculty mentees and one established faculty coach. 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.
  • Internal Subject Matter Experts (ISME) provide counsel on mentees’ research plans and help mentees prepare and present a “Chalk Talk,” and review and critique proposal drafts.
  • External Subject Matter Experts (ESME) review mentees’ final proposals.

Participation is limited to faculty members who have not yet served as principal investigators on NIH R01 grants. Participants should be ready to submit an application to NIH within one year. They should already have a well-conceptualized research plan, preliminary data, foundational funding.

Mentee applications will be reviewed by Division of Research leadership and selections will be made in collaboration with faculty coaches and others as appropriate. While we expect most applicants will be early career faculty members (assistant or associate professors), this is not a requirement.

By signing up for the Mentored Research Academy: R01 Boot Camp as a mentee, you will:

  • Work with coaches and peers to assess your competitiveness.
  • Learn what reviewers are looking for when they evaluate an R01 proposal. Know what to expect and be prepared! Anticipate weaknesses/criticisms and deflect with well-prepared justifications. 
  • Identify the best study section to review your proposal.
  • With the help of your coach and peers, prepare for an interview 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 in your department to receive expert feedback on your specific aims.
  • Meet new investigators from other departments and fields. These small groups will foster camaraderie, stimulate research ideas, and encourage transdisciplinary and translational research.
  • Learn from widely-acclaimed experts at Grant Writers' Seminars about how to “Write Winning Grant Proposals” with a focus on NIH. We will provide you with their workbook, The Grant Application Writer’s Workbook (NIH version), at no cost. 

You will be expected to attend several large group events/workshops (e.g., grant writing seminar, biostatistics and budget workshops, etc.) and monthly small-group team meetings (you and your coaches and peers will decide the times) and meet with your own Internal Subject Matter Expert (ISME) who will have specialized insight into your scientific field of study. You will also be required to conduct a Chalk Talk, an exercise designed to help you present and refine your specific aims.

Texas A&M faculty coaches work with groups consisting of three to four mentees (3–4), and 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 in 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 have the option to meet virtually or in-person, and will have a hosting budget ($500/team) to support meetings and, together with the group members, determine when the group will meet.

Individuals interested in serving as faculty coaches should email a statement of interest and a 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 Texas A&M
  • Have fun!
  • Receive $3,500 in discretionary funds per coach, plus $500 for each proposal awarded; and $500 hosting expenses per team

Large group events and workshops designed to provide mentees with the tools and knowledge they need to write a successful R01 application (e.g., proposal writing seminar, mock review). The following large group events and workshops have been scheduled for the R01 Boot Camp 2022-23 cohort:

Opening Ceremony (September 2022)

Grant Writing Workshop (Sept/Oct 2022)

Statistics Workshop (November 2022)

Texas A&M and NIH R01 Budget Preparation Workshop (March 2023)

Mock Review and Closing Ceremony (May 2023)

Self-directed interdisciplinary peer group activities of approximately three to four (3–4) faculty members (mentees) and one (1) coach (senior faculty member). Mentees share and review proposal sections, provide constructive feedback to one another, and address problems and needs of mutual interest. Coaches provide guidance on NIH policy and practices.

Present a Chalk Talk - A one-hour presentation developed in consultation with the mentee’s department and ISME to obtain critical feedback from experienced researchers to help shape the aims of the mentee’s R01 proposal. Chalk Talks should be presented within the first three months of the program to hone specific aims for further proposal development.

Consultation with an Internal Subject Matter Expert who will have specialized insight into the mentee’s scientific field of study, and who will provide counsel on mentee’s research plans, help them prepare and present a Chalk Talk, and review proposal drafts. 

External Review - R01 Boot Camp will pay for an External Subject Matter Expert to review full drafts of proposals at least six weeks before the NIH deadline. 

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.

Specifically, the ISME will:

  • Help the mentee identify collaborators, resources, and skills that the mentee needs to be competitive in a precise field of research
  • Work with mentees to plan departmental Chalk Talks    
  • Attend the mentee's departmental Chalk Talk  
  • Review all draft sections of the proposal
  • Help the mentee identify an external (outside of Texas A&M) reviewer to critique a final draft of the proposal
  • Receive $1,000 in discretionary funds once mentee submits proposal

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.

Please send inquiries to:

To obtain an ESME review, the mentee must contact Laurie Garton, 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 to three (2–3) 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.

Please send inquiries to: