From the 3rd to 4th of October, this year, SANTHE hosted a grant proposal writing workshop at the Grand Palm Hotel in Gaborone, Botswana, entitled, “Hypothesis-driven proposal writing: from theory to practice.” It was attended by 39 students from Botswana, Canada, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia.
USA based Course Director, Dr Sylvie Le Gall, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard, lead the course together with South African based Course Co-Director, Dr Zaza Ndhlovu, SANTHE Senior Researcher/Supervisor, from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).
Le Gall runs a research group at MGH/HMS (Harvard Medical School) working on antigen processing and presentation in HIV and MTb infection. She also teaches at the Harvard Virology PhD programme and runs the education and outreach programme at the Ragon Institute where her laboratory is based.
Ndhlovu’s laboratory, within UKZN’s HIV Pathogenesis Programme, leads the collection and processing of longitudinal samples from individuals with acute HIV-1 infection in Durban, South Africa. He uses these samples to investigate the dynamics of cellular immune responses in acute HIV infection and to define the ontogeny of HIV-specific CD4+ T cell responses and their relationship to the establishment of bNAbs.
Trainees were asked to submit proposals prior to the course and then spent a packed 2-day programme learning useful tips concerning scientific reading and writing. It began with a lecture by Ndhlovu on the correct structure of scientific or clinical articles, followed by a lecture by Le Gall on the structure of a research proposal. The third session of the day focussed on the hypothese of the trainees’ own proposals, with everybody working together on improving them. The second day saw the trainees divided into groups to work together on single proposals and presenting them to the class for discussion.
“My overall impression is extremely positive and students seem pleased too,” says Le Gall. “They came prepared and ready to work and learned a lot, being able to apply proposal writing principles learned in the morning in their afternoon. During discussions, they could give constructive feedback; remarkably across fields of expertise to which they belonged (virology, immunology, clinical research). They showed motivation, focus, interest, scientific maturity and were open minded.”