Expanded Pre-Award Services sets standard for aiding funding requests

April 11, 2012

Amanda Hamaker is assistant director of sponsored program services, pre-award. In 2010, the University's pre-award services expanded to provide more faculty with help submitting research and grant proposals. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

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Since expanding two years ago, Purdue's Pre-Award Services unit has helped nearly 2,200 faculty members submit more than 7,700 total research and grant proposals.

The five total centers help faculty members who are working to create proposals for sponsor entities. Separate centers exist for the College of Engineering; Discovery Park; the colleges of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine; and the colleges of Science, Pharmacy, and Health and Human Sciences. A central pre-award center assists colleges and departments not covered under the other centers.

The latter three centers opened in January 2010 at the request of faculty members who were asking for more pre-award help, says Amanda Hamaker, assistant director of sponsored program services, pre-award.

"Our focus is really on the administrative side of submitting proposals," Hamaker says. "We want to really take that burden off the faculty so they can focus on the science behind their projects. That's our ultimate goal."

The centers help faculty interpret grant sponsors' guidelines, navigate proposal paperwork, provide tax-related information about the University and prepare budgets for projects.

Since the new centers were created, the success rate of faculty members using all five centers is more than 43 percent across all types of funding requests.  This includes new requests as well as requests for continued, supplemental and renewal funding. Faculty members have requested more than $3.4 billion total through the centers.

Grant sponsors often are arms of the federal government, such as the National Science Foundation or the Department of Energy, Hamaker says. Many applications for large grants have been successful.

Those include a $1 million research award from the Los Angeles-based W.M. Keck Foundation. The team, led by Joseph Irudayaraj with co-principal investigators Feng Zhou, Sophie Lelièvre and Ann Kirchmaier, won the grant in December 2011 for their proposal to study how epigenetic markers work in cells.

"The pre-award center was very helpful and proactive in bringing us up to speed with all the steps and the timeline involved in the application process," Irudayaraj said.

"Personally, I had a great team to work with every step of the way throughout the documentation process, and that helped in the timely completion and assembly of the materials -- and ultimately to our success."

Beyond the centers' ground-level effects, Hamaker says they also contribute to furthering the University's mission of boosting research among faculty. Other universities have started taking notice, too; some, including North Carolina State University, have implemented similar centers based on the structure in place at Purdue.

The first pre-award center, which services Discovery Park, opened in 2006. The College of Engineering pre-award center opened in 2009.

For more information about the centers, visit www.purdue.edu/business/sps/preaward/General_Info/Pre-AwardServices.html.