Dr. Ng leverages RAPID program to help obtain first R01 grant

Caroline Ng, PhD

Caroline Ng, PhD

Caroline Ng, PhD, associate professor in the UNMC Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, received her first National Institutes of Health R01 grant in January.

Dr. Ng credits hard work, resilience, a “never-give-up” attitude and the ability to seek and incorporate feedback from others for this achievement. Her grant landed in the top 3% of all grants submitted. With an increasingly tight budget, this year the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases will fund only the top 8% of grants for established investigators and top 12% for new/early-stage investigators.

R01 grants provide five years of grant support and, according to UNMC Vice Chancellor of Research Ken Bayles, PhD, are awarded to strong research efforts with compelling preliminary data. They are the main independent research project grants from the NIH. Getting a top 3 percentile score as an early career investigator is exceptional, Dr. Bayles said.

“An R01 grant is a validation of a lot of work that came before the grant application was even submitted,” Dr. Bayles said.  

They also can be a tough nut to crack. In 2021, Dr. Ng had submitted three different five-year grants to the NIH, the Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation, all of which were discussed but not funded. By openly talking about her rejected grants while at scientific conferences, Dr. Ng learned about the Raising Advancement and Parity for Infectious Disease Researchers, or RAPID, program. It is one of only two NIAID-funded programs to facilitate overall success of early career faculty from underrepresented groups in the biomedical workforce.

Dr. Ng was accepted to the NIH-sponsored, all-expense paid mentored program, which was held at the University of California San Diego. The program assists with grant-writing and provides networking with UC San Diego faculty and up-and-coming researchers around the U.S. “It was a lot of work, but it was worth it,” she said.

She attended the workshop in July 2022 and submitted a grant that December – the American Heart Association Career Development Award – that got funded. Importantly, she heard about this funding opportunity from a peer in the program. “You can’t apply for grants you don’t know of,” she said. Dr. Ng and her cohort formed strong friendships during the program, and the group has kept in touch, supporting each other through the challenges of academia.

In addition to attending the formal mentoring program, Dr. Ng sought mentorship from colleagues in her department including Tammy Kielian, PhD, DVM; Dr. Bayles; and Rey Carabeo, PhD, professors in the UNMC Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology.

Dr. Ng also was selected to be part of the Nebraska Center for Molecular Target Discovery and Development, led by Rob Lewis, PhD, a professor in the Eppley Cancer Institute. These experiences were critical. Keith Johnson, PhD, a member of the Nebraska Center for Molecular Target Discovery and Development and professor in the Eppley Institute, volunteered his time to read, comment and discuss Dr. Ng’s entire grant proposal – both for the first submission and the resubmission.

“Keith made time to help me despite our disparate research interests, and I strive to be like him to actively help junior professors as I progress along my career,” Dr. Ng said.

Dr. Ng now is the principal investigator on the NIH-funded study “Proteostasis in Plasmodium falciparum artemisinin resistance.” The grant aims to understand molecular mechanisms of drug resistance in malaria parasites and how perturbation of protein degradation hinder parasite survival. Jonathan Vennerstrom, PhD, professor at the UNMC College of Pharmacy, is a co-investigator on the grant.

“Jonathan has provided invaluable mentorship over the years, and I am so grateful for his support,” Dr. Ng said.

“Caroline’s experience underscores the fact that there are clear lessons to be learned about how to secure federal funding and that there are useful resources out there that can help junior faculty get their first NIH grant,” Dr. Bayles said. 


  1. Jane Meza says:

    Congratulations, Dr. Ng!

  2. Michele C Balas says:

    Congrats Dr. Ng. Huge milestone accomplished.

  3. John S Davis says:

    Congratulations Caroline!!!!
    Great story with many talented investigators paving the way.
    This is UNMC at its best.

    1. Caroline Ng says:

      Thank you! I agree – standing on the shoulders of giants.. 🙂

  4. Matt Walsh says:

    Great Job Caroline !!! Hard work pays off.

    Matt from Facilities

    1. Caroline Ng says:

      Thanks Matt! You helped from the beginning! 🙂

  5. Peter iwen says:

    Congratulations Caroline! Well deserved!

  6. Nada A Fadul says:

    Congratulations Dr. Ng. Well-deserved!

  7. Weiwei Zhang says:

    Congratulations Caroline!

  8. Susan Kraft Mann says:

    Congratulations, Dr. Ng, on your first NIH RO1 grant!

  9. John Lowe says:

    Congrats Dr. Ng! Well-deserved recognition and accomplished.

  10. Jingjing Sun says:

    Congrats, Dr. Ng! Great research and well deserved!

  11. Paula Turpen says:

    Congratulations! Great to hear such good news and the story behind it.

  12. Debbie Headley says:

    Congrats Caroline!! Well deserved and loved the story of your research and how you achieved your grant. I see many more coming your way!!
    Hard work pays off

  13. Karsten Bartels says:

    Terrific News!

  14. Caroline Ng says:

    Thank you everyone for the overwhelming support! 🙂

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