Columns Stories from Scientists

Stories from the community: Small grant with a big reward for Ben Barres Spotlight Award

Geetanjali Chawla

In the seventh article as part of community voices for international grants and fellowships, Geetanjali shares her journey towards and experiences with eLife’s Ben Barres Spotlight Award.

Geethanjali Comm Call

While browsing through the eLife journal’s website, I came across the Ben Barres Spotlight Award web page and was inspired by some of the stories from the 2019 and 2020 award winners. I decided to apply as soon as I knew that there was no age limit and requirement for a permanent faculty position. In addition, this award was open to applications from eLife authors and researchers across career stages. Moreover, the award money provided flexibility in the way funds could be utilised. Requests could be made for purchase of equipments, services, consumables, travel expenses and meetings. Unlike other funding opportunities that require preliminary data, curriculum vitae and a research proposal, here, the applicant is invited to describe how the award would enhance her/​his research and career. The applicant is also required to provide a detailed itemised budget of how the funds would be utilised. A major emphasis is on ways in which the funding would potentially aid in making the recipient’s research more reproducible, open and/​or inclusive. Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 applicants were encouraged to consider how the funding could aid in working remotely, or networking and communicating online. 

I submitted the application in September 2021 and was informed that I was one of the award recipients by the end of October 2021. I am hoping to utilise the award funds for the purchase of a Drosophila activity monitoring system for my laboratory and this set-up will allow my group to reliably record the total activity and impact of diet and sleep deprivation in different fruit fly strains remotely. Over the longer term, these studies will aid in developing newer projects, publishing manuscripts, and building collaborations. I strongly encourage eligible female scientists in India who are looking for small funding opportunities with a fast-turnaround time to apply for this prestigious award. To increase the chance of success, I recommend that the applicants review the stories of the winners from the previous years on how the awards have been utilised for benefiting their research and careers.