Research in the time of Covid-19 (Part I) – JUly 01, 2020

The official start date of my K99 award was May 07, 2020 and the official end date for the K99 phase of the award is April 30, 2022. As mentioned in an earlier blog post, the K99 award entails two years of additional training as a postdoctoral fellow followed by transition to a tenure track faculty position with three additional years of funding. The NIH award comes with expectations that include: One, picking up additional technical skills during the first two years of the award and Two, successfully applying for an R01 grant during the latter phase (R00) of the award. It also goes without saying that you need to be productive relative to publications throughout the duration of the award. 

Given the clearly defined NIH expectations commiserate with allocated resources, my planned approach has been twofold: First, chart out the timelines for each of the major deliverables including: Postdoctoral Training, K99 Research Project, R01 Grant Preparation, Tenure Track Faculty Job Search, and Manuscript Publications. Second, keep a daily log to track my progress relative to each of the deliverables. In addition, I also set aside time once a week to evaluate the effectiveness of my approach and make course corrections as needed. (There are lot of free online project management tools you can use to track the progress of your projects, if so inclined )

While the official notification of the award came in May, I had an inkling that my application was likely to be funded back in January, given the overall score assigned to my K99 application and the past history of applications with similar scores receiving funding. As such I had already started the planning process with the intent to hit the ground running. But as Mike Tyson once famously said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” My planning did not account for the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 It’s taken a little bit of time to assess the new reality of things and recalibrate my approach and project timelines accordingly. It is likely that there will be project delays and the research and training tasks that were straightforward pre COVID-19 will no longer be that, especially since the universities and research labs have been shut down and are only now beginning to reopen in phases. But as with life, we make do with what we have. The key is to stay nimble and be flexible without losing sight of the overall aim and objective.