BIRC Trailblazer Award

Issue Date

December 19, 2018


Since the opening of the University of Connecticut (UConn) Brain Imaging Research Center (BIRC) in June 2015, there has been an increase and diversification of user-base, neuroimaging-related extramural grants, and neuroimaging expertise of students and faculty. However, there is still room for greater utilization of BIRC, which presents opportunities for BIRC to offer the resources to perform high-profile and neuroimaging-intensive research that other fully occupied imaging centers cannot offer.


The BIRC Trailblazer Award was created to allow research teams to perform cutting-edge research and/or perform research that will benefit the BIRC community at-large. The objective of the 2019 BIRC Trailblazer Award is to fund: (1) high-risk high-reward projects with exceptional innovation that lead to raising the visibility of UConn, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) and BIRC; and/or (2) projects that will benefit the BIRC community at-large (e.g. methods development). The project is intended to lead to high-profile peer-review publications, release of a public database, and/or work that is cited and utilized by large-number of UConn researchers in their grants and manuscripts. The project should also lead to large-scale and high-profile extramural grant applications shortly after the end of the funding period.

Key Dates

  • January 31, 2019. To confirm fit, PIs are strongly encouraged to submit a letter of intent (LOI) to BIRC Director Fumiko Hoeft ( The LOI should include: overarching goals, background, specific aims & hypotheses, significance & innovation, team composition and available resources (approx. 1 page).
  • March 15, 2019. Application due date
  • April 1, 2019. Earliest start date


  • The principal investigator(s) must be a UConn faculty member with PI status. Multi-PI and Co-Investigators may include non-UConn faculty.
  • Single investigator proposals are not allowed to promote interdisciplinary research.
  • Multi-PIs with diverse expertise forming an interdisciplinary team is encouraged.
  • The project team must have all necessary expertise to conduct all aspects of research without involving BIRC or IBRAiN student support. BIRC staff however may join as (Multi-)PIs or Co-Investigators.
  • Prior and current BIRC Seed Grant recipients are allowed and encouraged.
  • Proposed projects must not fit within the scope of funded research programs of any team member.

Award Conditions

  • Anticipated number of awards. 1-2 per cycle, contingent on the quality of proposals.
  • Allowable costs. Awards support costs to offset usage of MRI, TMS, and/or EEG equipment at BIRC. Awards may not be used to cover any other research costs. There is no limit in the number of hours/sessions requested. However, the requested number of hours/sessions must be well-justified by power analyses.
  • Scheduling of equipment use. Extramurally-funded and seed grants take priority and booked sessions may be bumped up to 1 week prior to the scheduled time. This is however negotiable if the participants are difficult to schedule populations (e.g. clinical populations, infants).
  • Duration of award. Awards are made for two years, with a possible 1-year no-cost extension.
  • Conditions of award. Projects must have IRB approval before awards are released. Recipients must submit a study request form prior to data collection.
  • Annual report. An annual report is required for at least 5 years, describing progress towards funding and any research products.
  • Acknowledgement. Any research products must acknowledge BIRC support.

Review Criteria

Applications will be reviewed by the BIRC Steering Committee members with no COI within a month of the submission due date based the following criteria:

  • Innovation, significance and scientific merit
  • Likelihood of success
  • Qualifications of the research team to complete the proposed work
  • Potential for external funding
  • Availability of funds to support non-BIRC costs, such as salary support of staff, participant payments, and other research costs


The format generally follows the format of an NIH R21 application (see Resources below). Download and complete the application template, and requested attachments. Submit your completed application, including all attachments, as a single PDF file using the form below.

  • Title of application (Limited to 200 characters including spaces and punctuation)
  • Abstract (Maximum of 30 lines of text)
  • Public Health Relevance (3 sentences maximum)
  • Specific Aims (1-page maximum)
  • Research Strategies (6-page maximum)
    • Significance (Explain the importance of the problem or critical barrier to progress that the proposed project addresses. Describe the scientific premise for the proposed project, including consideration of the strengths and weaknesses of published research or preliminary data crucial to the support of your application. Explain how the proposed project will improve scientific knowledge, technical capability, and/or clinical practice in one or more broad fields. If applicable, explain how the project benefits the BIRC community at large.)
    • Innovation (Explain how the application challenges and seeks to shift current research or clinical practice paradigms. Describe any novel theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation or interventions to be developed or used, and any advantage over existing methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions. Explain any refinements, improvements, or new applications of theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions.)
    • Approach
      • Overall strategy
      • Preliminary data (If available. If the project is in the early stages of development, describe any information and strategy to establish feasibility, and address the management of any high risk aspects of the proposed work.)
      • Methodology including analyses plan
      • Potential problems & alternative strategies
      • Power analyses (Include information that shows that your methods for sample size and data analysis are appropriate given your research plans)
      • Timeline (This should include timeline of IRB approval [if relevant], designing the study, pilot data collection and completion of research. It should also include submission timeline of peer-reviewed manuscripts and release of tools & public database, as well as funding.
    • Anticipated Products (Describe manuscripts that will come out from the award, tools and databases that will be made available. List grants to be submitted, their exact funding opportunities (including url and RFP #), and strategies of obtaining future funding, describe why it’s a good fit and data/personnel etc may be sufficient for the opportunities, and explain how the proposed award will be used to support your grant submission. Include information on key personnel if not included in the current proposal. Describe your anticipated external total budget and anticipated budget for BIRC resources.)
      • Publicly available tools (If applicable)
      • Public databases (If applicable)
      • Grant applications
      • BIRC resources anticipated to be utilized in the grant to be submitted
  • References / Bibliography (no page limit)
  • Multi-PI plan (If applicable; 0.5-page maximum. Describe rationale for choosing a Multi-PI approach. The governance and organizational structure of the leadership team and the research project should be described, including communication plans, processes for making decisions on scientific direction, and procedures for resolving conflicts. The roles and administrative, technical, and scientific responsibilities for the project or program should be delineated for the PIs and other collaborators. If budget allocation is planned, the distribution of resources to specific components of the project or the individual PIs should be delineated.)
  • Resource Sharing Plan (If applicable; 0.5-page maximum. Include a description of how final tools and research data will be shared, dissemination plans of all products resulting from the project and how privacy will be protected.)
  • Key Personnel (1-page maximum. Include information on [Multi-]PI[s], Co-Investigators, Consultants and Students involved. Include their expertise, role in the project and level of effort. Utilize biosketch section A. Personal Statement as appropriate to supplement).
  • Budget (No page limit. Specify and justify the cost calculated by the number and duration of MRI, EEG, and/or TMS hours and sessions. See new Service Fee Memo effective January 1, 2019, for details of the costs. List other costs needed to complete the proposed project and source of funds. Include justification for how the proposed project does not overlap with current funded projects.)
  • Attachments (Include all attachments as a single PDF for the submission.)
    • Biosketches (Include an NIH or NSF style biosketch for the PI(s) and all key personnel. List all funding active within the last three years. If using NSF style biosketch, add NIH style Personal Statement to the biosketch.)
    • Other Support (For each PI or co-I, list active and pending funding and scope in NIH format. Describe how the proposed project falls outside the scope of current and pending funding.)
    • IRB protocol (Include a PDF of your complete pending or approved IRB protocol. If approved, please include the approval letter. If a protocol has not yet been submitted, include time to IRB approval in your timeline. Seed awards will not be released prior to IRB approval. BIRC provides template IRB language to facilitate UConn IRB approval of neuroimaging studies.)
    • Letters of support (Optional. Include any letters necessary to demonstrate the support of consortium participants and collaborators not listed in the proposal.)