In August 2013, I had just begun a time-consuming and costly project in my research laboratory and I began investigating ways to fund this research. I was reading the Daily Digest, and by chance stumbled upon an advertisement for an information session for the newly developed UConn IDEA Grant. After reading the description, I was hesitant to attend because it appeared to be geared more towards new business or invention ideas. However, it did mention a traditional research project, so I attended the informational session. At this session I learned that the IDEA Grant was a two stage process in which during the first semester long stage one completes a short online course to refine his/her project and in the second stage, during the following semester or summer, one works on his/her project. I was encouraged to apply as the program had just broadened to include tradition scientific research projects such as my own.
I turned in the grant for my project entitled The effects of poor maternal nutrition on liver development in lambs and awaited the committee’s decision. Fortunately I was chosen to be a part of the second cohort for the IDEA Grant. While I was excited that I had been awarded the grant, I was apprehensive at first about the attached online class I had to complete in the spring, I already had a full course load that semester. However, the online class ended up being extremely beneficial to my project and research experience; it allowed me to reflect even more on my goals and direction for the project. One of the great aspects about my IDEA Grant process was the individual attention I received. As this is a smaller program within the Office of Undergraduate Research, each of us were able to receive individualized attention. The project coordinator, Melissa Berkey, was extremely helpful throughout the process, checking in on the status of our projects or meeting with us to discuss challenges along the way.
I was also fortunate to present a portion of my IDEA Grant project at the 2014 American Dairy Science Association-American Society of Animal Science Joint Annual Meeting in Kansas City, Missouri. Presenting at an international conference was very rewarding as I was able to interact and converse with other researchers in the animal science field. The IDEA Grant program has not only been extremely beneficial for funding my laboratory research, but continuing workshops in the fall have also taught me how to discuss my research in a meeting or interview.
In summary, my experience with the UConn IDEA Grant has been overwhelmingly positive. Several aspects including the flexible budget and timeline, individualized attention, and excellent workshops all made this an enjoyable learning experience. I found it to be one of the most rewarding programs I have done throughout my UConn career. Without a doubt, I would encourage everyone with any new idea they are passionate about to look into the IDEA Grant.