Sharing the insights of a successful MSCA fellow

16. 5. 2022
Posted in MSCA
16. 5. 2022 SCIOTHECA

A new call for Marie Sklodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellowships will open in a few days. In the previous call in 2021, six out of ten of our clients were successful in obtaining the funding. The scores of the winning proposals ranged from 94% to 98%. All of the awarded applicants began project preparation several weeks before the deadline for their submission and underwent more than one round of revisions. In all successful proposals supervisor played an active role in their development. As a reward for the  great joint efforts of the applicant and the host institution, these talented researchers will get the opportunity to turn their amazing scientific ideas into reality and fulfil their career goals. We appreciate that one of these applicants shared his insights and valuable experience with us. We believe it may inspire those who consider applying for the MSCA PF this year or anytime in the future. Dr. Naveen Tiwari will be working as a MSCA fellow at CiQUS, a research center at the University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain) and he kindly answered some of our questions.

Is there anything that surprised you when writing your MSCA PF proposal? Was it easier or harder than you expected?

Frankly speaking, I was not surprised, I knew that MSCA PF is one of the most prestigious fellowships. Therefore, it is obvious that it is not going to be easy. Another reason is that it was already my second attempt as my first MSCA project was rejected with 85% grading a year ago.

What was the biggest challenge that you faced during the project preparation?

In my opinion, the biggest challenge was to present my (research) ideas in a specific way (with every detail and information) and in limited number of pages. Because MSCA Fellowships strictly follow the prescribed call-specific rules and expectations.

Did you know your supervisor personally before you started to write your MSCA PF proposal? How important is the involvement of the supervisor in the project preparation?

No, I did not know my supervisor personally before applying for this grant. But I contacted him by email, and he told me that he would be happy to support me in applying for the MSCA PF. It was my supervisor who motivated me to resubmit the application when it was initially rejected. So, I am very grateful to him for all sorts of support and help. I would also like to mention Fernando Casal Garea who was like my mentor for this proposal. He is in charge of knowledge transfer and fundraising at the Centre for Research in Biological Chemistry and Molecular Materials (CiQUS) at the University of Santiago de Compostela. He helped me a lot with various doubts and problems during writing this proposal and also suggested that we need to have an external reviewer to increase our chances. So, a big thank you to you too, Fernando.

As for the supervisor’s involvement, I do not think I could have done it without him. His critical comments were very useful and essential to improve the scientific quality and clarity of the proposal. Finally, I would like to thank our external reviewer Veronika Mikitova (SCIOTHECA) for her comments and suggestions, which undoubtedly contributed to the acceptance of our proposal this year.

What is going to change for you in the near future by getting the project?

That is the million-dollar question. I think this fellowship is going to change my entire journey of my research career. As I have already mentioned before, this is one of the most prestigious fellowships and as I want to stay in academia in the future, I believe that this fellowship will significantly help me achieve my career goal and to collaborate with renowned researchers and conduct breakthrough research. I also thank the European Commission for this project.

May I ask what would you do if you did not get the project? Did you have an alternative plan B for yourself?

I am currently working as a postdoc at Penn State University in the USA. If I had not received the MSCA scholarship this year, I would have continued here as a postdoc. If my supervisor would be ready to support me again, I could try to modify my proposal next year based on the comments from the evaluation report and resubmit the proposal over again.

Do you have any advice for future applicants, anything you personally find out, and that could help other scientists succeed in such a tough competition like MSCA PF?

I would like to recommend to future applicants to focus equally on the three parts of the proposal (excellence, impact and implementation), as each part is very important and has its own impact on project evaluation. If your first attempt is rejected, do not give up and simply try to correct it and address the comments you received from the evaluators and resubmit the proposal, which will increase your chances of approval.


Veronika Mikitova, PhD.

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