Q. When is the best time to do the fellowship?
A. The fellowship targets promising new investigators that are at the “critical period”, when the possibility of becoming their own PI during the summer will help to develop the self-confidence and drive to pursue an independent research career. This “critical period” usually takes place during the late postdoctoral years but the program is also appropriate for advanced graduate students and new Assistant Professors.
Q. Can I apply for the fellowship before I obtain my graduate degree?
A. Predoctoral researchers are eligible to apply however; applicants should not combine a Grass Fellowship with writing a Ph.D. thesis.
Q. Can I apply for the fellowship if I have already obtained a faculty position?
A. Investigators at all early career stages are eligible to apply.
Q. Can I apply for a second Grass Fellowship?
A. Former Fellows are welcome to apply.
Q. What is your policy regarding visas for foreign researchers?
A. Applicants who are not US citizens or resident aliens must hold a valid J-1 or H-1B visa for the entire duration of the fellowship. Applicants should contact MBL for guidance and not rely on visa advice from their current institution. The fee to obtain a J-1 visa is reimbursed by the Grass Foundation. However, given that the The Grass Foundation is not the employer, no help in obtaining H1B visas can be offered.
Q. Is it possible to be a teaching assistant in an MBL course during part of the fellowship?
A. The Grass Foundation encourages fellows to take full advantage of MBL’s scientific community as they conduct independent research. However, time-intensive activities, such as teaching in a course, is not feasible.
Q. I applied last year and was not awarded a Grass Fellowship. May I reapply a second time for next year’s deadline?
A. Absolutely- some reapplicants have been successful in the past! Reapplications must submit a completely new application; we cannot simply reactivate your old application.
Q. If I am selected as a Grass Fellow and my personal situation changes, can I defer my fellowship until the next summer?
A. Due to the timely nature of research proposals, fellowships are non-deferrable. If you are selected but unable to accept the fellowship, you will have to reapply.
Q. I heard that I need to work on something else than my thesis/postdoctoral work/laboratory?
A. This is a persistent but inaccurate rumor. Many years/decades ago, this might have been true, but it no longer is. That said, it would be desirable that the proposal goes beyond increasing the ‘n’ of an ongoing story. Thus in some way, the work in the proposal should stand on its own, even if it is integrated into a larger research enterprise.
Q. Are research projects studying marine organisms given preference?
A. No, the Selection Committee gives preference to ALL research proposals appropriate to the facilities and organisms that can be accommodated at MBL. This list includes marine and freshwater species (e.g., fish, amphibians), invertebrates (e.g., insects, gastropods), and small vertebrates such as, but not limited to, mice or rats. If in doubt, check with us or the MBL. Of note, the MBL has a very ambitious cephalopod husbandry program, culturing several cephalopod species. Also noteworthy are the Zebrafish facility and houses the National Xenopus Resource.
Q. Is it possible to conduct one’s project in the laboratory of an investigator at the MBL rather than in the Grass Lab?
A. Yes, this is possible. In this case, the fellow should include an additional (4th) letter of reference from the sponsoring investigator.
The MBL has a rich and growing environment of summer investigators and year-round, resident researchers in a most areas of the life-sciences. Formal and informal applications are strongly endorsed and encouraged by the Grass Foundation. Strengths at the MBL include among others deep sequencing, super resolution imaging, neuroscience and environmental studies.
Q. Are there restrictions on the types of research animals and experimental techniques permitted at MBL?
A. Yes. MBL does not have facilities to house large mammalian species. Isolated rooms for sensitive behavioral tests are extremely unlikely due to space limitations. MBL is not currently a Biosafety Level 2 (BSL-2) facility so pseudorabies virus work is NOT permitted; lentivirus work is permitted in cell culture only, NOT in whole animals.
The MBL has only a limited capacity to accommodate non-indigenous species. Remember that not all aquatic organisms are indigenous to New England waters! If in doubt, check with us or the MBL.
Q. Are there caveats to proposing a project on a different vertebrate species than my current research?
A. Each selected fellow is responsible for writing his/her animal use protocol. Approval of protocols by the MBL Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee requires that each fellow obtain appropriate training before the start of the fellowship or in collaboration with a scientist at MBL during the fellowship.
Q. After I applied for the Grass Fellowship, I was informed that a paper I cited in my bibliography was accepted for publication. May I submit it to the Foundation?
A. You can email it to us (firstname.lastname@example.org), and we will update your application. Applicants will be notified of the Grass Foundation’s decision by the end of January at the latest, so there is limited time in which to do so.
Q. I was wondering if there would be a problem if my reference letters arrive before my application.
A. We receive most reference letters ahead of the application. We keep files on each applicant, and when the application gets processed, we attach their reference letters. The yearly deadline for receipt of applications and letters of recommendation is December 5.
Q. Regarding the research proposal, I am attempting to balance the importance of background material versus experimental detail. What are your guidelines?
A. There are no rigid guidelines beyond what is in our instructions. You should choose a balance appropriate for your project and assume that neuroscientists who may not be specialists in your particular field will read applications. Applications will be judged on attributes including overall quality, the applicant’s ability to organize and present pertinent information, ability to develop a strong experimental plan, the feasibility of the project and likelihood of success.
Q. I understand that the fellowship is a 14-week commitment from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Is it possible to deviate from these fellowship dates to attend a scientific conference or go to a wedding, for example?
A. Late arrivals, early departures or planned absences during the Grass Fellowship dates are strongly discouraged and exception requests due to personal or professional obligations must be disclosed in the application and approved by the Grass Foundation and the Director of the Grass Laboratory. Please disclose any known deviations from the fellowship dates on your application (this is important for the evaluation process) or as soon as possible to the Grass Fellowship Program Director, if personal obligations originate after the selection process.
Q. What is life like in Woods Hole?
A. Fellows are housed with their families or share housing with other Fellows in MBL summer cottages on Memorial Circle or Devil’s Lane. Cottages are within biking distance to the lab and are accessible by MBL shuttle bus service. Alternatively, Fellows can choose to be housed in dorm rooms on campus. Fellows get together for a weekly group dinner, once a week, and have free time to enjoy the numerous beaches, bike paths, tennis courts, etc that are offered nearby. Please check out the links under “Additional information on Woods Hole” on the MBL website: http://www.mbl.edu/housing/guest-information/ or visit www.woodshole.com
Q. Does the Grass Fellowship provide a stipend?
A. Since the Grass Fellowship provides a rich intellectual environment and support for independent research, it does not offer a stipend during the fellowship learning experience. It does provide laboratory space, animals (purchase and per diem care), equipment (either through vendor loans or shipping costs from your home institution), a research budget of up to $2000 (for supplies) and a miscellaneous budget of $1500. Additionally, the fellow, their spouse or legal domestic partner, and dependent children are provided housing, a daily meal allowance and round-trip travel to MBL.
Q. Does Acceptance of the Fellowship incurr tax obligations?
A. We cannot provide tax advise. However it is our understanding that according to the IRS, fellowships are potentially taxable independent of your citizenship or visa status. Refer to the IRS website, e.g http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/International-Taxpayers/Taxation-of-Nonresident-Aliens or contact a tax specialist if you have any further question.
Q. Does the Grass Fellowship provide childcare for dependents during the fellowship?
A. The Foundation has a very family friendly policy. There are children’s programs available through MBL (www.mbl.edu/childrens-programs/). If your dependents are not eligible for these programs, please do contact us and we will work with you to find a solution.
Q. Can we bring our pets?
A. There are a limited number of pet-approved cottages at the MBL. There is a $250 per pet refundable deposit for those approved to have pets in their cottages and a limit of two pets per cottage. Pet deposits and travel costs for pets are not provided by the Grass Foundation. There is no guarantee that pets can be accommodated by the MBL. Finally, no pets are allowed in the laboratory space.
Q. If I have other questions, whom should I contact at the MBL?
A. All questions should be directed to the Grass Fellowship Coordinator at the MBL, email@example.com.
Q. What is the total financial value of the fellowship?
A. This is a hard question to answer since it varies considerably between fellows. A Fellow who is accompanied by spouse/domestic partner and travels from Australia to work on transgenic mice will incur a larger cost to the Foundation than a single Fellow traveling from Boston to work on Drosophila. But on average, the ‘value’ of the fellowship is in the range of ~$50K.
Q. How does this fellowship prepare me better for a career in science?
A. One of the major benefits of the fellowship, besides enabling cutting-edge research, is the ability to build your own support network of peers and researchers in your field. Being at the MBL for an entire summer will introduce you to a wide variety of world-renowned researchers that come to the MBL to teach in the courses, to conduct their own summer research or who are resident year-round scientists at the MBL. Further, you will – probably for the first time – write an animal protocol, set up your own equipment and manage time and money. The intense interactions with other neuroscience fellows will prepare you to both explain your research at a high level to neuroscientists that are not experts in your field and will train you in understanding and asking questions about neuroscience outside of your comfort zone. Both of these skills will be essential for your job interviews in academia and beyond.
Q. With grant funding being fickle, is it not an enormous luxury to spend 14 weeks in Woods Hole?
A. It is an amazing privilege to be able to spend 14 weeks doing research with all costs paid! The fellowship represents a major source of funding for cutting edge research that might be difficult to conduct at one’s home institution, especially with other funding sources being scarce. So yes, if doing science is a luxury, then this fellowship supports that luxury! So rather than taking away funding from your home-laboratory, the fellowship allows you to do fully funded research that aids and supports your home laboratory.
Q. At my home institution I do not have access to X (e.g. a 2-photon microscope, a dynamic clamp system, fiddler crabs, a patterned illumination system, etc) and yet I need these resources for my research.
A. Access to specialized equipment, model organisms and diverse intellectual colleagues is one of the major benefits of the Grass Fellowship. Many vendors are amazingly generous in providing fellows with a diverse array of loaner equipment. You can thus test out equipment that your lab might be considering buying and obtain preliminary data for the next grant.
Q. I am a grad student/pdoc and have never set up my own X (e.g electrophysiology rig). Will the Director of the Grass Lab help me with this task?
A. Once awarded the fellowship; you will be treated as an independent investigator independent of your academic rank. While many people, including the Director and vendor representatives will be able to support you; you will be solely in charge of your own experimental set-up. Setting up your own equipment is a great learning experience and will let you become familiar with the details of the instrumentation. While it will initially slow you down a bit in data collection, you will have a much more appropriate understanding of the workings, possibilities and limitations of the instrumentation you use. And in contrast to when you start your own laboratory, there are experts around that are willing to help and troubleshoot. If something does not workout, you can also get feedback on alterative equipment.
Q. Do fellows generate enough data in a summer for a publication?
A. Yes, this happens and of course depends on the scope of the project. More frequently, data gathered during the summer forms part of a publication or a grant application. (We are working on a collection of publications and grants based on research done during a Grass Fellowship).
Q. Why should I send my graduate student/postdoc to do a Grass fellowship for the summer?
A. The MBL in general and the Grass Lab in particular offers a uniquely interactive, critical and lively intellectual environment. Your trainee will profit from being able to actively build their academic network beyond the home institution and your trainee will showcase your research program to the international community at the MBL. Remember that, unlike decades ago, most Grass Fellows continue to work on experiments related to their research project done at their home institution.
Your trainee will gain valuable experience in being independent ranging from writing an animal protocol, to managing a budget, to setting up equipment and interacting with vendors, to explaining their research to an international audience of experts.
Your trainee will have access to animal species, e.g. marine species that might not be readily available at your home institution. Your trainee will be able to test new approaches and novel equipment with absolutely no risk to you. Mulitphoton and super-resolution microscopes, specialized electrophysiological equipment and deep sequencing facilities are all readily available.Frequently, vendors are agreeable to substantial discounts for equipment at the end of the summer.
The project proposal can be directly related to your next/current R01, or it can be related to the trainee’s own R01 by providing preliminary data. In either case, the fellowship will pay for the research to be conducted and thus provide a very tangible, financial benefit to you.
All these opportunities will directly enhance the research program at the home institution. Animal cost and research costs are carried by the Foundation and your student/pdoc might have access to equipment that is not available (or very costly) at your home institution. Together, this yields considerable financial savings for your laboratory. Thus from both the fellows as well as the home laboratories point of view, the Grass Fellowship constitutes a win-win opportunity!
….Obviously, your trainee will not be physically present in your own laboratory, but s/he is only a Zoom meeting away!
Q. If I have other questions, whom should I contact at the MBL?
A. All questions should be directed to the Grass Fellowship Coordinator at the MBL, firstname.lastname@example.org