Brain and Behavior Seed Grant Program FY 2018

The University of Maryland’s Brain and Behavior Initiative has announced its FY18 Seed Grant recipients.

Our third annual request for proposals was again successful in attracting diverse projects from highly interdisciplinary teams. We received 14 proposals, from 41 PIs representing 5 colleges (BSOS, ENGR, CMNS, EDUC, and ARHU) and 15 departments. 25 of the PIs submitted seed grant to the BBI for the first time.  Funding decisions were made based on rankings from 5 external reviewers, with expertise in brain and behavior.

The following teams were awarded seed funding:

Reza Ghodssi (ECE/ISR), Bill Bentley (BIOE), and Jens Herberholz (PSYC, NACS) A Multimodal Sensor Discovery Platform to Study the Molecular Events Underlying the Gut-Microbiome-Brain Axis

Behtash Babadi (ECE) and Wolfgang Losert (Physics IPST) Precision Optogenetics: msec time resolution optical imaging and control of neuronal circuits 

Bill Idsardi (LING), Jonathan Fritz (ISR), and Bob Dooling (PSYC) Central Nervous System Processing of Learned Vocal Communication Signals

Richard Prather (HDQM), DJ Bolger, (HDQM), Marine Carpaut (CS), and Joe Dien (MNC) Cognitive and Neural Precursors to Semantic Word Learning and Math Development 

Jack Blanchard (PSYC), Alex Shackman (PSYC), and Eun Kyoung Choe (iSchool) and Understanding the role of negative affect in psychosis using multimodal imaging and wearable sensors 

Anna Li (PSYC) and Matt Roesch (PSYC) Role of epigenetic mechanisms in striatum in neuronal encoding of decision-making during incubation of methamphetamine craving         

Giuliano Scarcelli (BIOE) and Josh Singer (BIOL) Adapting Brillouin microscopy to the study of synaptic transmission 


The mission of the Brain and Behavior Initiative (BBI) at the University of Maryland (UMD) is to generate novel tools and revolutionize multidisciplinary approaches to understand complex behaviors produced by the nervous system. The purpose of this call for proposals is to foster new collaborations and enable generation of pilot data to promote multi-year, multi-million-dollar proposal submissions that pursue innovative collaborative work at the interface of neuroscience, engineering, computation and physical sciences, cognitive science, and/or humanities.

Guidelines for proposals

This Request for Proposals provides three funding track opportunities. All proposals must target one of the central themes of the BBI

·       Neural Circuits, Learning & Plasticity, Motor Control

·       Sensation, Perception, Communication

·       Mental Health

Proposal Tracks

BBI recognizes that interdisciplinarity is a process and wishes to support researchers at different phases of their progress.

Track 1: Proposals to Track 1 should be high risk, high impact, exploratory research collecting pilot data necessary to prepare proposals to funding sources supporting innovative and interdisciplinary projects such as those listed by the BRAIN Initiative and funded by agencies such as NIH, DARPA, IARPA, NSF, etc.  Proposals submitted to this theme have a maximum budget of $100,000, plus fringe and tuition.

Track 2:  Proposals to Track 2 should be broadly interdisciplinary and include topics as well as partners outside of traditional neuroscience. Specifically, we are looking for teams that include strong participation from the arts, humanities, or other disciplines in addition to neuroscientists. Proposals submitted to this theme have a maximum budget of $75,000, plus fringe and tuition.

Track 3:  Proposals to Track 3 are to support interdisciplinary projects that need short-term support to gather additional pilot data in order to submit for external funding. While calls for interdisciplinarity are growing, the BBI recognizes that in order to be successful immediately these pioneering projects may be more traditional in their interdisciplinarity and external proposals are expected to be targeted to more standard NIH R01/NSF type announcements.  Proposals submitted to this theme have a maximum budget of $50,000, plus fringe and tuition.

PI Eligibility

All proposals must be multidisciplinary with at least two Principal Investigators (PI), both of whom are tenured, tenure-track, or research faculty at UMD. Individual investigators may not participate in more than two proposals; if both proposals are awarded, the PI will receive full funding. Outside collaborations (e.g., UMB, NIH, etc.) are allowed, but no money will be awarded to support non-UMD investigators. Extension requests for funded BBI seed grants or other funded research will not be granted.

Submission Process and Deadlines

Final proposals should contain the following sections (in order):

1.     Signed Proposal Cover Sheet (see template)

2.     Proposal (not to exceed 4 pages)

·       Description of the project, including specific subsections for Significance, Innovation and Approach (no more than 2 pages). Important: please strive to make the impact of the proposed work clear to individuals both within and outside of your discipline.

Describe the following in no more than 2 pages:

·       How the work fits the chosen track and how it fits one of the central themes of the BBI. 

·   BBI Themes:  1) Neural Circuits, Learning & Plasticity, Motor Control; 2) Sensation, Perception, Communication; 3) Mental Health.

·       The necessity of the collaboration to achieve your goals, what each individual brings to the collaborative effort, and the history of collaboration between the PIs, if any.

·       The specific target (funding mechanism and submission date) for a forthcoming proposal to an external funding agency. The proposal must describe how the BBI seed grant will enable the submission of your externally funded proposal.

3.     Detailed budget and justification (see template)

·       Update to Allowable Expenses -- 23 January 2018

**Updated: Only PIs who are on soft funding can budget for salary.  Requested PI salary is capped at a 10% of their annual salary but should be commensurate with effort (i.e., budget for effort but not exceeding 10%).  All PIs requesting this must include detailed justification. A final decision about salary funds will be determined if awarded. 

4.     Short bios of the PIs (2 pg max/PI; any format)

All text should be in Arial 11pt, 1-in margins, single spaced. Merge all documents into a single pdf named PIsLastName_BBI FY18Seed proposal with the subject line of the email: BBI FY18 SEED GRANT PROPOSAL. Questions should be directed to:

Late submissions will not be accepted under any circumstances and incomplete applications will be returned without review.

Proposal deadline: 11:59 pm February 16, 2018

Selection Notification Date: Mid-May 2018; Expected Start Date: June 2018

Selection criteria

Seed Grants will be awarded on a competitive basis, each proposal will be externally reviewed. The selection of finalists will be made based on the relevance and potential impact of the research on the related BBI themes, the necessity of the collaboration to achieve the goals of the proposal, and the likelihood of funding from external sources.

Budget templates attached in PDF below:






BBI Seed Grant FAQ 

Can PIs budget salary in the BBI seed proposal?

No and Yes. Only PIs who are on soft funding can budget for salary. Requested PI salary is capped at a 10% of their annual salary but should be commensurate with effort (i.e., budget for effort but not exceeding 10%). All PIs requesting this must include detailed justification. A final decision about salary funds will be determined if awarded.
Can I pay a graduate student on the BBI funds? ​
Yes! We encourage the use of graduate students on the seed grants. Do the PIs have to be from different departments? The BBI seed grants are intended to be multidisciplinary. They will be reviewed on the necessity of the collaboration, so please describe how your proposal team meets this criterion.
Can I include collaborators outside of UMD?
Yes, you can include outside collaborators, but no money will be awarded to support non-UMD investigators.
What kind of bio format do you want for the organizers?
Any format is fine. No longer than 2 pages per PI.
Do I include indirect costs in my budget?
No, this is internally funded. No IDC is required.
Are no cost extensions allowed?
No. These awards are meant to be 1 year only; no-cost extensions will not be approved. 
Does the bibliography (list of cited references) count toward the 4-page limit of proposal?
The bibliography (list of cited references) does not count towards the 4 page limit.