In fulfilling its mandate to build research capacity in the state, the Nebraska NSF Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (Nebraska EPSCoR) funds grants, internships, and other opportunities designed to help researchers to increase the competitiveness of their work. Among these efforts is the FIRST Award program, which awards up to $25,000 to investigators intending to apply in the future for an NSF CAREER Award, which supplies funding for early-career faculty heading up promising research and educational programs.
The FIRST Award program has two overarching goals: it provides funding for awardees to further their research, and it helps to prepare them to apply for submitting a CAREER Award proposal by providing them with expert feedback and recommendations. The proposal format is based on that of the CAREER Award, giving applicants the chance to demonstrate how they would apply for that prestigious and highly selective award. Grantees are required to submit a CAREER Award proposal to NSF within the next award period; many have gone on to be awarded either an NSF CAREER or DOE Early Career award.
RCP’s role in helping Nebraska EPSCoR to further its goals is to provide expert peer review of the up to ten FIRST Award proposals that pass an initial screening. Reviewers provide substantive feedback that considers both overarching goals of the program and is sent to Nebraska EPSCoR as well as to applicants.
This year, Dr. Ryan Wong, who was a FIRST Award recipient in 2017 after proposal review managed by RCP, became the first faculty member from University of Nebraska Omaha to receive a CAREER Award. His research explores how certain stress coping styles (animal personality types) can limit learning and memory capabilities, and the funding will also be used to provide opportunities for UNO students and K-12 students in Omaha Public Schools to perform behavioral neurogenetics experiments.