- News – updates from:
- People – Interviews with our new SMB Newsletter Editors, Dr. Sara Loo and Dr. Thomas Woolley.
- Editorial – A commentary titled “(W)Rite of Passage: Perspectives on writing your first grant proposal”.
- Featured Figures – Highlighting the research by early career researcher, Dr. Patricia R.S. Rodrigues, Cardiff University, and highlighting the most downloaded paper from the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology, April 2022 Issue.
To see the articles in this issue, click the links at the above items.
Issues of the newsletter are released four times per year in Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. The newsletter serves the SMB community with news and updates, so please share it with your colleagues and contribute content to future issues.
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We hope you enjoy this issue of the newsletter!
Alys, Fiona, Reginald, and Ruth
Editors, SMB Newsletter
In this issue of the News section, we highlight the updates from the SMB President, SMB Subgroups, Royal Society Publishing and upcoming conferences. Read on below.
SMB President Update
Heiko Enderling will continue to host Presidential Office Hours on the first Tuesday of each month (next date: 6th September) at 4pm. The zoom link is
Meeting ID: 990 8577 9843
SMB Subgroups Update
Cell and Developmental Biology (CDEV) subgroup
The CDEV Subgroup is looking to feature any CDEV-related opportunities and news (recent publications, workshops/conferences, or journal special issues) in their newsletters. SMB members are encouraged to fill out the form here for such a feature: forms.gle/XCs8Tfs6Ws794Xjs6.
The CDEV subgroup has recently published a blog post on conferences and workshops of interest to our cell and developmental biology community, with a focus on meetings attended by life sciences researchers: smb-celldevbio.github.io/2022-07-14-Conferences/. We encourage the SMB CDEV community to add comments to this blog post with other meetings they would recommend.The CDEV subgroup will be holding elections for five officers (elected for two years) during this year’s SMB meeting. We encourage our subgroup members to keep an eye out for the voting poll in September and to consider running for the Chair, Secretary, or Advisory Committee Member positions.
We are continuing to feature CDEV-related opportunities and news (recent publications, workshops/conferences, or journal special issues) in our newsletters (form: forms.gle/XCs8Tfs6Ws794Xjs6).
Mathematical Neurobiology Subgroup
The Mathematical Neurobiology subgroup has a new Vice Chair (Pamela Pyzza) and a new advisory member (Chitaranjan Mahapatra) and they welcome these new officers.
Royal Society Publishing
A print version is also available at the special price of £35.00 per issue from email@example.com
Royal Society Publishing has recently published a special open access issue of Philosophical Transactions A entitled ‘Technical challenges of modelling real-life epidemics and examples of overcoming these’ compiled and edited by Dr Jasmina Panovska-Griffiths, Dr William Waites, and Professor Graeme J Ackland and the articles are free to access directly at www.bit.ly/TransA-2233.
Upcoming Conferences and Workshops
ESMTB/SMB2022 19th-23rd September 2022
The 12th European Conference on Mathematical and Theoretical Biology will take place in Heidelberg, Germany, between 19th-23rd September 2022 and is a joint event organized by the European Society for Mathematical and Theoretical Biology (ESMTB) and the Society for Mathematical Biology (SMB). Registration is open until the 19th August. Find out more about ESMTB/SMB2022 on the website: ecmtb2022.org/
Interview with Dr. Sara Loo , John Hopkins University, , who is joining the SMB Newsletter team.
Interview with Dr. Thomas Woolley, Cardiff University, who is joining the SMB Newsletter team.
My first time working on a grant proposal was a submission with collaborators in 2021, and I was particularly surprised by the amount of paperwork that would ensue beyond writing up the science. For this editorial I wanted to compile tips that may help other early career researchers, and so I reached out to five colleagues around the society who have had success with different grant agencies for their advice and perspectives on writing a proposal and things they wish they had known before their first submission. The colleagues I corresponded with were Dr. Morgan Craig (Université de Montréal/CHU Sainte-Justine), Dr. Cheng Ly (Virginia Commonwealth University), Dr. Adam MacLean (University of Southern California), Dr. Olivia Prosper (University of Tennessee, Knoxville), and Dr. Linus Schumacher (University of Edinburgh); and their advice fell roughly into three categories.
When asked about “tips for identifying funding opportunities?” Dr. Craig responded “Most of your grants won’t be funded, so be ready to respond to reviewer critiques and resubmit to other competitions. Smaller competitions for seed money are good ways of building up capacity to show that you can achieve what you propose in larger grants, and they are sometimes easier to get funded.”
Dr. Schumacher gave similar advice: “It’s worth looking for ECR-specific and smaller funding schemes to bank some early successes before trying for larger grants.” and suggested the researchprofessional.com for identifying opportunities.
A final piece of strategic advice from Dr. MacLean was: “Seek feedback early, broadly, and widely. Ask for comments from specialists in/close to your field and from those outside it. If your university offers feedback or grant-editing services, use these! They were invaluable to me.”
Writing, feedback, and revisions
When asked “are there any things you’d wish you’d known before submitting your first grant?” Dr. Schumacher responded “how long it takes to write a good grant, how valuable it is to get honest and blunt feedback from more experienced colleagues on your draft.” He also added that “A book that I found helpful is the research funding toolkit: rftk.derrington.org”
Dr. Prosper responded to the question “are there any things you’d do differently since your first submission?”: “Since my first submission, I have put a lot of effort into the organization and readability of my proposals. How you present your ideas matters nearly as much as the ideas themselves, and that’s why starting a few months early with the writing is key. I like to print out the proposal and spread it out across the floor so that I can more easily see the flow of the proposal and assure that it’s clear. White space, charts, and figures are your friend.”
Regarding what should be easy to take away from a proposal, Dr. Ly remarked it needs to be “exciting, beyond incremental, and digestible.”
Other advice on writing and revision included:
“Reach out to your (extended) network/institution and get a hold of examples of previous successful grants for your competition. A lot of grant writing requires specific formatting/language that reviewers are primed to expect to see, so especially for your first grant, it helps to see the building blocks and flow of a proposal.” -Dr. Craig
“Tell a compelling story. This is more important than any single aim. If you are not convinced when you read it back, then it’s probably going to be a hard sell.” -Dr. MacLean
“For a collaborative proposal, I think it is useful to have one person who is in charge of polishing and making some final executive decisions, so that the writing feels cohesive.” – Dr. Prosper
Realities of the process
Dr. Ly added advice on why formatting is essential “Keep in mind all 3+ reviewers will have read 9 to 14 other proposals of the same length in probably a short period of time (maybe 30min to 2 hrs per proposal?).”
Finally, here are some rapid-fire realities:
“Firstly, survivorship bias is real. Heed all advice with caution.” -Dr. MacLean
“It would have been useful to know roughly how much time to dedicate to the grant tasks internal to the university, and how much time to allocate to coordinating with my collaborators’ universities. Different universities have different internal deadlines, expectations, and procedures, and it’s critical to understand those differences to have a smooth submission. We want to be able to focus our energy on the proposal, but the logistics have to be ironed out.”-Dr. Prosper
“If you’re working with data, specify exactly what data you already have available to work with. And don’t assume that further data promised by collaborators will materialise (microscopes break, lockdowns happen, etc.), so have back-up plans!” -Dr. Schumacher
I personally look forward to implementing many of these tips into my next proposal and I hope you all find them useful. Good luck to all those who may be submitting a proposal soon whether for the first or fiftieth time. In the words of Sir Arthur Dayne, “I wish you good fortune in the wars to come.”
By Fiona Macfarlane
Early Career Feature
A recent paper by Peter Ghazal (School of Medicine, Cardiff University), Patricia R.S. Rodrigues (School of Medicine, Cardiff University), Mallinath Chakraborty (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, University Hospital of Wales), Siva Oruganti (Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, University Hospital of Wales), and Thomas E. Woolley (School of Mathematics, Cardiff University) entitled “Challenging molecular dogmas in human sepsis using mathematical reasoning” uses mathematical reasoning to consider three interlinked cardinal rules governing host-response trajectories in sepsis.
Rule 1 – requirement to include measurement of parameters outside immune-inflammatory response. Namely, we should be approaching the problems in a systems biology way and that the problem of sepsis is more than the sum of its parts. For example, treating sepsis just as an inflammation response does not include information from the cardiovascular and neuronal systems. Rule 2 – requirement to include bioenergetic measurements. Critically, humans are not “closed systems” and as such our ability to fight an infection is closely tied to our energy regulation, i.e. having the energy to fight the infection. Indeed, the roles of the systems in rule 1 are dependent on the understanding of energy requirements in rule 2. Finally, Rule 3 – requirement to determine adaptive set-points of biological and physiological pathways. Sepsis is not an unregulated function of the body, it is the body undergoing a systemic bifurcation of regulation and, thus, it is regulating itself in a different and potentially dangerous way. By mathematically modelling the first two rules we will be able to understand rule 3 by investigating the bifurcation structure. Hopefully, we will understand how systems are perturbed towards sepsis trajectories and, thus, how to push them back towards healthy trajectories.
To read more about this exciting work, please see the link:
Most downloaded article in Bulletin of Mathematical Biology, April 2022 Issue
A recent paper authored by George Youlden (University of Birmingham), Helen E. McNeil (University of Birmingham), Jessica M.A. Blair (University of Birmingham), Sara Jabbari (University of Birmingham) and John R. King (University of Nottingham) has become the most downloaded paper in the April 2022 Issue of the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology. The paper is entitled “Mathematical Modelling Highlights the Potential for Genetic Manipulation as an Adjuvant to Counter Efflux-Mediated MDR in Salmonella”.
Most antibiotics work by accumulating inside bacterial cells; the ability of bacteria to expel antibiotics via efflux pumps is a key driver of multi-drug resistance. When exposed to antibiotics (or other stressors), the cells quickly mount a defence – activating production of the proteins that can efflux the drug out of the cell before the drug can act and kill the bacteria. The ability to inhibit efflux, therefore, has the potential to be a huge turning point in the global problem of antimicrobial resistance – rendering otherwise ineffective drugs effective. We present a partial differential equation model capturing diffusion and efflux of a stressor in the bacterium Salmonella, coupled with the nonlinear gene regulation network responsible for enabling the bacteria to switch efflux on or off as appropriate. Through careful comparison with experimental data we develop an in silico framework through which potential adjuvants to antibiotics can be examined.
To read more about this exciting work, please see the link: