BME Briefs

Welcome to BME Briefs, a place to find quick notes and posts from the faculty, students, staff and alumni of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Virginia.



    Grant Hack: Avoid Writing too Much

    February 06, 2019

    If you are anything like me, then the last phase of your grant writing process is madly trying to shorten everything into the allotted space constraints. I no longer remember if I got this tidbit from elsewhere, or discovered it myself in the last few years…

    However, one thing that has significantly reduced the stress and time of the final push in grant writing is that I trick myself into writing less to begin with. I increase my line spacing by about 25% as I write the first draft. As my draft looms towards the maximum allowable length then I know I have to stop. Invariably, I go slightly over that hard stop, but then I swap the line spacing back to 1 (or 1.1 for my preferred NIH Latex template).

    I have typically found that sharpening word selection and focus is for the sake of clarity and no longer about page limits (mostly). You can tailor this extra padding according to how much overage you typically have (1.25 for 25%, 1.5 for 50%, 2 for 100%, etc.). I could imagine you can do this with margins instead, keeping them a healthily 20-50% larger than the specifications for a grant or making figures larger to begin with as well (another reason to love Latex for grant writing).

    Blog post originally written May 2018


    Research talk recipe

    February 06, 2019

    In my first year as an assistant professor, I gave the worst seminar of my life. I was invited to give a seminar at an institution that had one of the most knowledgable people in the field in the specific area of my science. I therefore presumed the audience would generally be bored/offended if I gave a significant introduction to the area and I cut out a good portion of introduction. The results...


    Remembering Names

    February 06, 2019

    I am really bad at remembering names. Sometime in my early decades as an adult, I learned techniques that worked for me that helped improve both my short-term and long-term recall of a name.


    Maximizing Your Institution's Seminars

    February 06, 2019

    The best nugget that came out of my mid-tenure review was to make better use of meeting seminar speakers across my university. This was excellent advice, especially for someone who tries to contain their travel, which limits meeting people outside my institute.


    Keep Track of Everything

    February 06, 2019

    I received advice early on to keep a spreadsheet of all my activities. This was excellent advice — as academics we are often called upon to list our service work, grant applications, publications, training, etc. for things, such as: annual reviews, mid-tenure reviews, training grant documents, updates for a center (if you belong to one), applications for membership affiliations, etc. It is difficult to anticipate when and what information you will need someday, so the best thing to do is to keep track of absolutely everything.


    Managing Email

    February 06, 2019

    I had emailed a good friend and colleague once a couple of years ago, about something relatively unimportant. I was shocked to get an email from him one week later, because in my life if an email went unanswered that long, it wasn’t going to be answered. I asked him how he managed to remember to email me (but clearly not drop everything else to get to it so that he wouldn’t forget). It’s a really simple, but brilliant, system that he used and now I use — the Draft.


    Becoming an Effective Writer

    February 06, 2019

    The very best writing advice I ever received is a series of pieces of advice from the book “Becoming an Academic Writer” by Patricia Goodson. The book is really a series of exercises to become more efficient and proficient in writing. Here are examples of how this book has changed my approach to writing and my own experiences with it, you will find your own list that works for you by following this: