QEM/Proposal Info

QEM Proposal Page - CAREER, MRI, General Proposals

This page was created in response to information requests I received from participants in QEM (Quality Education for Minorities) workshops on the NSF-CAREER and MRI Programs in which I participated as a consultant over several years (2002-present).

While I certainly don't pretend to have any particularly "magical" insights into this process, it is my hope that this information will allow you to compare and contrast my experiences and to see how I put my proposal together. The best advice I can give you is to talk with persons both at your institution and in your field to learn from their experiences in proposal development.

If you have just randomly come across this site, the only thing I ask is that you send me a quick e-mail message letting me know that you are using these files and if you found them helpful.

NOTE (11/2010, updated 12/2012)
 - I have participated as a consultant in the QEM MRI workshop and was asked about my experiences with the NSF MRI program. I have added a copy of my successful 2002 MRI proposal on the acquisition of a sterescopic PIV system for my laboratory.  I also recently added a link to the summary of my 2011 MRI development proposal.  As of Dec., 2012, this is a large ($2.1 million) active research project on the development of a magnetized dusty plasma.  I will only post a copy of the proposal itself after the project has ended, but if you have questions about this, I would be happy to answer.

WORDS OF CAUTION: These are technical proposals are on topics in experimental plasma physics. While the subject may be different from yours, I believe you might be able to get some insights on the the general formatting and organization of an NSF proposal. I believe the information I have posted is accurate but you MUST go to the NSF website for the most up-to-date information. I strongly recommend directing any questions you have to the NSF program manager for your area of research.

The structure of the proposals given here have worked for me in MY RESEARCH AREA. You will need to develop your own proposal strategies that work in YOUR RESEARCH AREA. 

As I said above, the rules under which NSF grants are awarded have changed over time. Big differences between now and then are:

  1. In my opinion, my educational plan (as written under the FY-97 rules) does not have the necessary evaluation mechanisms to be successful under the FY-05 (or later) rules. Also, I'm not sure that the integrated nature of research and education plans came through as effectively as would be needed for the present competition. Nonetheless, the basic plan is, I think, still sound.

  2. Under the FY-97 rules, CAREER proposals were limited to a maximum of $100k per year for 5 years. Please review the current rules on budgets. However, the basic elements of the budget (Personnel, Materials and Supplies, Travel, Major Equipment) remain the same.

  3. My summary did not have the "Intellectual Merit" and "Broader Impact" statements that are now REQUIRED for all NSF proposals. That rule was not in effect in FY-97.

  4. Comment (Spring, 2008) In preparing for a QEM workshop, I tried my hand at re-writing my FY-97 CAREER summary using the FY-08 competition current guidelines. Most of the summary remains intact, but reorganized. Both versions are contained in THIS pdf file.

  5. Comment (Spring, 2008, updated Fall, 2010) - One of the proposals listed below is a general research proposal written using the guidelines in place for FY-2008. Effective January 5, 2008, the most recent revision to the "Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide" went into effect (NSF081). As a general rule, always go to the NSF website and make sure that you are following the rules for the current year's competition!

  6. Comment (Fall, 2010) - As with the other proposals, the MRI proposal that is posted here was subject to the rules in place at the time it was submitted (FY 2002). There are MANY new requirements (post-doc mentoring plan, data management plan, summary that explicitly states broader impact and intellectual merit, etc.) that WERE NOT APPLICABLE then. READ the NSF Grant Proposal Guide for the most recent list of rules.

Files available for download:

FY-96: Unsuccessful CAREER Proposal

FY-97: Successful CAREER Proposal

FY-08: Recent funded NSF Proposal (general research proposal)

  • Summary (66 kB)
    This is the summary of a recently funded (~May, 2008) NSF grant. This is an example of the structure of the project summary under the NSF proposal guidelines that were in effect through December, 2007.  

    :  Always check the most recent NSF Grant Proposal Guide for the current proposal submission guidelines. 

  • FY-97 Summary re-write (68 kB)
    This file contains both the original and rewritten versions of my FY-97 CAREER proposal summary.

MRI (Major Research Instrumentation) Proposals

  • FY-2002 Proposal:  Acquisition of a Stereoscopic Particle Image Velocimetry diagnostic (~$130,000)
    Summary and Proposal text combined into a single document (1.5 MB PDF)
  • FY-2012 Proposal:  Development of a Magnetized Dusty Plasma Experiment (~$2,126,000)
    Summary of the proposal  
    [Note (12/12) - this project is on-going, I will publicly post the proposal after the project has ended (about Sept., 2014).
    [Note (10/13) - if you send me an e-mail message, I would be willing to send you an individual copy]
  • My 2012 QEM presentation on the preparation of MRI acquisition and development proposals 


Ed Thomas (etjr[at]physics.auburn.edu)
Professor, Physics Department, Auburn University

© Edward Thomas, Auburn University 2019