Forum Encourages Faculty to Jump-Start Research and Teaching

National Science Foundation CAREER grants are extremely competitive, and a new effort is underway to dramatically improve the numbers.

Faculty members who attended the forum gained knowledge about the submission process, and tips from past grant recipients.

Faculty members who attended the forum gained knowledge about the submission process, and tips from past grant recipients.

CAREER grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) can jump-start a new faculty member’s research and teaching. The grants are extremely competitive and while Texas Tech has had success in the competition, a new effort is underway to dramatically improve the numbers.

“The NSF CAREER Award is one of the most distinguished awards given to a junior faculty member,” said Taylor Eighmy, vice president for research. “The funding rate nationally is less than 5 percent. During the last award cycle, our faculty received three of the awards, well above the average award rate. That speaks to the talent of our faculty, their innovative and strong scholarship and their perseverance.”

Steps to Continued Success

The three awards this year bring the number of Texas Tech faculty with the award to 12. To help encourage more faculty to submit proposals, Texas Tech hosted a forum to explain the submission process and share tips from those who have been successful.

“We need to make it part of Texas Tech’s culture that young faculty members apply for and receive this award,” said Michael San Francisco, faculty fellow for faculty development. “We want to have dozens of faculty members with this award.”

Boosting Research

The NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program award is given in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research. Tenure-track faculty in their first faculty appointments in the areas of social sciences, physical sciences, biological sciences and engineering are eligible.

“These awards can boost a faculty member’s research to the point he or she can attract other major funding from the NSF or other agencies,” said Eighmy. “We have about 100 new faculty on campus this year, many of them are eligible for this or similar awards from other agencies. This is our first organized attempt to assist faculty in achieving these career-boosting awards.”

The forum featured panels of Texas Tech faculty who received the award on their first try, those who took multiple applications to receive the award – the standard for most submissions – and a panel of Texas Tech faculty members who have previously served as NSF program directors. The activity was moderated by external CAREER Program expert ZJ Pei, professor in the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering at Kansas State University.

“We place an emphasis on integrated scholars at Texas Tech,” said Eighmy. “We take pride in our faculty who excel in teaching, research and service. These are the faculty who find ways to bring their research into the classroom, who provide an unparalleled education to our undergraduate students. Our goal is to help these outstanding men and women win awards such as the CAREER to put them on a trajectory toward success.”

Honoring Recipients

An award reception also was held at the International Cultural Center to recognize current and past recipients of the NSF CAREER grant. Texas Tech 2010 award recipients include: Luis Grave de Peralta, assistant professor, Department of Physics; Shiren Wang, assistant professor, Department of Industrial Engineering; and Ranadip Pal, assistant professor, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering. Read more about these recipients here.

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