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Office of the Vice President for Research

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Propel Research Mentorship Program

Supporting new and early-career faculty is one of the key missions of the Office of the Vice President for Research. By investing time, attention and resources in junior faculty members with long careers ahead of them we can help them succeed in every area, including the highly competitive arena of federal grants, for years to come.

To further this mission, the Office of the VPR is pleased to offer the Propel Research Mentorship Program, which provides participating faculty nine months of intensive mentorship, education, editing support and more as they plan, draft, finalize and submit a proposal for a federal grant from either the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Propel, initiated in the 2021-2022 academic year, has two tracks for NIH and NSF applicants, but the Office of the VPR aims to expand the program to include tracks for additional agencies in future years.


Eligibility Requirements

To be considered for Propel, faculty members must:

  • Hold the title of assistant or associate professor (including assistant and associate research faculty).
  • Be new to the fedral grant application process or have received relatively small external grant awards (or subawards) in the past.
  • Be employed at USC Columbia, the USC schools of medicine in Columbia or Greenville, a four-year UofSC comprehensive institution or a USC Palmetto College campus.
  • Not have received a large federal grant (such as an NIH R01 or a medium/large NSF award of about $500,000 or more). Propel welcomes faculty members who have applied for large awards but not had them funded.


Requirements for Selected Participants

Propel participants are expected to:

  • Attend eight in-person program sessions held on Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. between August and April, in preparation to submit their proposals at the end of the program life cycle. (In-person attendance is required for all sessions except in rare cases with approval from the program director.)
  • Meet proactively and often (at least monthly) with their assigned mentor throughout the program life cycle. Program participants are expected to take the lead in scheduling time with mentors.
  • Submit deliverables (draft proposal sections) to their mentor on schedule and implement their feedback.
  • Plan, develop and submit a competitive grant proposal to their targeted funding agency at the end of the program.


2023-2024 NIH Propel Mentees

Ahmed Alshareef Mechanical Engineering
Meisam Arjmandi Communication Sciences and Disorders
Pieter Baker Epidemiology & Biostatistics
Marta Bornstein Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior
Devin Bowes Environmental Health Sciences
Michelle Brown Psychology
Chao Cai Clinical Pharmacy and Outcomes Sciences
Hui Chen Biological Sciences
Tad Dallas Biological Sciences
Hadis Elyaderani Public Health and Human Services
Colin Evans Cell Biology & Anatomy
Matt Haldeman Family & Preventive Medicine
Liam Hein Nursing
Yen-Yi Ho Statistics
John Holladay Drug Discovery & Biomedical Sciences
Shamia Hoque Civil and Environmental Engineering
Tuyen Huynh Psychology
Katie Kathrein Biological Sciences
Laura Langan Environmental Health Sciences
Hailong Li Psychology
Yangmei Li Drug Discovery & Biomedical Sciences
Samaneh Matoo Biological Sciences
Malissa Mulkey Nursing
Cailee Nelson Psychology
Christian O'Reilly Computer Science & Engineering
Nandita Perumal Epidemiology & Biostatistics
Joseph Quinn Sociology
Tamara Sheldon Economics
Kimberly Shorter Natural Sciences and Engineering, USC Upstate
Vitali Sikirzhytski Drug Discovery & Biomedical Sciences
Chengwen Teng Clinical Pharmacy and Outcomes Sciences
Kyle Weant Clinical Pharmacy and Outcomes Sciences
Jingkai Wei Epidemiology & Biostatistics
Jing (Taylor) Wen Journalism and Mass Communications
Kiesha Wilson Pathology, Microbiology, & Immunology
Chih-Hsiang (Jason) Yang Exercise Science
Xueying Yang Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior


2023-2024 NSF Propel Mentees

Name Department
Ian Adams Criminology & Criminal Justice
Sahar Aghasafari Art & Graphic Design, USC Lancaster
Ismahan Arslan-Ari Educational & Developmental Science
Rafael Becerril Arreola Marketing
Kristen Booth Electrical Engineering
Nageswara Rao Chintada Drug Discovery & Biomedical Sciences
Daniella Cook Teacher Education
Xiaoxue (Jessie) Fu Psychology
Rahul Ghosal Epidemiology & Biostatistics
Seyyedamirhossein Hosseini Chemistry & Biochemistry
Deena Isom Criminology & Criminal Justice
Andrea Jilling Environmental Health Sciences
Lesley Joseph Civil and Environmental Engineering
Yuhao Kang Geography
Lucas Lima de Vasconcelos Leadership, Learning Design, and Inquiry
Jin Liu Educational & Developmental Science
Jacob Long Journalism and Mass Communications
Ashley Mancik Criminology & Criminal Justice
Alexander Monin Physics & Astronomy
Joy Peltier English Language and Literature
Azadeh Sepahvandi Mechanical Engineering
Nicholas (Nick) Truex Chemistry & Biochemistry
Sicheng Wang Geography
Yang Wang Teacher Education
Rachel Williams Information Sciences
Haonan Zhang Mathematics
Jun Zhao Sociology


2023-2024 NIH Propel Mentors

Name Department
Mark Sarzynski Exercise Science
Aaron Jasnow Pharmacology, Physiology, and Neuroscience
Angela Murphy Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology
Carole Oskeritzian Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology
Daping Fan Cell Biology
Geoffry Scott Environmental Health Sciences
Lorne Hofseth Pharmacy (Drug Discovery)
David Mott Pharmacology, Physiology, and Neuroscience
Melissa Nolan Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Robin Dail Nursing
Glenn Weaver Exercise Science
Sara Wilcox Exercise Science
Xiaoming Li Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior


2023-2024 NSF Propel Mentors

Name Department
April Hiscox Geography
Brent Simpson Sociology
Conor Harrison Geography
Emily Mann Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior
Fabio Matta Civil Engineering
Henry Tran Education (Leadership, Learning Design and Inquiry)
Matt Irvin Education (Educational Psychology and Research)
Natalia Shustova Chemistry and Biochemistry
Qian Wang Chemistry and Biochemistry
Varsha Kulkarni Physics

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