IOF Marie Curie Fellowship – from applying to winning (Part 1)

At the end of 2001 I received an awesome email message stating that my final score for my 2011 IOF MC Fellowship proposal was 93 and changes (here is the evaluation sheet). After a brief and sweat-inducing google search, I was confident I was getting financed (threshold was around 91).

When I was preparing my MC proposal I was desperately looking for some success stories, guidelines, whatever, and there were none (except at this awesome cyberplace). I think it is good to share the various steps that led me to win the MC Fellowships.

tl;dr I had a good project in mind, I decided to apply (3 weeks for writing), I won.

Long story

Approximately one year before applying for the 2011 MC round, I applied for the Italian FIRB grant, which at the time was reserved to young Italian scientists at various stages of their careers. I prepared the FIRB proposal with my colleagues Daniele Bevacqua and Marti Pujolar (click here for the proposal, half in Italian and half in English). Although FIRB money was assigned to a single researcher and not to a group, the plan was to get Daniele and Marti onboard with a couple of post doc scholarships.

In 2011 I was short listed for the FIRB and I had to fly from Santa Cruz (I was working with Marc Mangel and MRAG at the time) to Rome to present my project to 3 Italian scientists at the Italian Ministry for Research. The format was 12 minutes for the presentation plus 5 minutes for questions (all in English, talk is here). Meanwhile, I received an email from some scientific society informing that the deadline for submitting a Marie Curie proposal was 3 weeks away. After brief and intense thinking, I decided to apply for the MC International Marie Curie Fellowship with the plan of spending to years at the University of California Santa Cruz and one year (re-integration period) at the Polytechnic of Milan. I was confident I had a good project in mind (very similar to the one I submitted for the Italian FIRB), and 3 weeks seemed enough time to prepare the 30-page proposal (well..). I pitched my project to Marc Mangel and Carlos Garza at UCSC (my international supervisors, Marc was faculty at the Department of Applied Math and Statistics, Carlos an adjunct faculty at Ocean Sciences) and to Marino Gatto (the “scientist in charge” of the project) at the Polytechnic of Milan. They accepted to be my supervisors and I started writing furiously, although I wouldn’t say lucidly. This time I prepared the whole proposal myself (with agonizing hours spent preparing the whole ‘why the institutions are appropriate’), while Marc, Carlos and Marino provided very valuable feedback. I was able to submit the proposal a couple of days before the deadline and made a promise to myself I would never prepare later proposals in less than a couple of months, you know how it goes.

In September I received the results for the FIRB. Unfortunately, I did not get the grant for just one point over 70 total points. The justification was that while my project was great and my presentation in Rome had been fantastic, I forgot to present some aspects of the budget. Of course they were wrong, since I presented (during a 12-minute science talk!!!!) in detail the whole budget (see here). Anyway, if you want to get frustrated, just try to present your case to some bureaucrats, yes, sure. Especially Italian bureaucrats. They are half laughing at you, seriously, no collaboration whatsoever. More angry than disappointed, I almost forgot about my proposal when I received the email with my score for the MC. Well done. Also, the MC IOF is way better than the FIRB Fellowship. Well done again.

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