The Biosketch

If you are preparing to write a biosketch, congratulations – this means you have advanced to the point in your career where you are at least considering submitting a grant application. Every couple years the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will update the requirements and recommendations for a submitted biosketch, so it is crucial to check for the most up-to-date samples and blank format pages that will be helpful as you construct your final copy. The NIH website also provides a free service, Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae (SciENcv), that allows you to enter the necessary schooling, personal statement, positions/honors, etc and create pdfs or word documents of compliant with the current recommendations. I highly recommend using this program as it will safe you a lot of time and frustration. Given that most of the heavy-lifting is accomplished with SciENcv, the rest of this post will focus on advice for what to include and not include in your biosketch. The two main areas in which you can really sell yourself are the personal statement and contributions to science.

Personal Statement: This is your opportunity to explain where you came from, why you are interested in and capable of pursuing your submitted grant, and what you hope to accomplish with the proposed project. Keep in mind that although you want this section to be short, try to concisely demonstrate (1) your expertise in the area, (2) why you chose your specific mentor (for F30/31 applications), and (3) re-write every personal statement specifically for the submitted grant. It would be unwise to re-use the same personal statement for multiple grants, as this paints an image of a careless, lazy investigator—which does not provide confidence for study sections. In this section, you can also cite up to four publications if you deem them relevant.

Contribution to Science: This section is essentially the proof of your personal statement and why you deserved the myriad of positions, honors, and memberships you listed above. In this section you can describe up to five contributions (although graduate students and post-docs often focus on only 2-3 they consider the most significant). If you have been constantly involved in research since undergraduate, I’ve heard it sometimes makes chronological sense to break it down into 3 sections based on your (1) undergraduate, (2) medical school, and (3) graduate school research. However, if you were a star in graduate school and can break this down into 2-3 important projects, that works too. Note that this section focuses on projects, and under each contribution you can list up to four pertinent publications. Additionally, as of May 25, 2017, you are allowed to cite interim research projects (although there are special rules for citation you should look at).

Other sections:

Name/eRA Commons User Name/Position Title/Education&Training/Research Support – all fairly self-explanatory

Positions and Honors – list in chronological order all the positions you’ve held. This is also an opportunity for students to list scholarships, fellowships, awards, memberships in societies, etc.

Scholastic Performance – Unfortunately as a predoctoral student you need to list all undergraduate and graduate courses with grades and the levels required for passing. You should also include an explanation of the grading system if it differed from the traditional 3 (0-100, A-F, or 0.0-4.0). Once you are a postdoctoral student, you can selectively submit courses relevant to your training.

Again, congratulations on reaching this important milestone in your budding career (or being Type A enough that you have the free time to do this before getting your grant together)! Compiling a grant is a lot of effort, but so would research be if no one ever funded you!

-Joe Ladowski