By Matthew Stier (G4)
April 25, 2017
Posted in Workshop News

Vanderbilt MSTP Demos New Internal Review Mechanism to Benefit Students Applying for Individual Fellowship Grants

On Wednesday March 15th, a group of eight senior MSTP students and faculty convened for the first internal Vanderbilt MSTP Individual Fellowship Mock Study Section. The goals were twofold. First, we aimed to give actionable feedback on central fellowship documents including the scientific approach and training plan to MSTP students applying for F30 or other fellowship grants in the spring. Second, we sought to provide a training opportunity for senior MSTP students to learn side-by-side from experienced faculty members and their peers about how grants are reviewed at study section.

Over the course of two hours, the group discussed four fellowship grant applications in the style of a true NIH study section. Each grant had at least one student and one faculty reviewer who provided initial scores for the application and led a discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of the proposals. Final scores and feedback were collected from the group. The grants were evaluated based on the same criteria with which they’re to be scored during their actual review including the strength of the fellowship applicant, their research training plan, and the applicant’s training potential. Overall, feedback from both fellowship applicants as well as reviewers was enthusiastic!

In the past several years, Vanderbilt MSTP students have been very successful in competing for individual fellowship grants including NIH F30, NIH F31, and American Heart Association fellowships. In recent years, 70% of eligible students have received NIH NRSA F30 and F31 awards. This new mechanism of internal review seeks to improve upon these impressive numbers as well as provide senior students the opportunity to get their feet wet with reviewing grants, an important part of their future careers as physician-scientists.

If you would like to get involved in future iterations of this mock study section or would like to have a fellowship application reviewed, please contact Matt Stier ( and Dr. Ambra Pozzi (