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Interview with a Marie Curie grantee (in English)

Dr. Lisa Smith is originally from Australia. She completed her PhD in England before moving to the Tübingen Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology as a postdoc in March 2007. Her main areas of research are genetics and molecular biology, with a focus on hybrid biology. Lisa Smith was granted a two-years Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship (IEF) in early 2008.

For what reasons did you apply for a Marie Curie Grant?
I applied to three different organizations for funding - basically all the places I could find where I was eligible to apply, and which were suitable funding sources considering the nature of my research. The Marie Curie Grant has advantages due to the allowances for career development, travel and laboratory work. Many other postdoctoral fellowships only cover a salary or stipend for the researcher. I wanted to apply for postdoctoral funding to have more freedom in the direction of my research. Also gaining funding early in a scientific career looks better on the CV.

When writing and compiling your application, what did you experience to be particularly difficult or challenging?
The application instructions were very long and at times finding out the required response for basic questions was difficult. Even now I am not sure how I should have known the Organization Short Name. Small mistakes like this can make the later negotiation process more challenging. Figuring out how to respond for some of the longer written sections was also difficult.

Could you describe your experience with the MC evaluation process?

The evaluation process only involves a written evaluation report of the project, host and researcher. This report is given to the applicant prior to any real indication of whether the fellowship will be awarded. The evaluation report was more positive than I had expected. This probably ref1ected the prior experience my boss has in applying to the EU for funding and therefore his awareness of how to present information in the application. This information will be useful if lever apply for funding from the EU again. The process from application to finally hearing if an application will definitely be funded is somewhat long, so much patience is needed, along with continued funding from other sources.

In retrospect, which elements do you think were decisive for winning the MC Grant?
Having a reasonable amount of input from my boss who has had previous experience in applying for EU funding was a major advantage. He could recycle significant parts of past proposals to answer questions about the institute and group. In addition, going from one excellent research institute to another probably helped a lot in terms of the quality of the reference from the former, and the resources and reputation offered by the latter.

What advice would you give to future MC applicants?
Start early and find someone who has applied in the past to help you - preferably who was successful. Also look for advice about applying for the fellowships on the internet when you get stuck with how to address a particular section. There are some really good resources out there.

Interview conducted by Patrice Wegener in April 2008.