Path to Independence Program

The Path to Independence Program is designed to help junior faculty prepare their first NIH R01s.  The program is offered three times per year to coincide with NIH R01 application submission deadlines, and consists of structured reviews and feedback on grant applications by experienced faculty.  

The next cycle of program registration is now available!  Click here to view important program dates.


How to Apply

Interested junior faculty members must apply to participate.  Selection for participation will be on a first-come-first serve basis, and preference will be made for faculty members preparing a first R01 grant or resubmission of a first R01 grant.  Upon application, applicants must provide a completed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by both the applicant and his or her Department Chair OR Division Chief.  Please use the MOU template provided (click here).  Additionally, applicants must provide a brief summary of their proposal and a draft of their Specific Aims Page.  Late applications will not be considered. Click here for application information

Program Timeline

Below is a general outline of the program schedule.  At the close of each registration period, participants will be contacted about scheduling the exact dates for their specific workshops. The program is time intensive; applicants should preemptively lighten their schedule to allow ample time for writing a successful grant application.  


If your NIH grant is due on...

 February 5

  June 5

October 5

Completed Grant Writing Registration Packet Due September January May
Specific Aims Workshops October February June
Significance-Innovation Workshops November March July
Full Draft for Internal Review December April August
Internal Peer Review Session mid- December mid- April mid- August


If you are preparing a grant that falls under the HIV-grant deadline cycle, please contact the Office for Research Mentoring before applying for the program, so we can discuss the best possible resource for your application.  The current program best serves those applying under the traditional deadline schedule.

Networking Orientation 

Participants are required to one orientation session. This networking event provides participants with the opportunity to pick up grant writing resources compiled by the Office for Faculty Mentoring, learn about program requirements, and hear a grantwriting lecture given by Dr. Mark Dewhirst.   

Specific Aims Workshop

In these workshops, small groups of applicants will meet to review the specific aims of their application, with the objective of making them as concise and clear as possible. The Specific Aims page should be an executive summary of the whole grant. It needs to be written extremely well, because it is the one part of the grant that the majority of the study section will read. It is also used internally by NIH grant officials for making decisions about the grants to support among those whose scores fall within the fundable range. The workshops will be led by Dr. Mark Dewhirst and other senior faculty members.

Significance/Innovation Workshop

In these workshops, small groups of applicants will meet to review the significance and innovation sections of their applications. There is a saying in study section, “Nothing is worth doing well if it isn’t worth doing.” In a competitive funding climate, it is important that your significance and innovation sections clearly communicate the urgency of your research. Similar in format to the Specific Aims Workshops, these will be led by Dr. Mark Dewhirst and other senior faculty members.

Effective Communication Workshop

During these sessions, you will learn how to effectively communicate your ideas and plans to grant reviewers. Led by Dr. Joanna Downer, Associate Dean for Research Development at the School of Medicine, these sessions will teach you how to apply the writing principles developed by Dr. George D. Gopen, Professor of the Practice Emeritus of the Duke University Writing Program, as well as Dr. Downer’s own tips and tricks for effectively revising your own work. Dr. Downer has extensive experience in grant writing and has contributed to the successful acquisition of a number of large center-type research grants for School of Medicine faculty.

OFM Internal Review of Draft Applications

Applicants will submit full drafts of their applications approximately two months prior to each NIH deadline date. A table with internal submission deadlines can be found below. Duke faculty members who have NIH funding experience will provide a comprehensive set of comments and suggestions, and provide a full NIH style written review. 

Following the internal review, a study section will be held for review of draft applications.  Participants are expected to attend this study section to observe the process.  At the end of the study section, each participant will meet with his or her reviewers to discuss feedback and ask questions.



Questions about the Path to Independence Program?  Contact our office at