New UAMS Program Aims to Promote Fellowship Applications

By Nathan Tidwell

The Fellowship Initiative for Research Excellence (FIRE) is a scholarship program designed to encourage postdoctoral fellows and graduate students at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) to apply for extramural fellowships. The program began in May and has already awarded two scholarships.

The program offers a one-time $5,000 payment for those who are awarded a fellowship.

“I am very excited about the FIRE program, and the experience and recognition it will provide our trainees,” said Daniel Voth, Ph.D., vice chancellor for Research and Innovation and professor and chair of the College of Medicine Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

Applicants are eligible to receive the scholarship payment if fellowships are awarded from funding sources such as the American Heart Association, Ford Foundation Fellowship Program, National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Other funding mechanisms will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

“The FIRE program is a wonderful opportunity because it is a ‘win-win’ for everyone involved,” said Graduate School Dean Sean Taverna, Ph.D. “FIRE will help foster quality grantsmanship while also increasing the likelihood of our graduate and postdoctoral trainees being successful when they apply for highly competitive independent funding.”

Mohamed Elasri, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research and Innovation, is the program administrator.

Mohamed Elasri

Associate vice chancellor for Research and Innovation Mohamed Elasri, Ph.D., is the FIRE program administrator.

“I look forward to working with our talented UAMS trainees as they pursue extramural funding, which prepares them to become competitive independent scientists,” Elasri said.

Those who apply for a fellowship will receive $500 from the FIRE program if the applicant’s mentor reviews the application prior to submission and confirms in writing that the application is competitive.

“Supporting the next generation of researchers is a top priority at UAMS, and the FIRE program will help grow the careers of trainees across the campus,” Voth added. “I cannot wait to see the amazing research proposals that will be submitted in response to this innovative program.”

“Trainees who are awarded such external fellowships not only get further recognition for all their hard work but they also have a clear advantage on their resume as they continue to blaze new trails in their careers,” Taverna continued.

UAMS faculty expressed their support for the program.

“As a mentor of a recent National Science Foundation fellow, it’s extremely rewarding to see my trainees earn prestigious fellowships. I consider it our mission to help them compete for top awards in our field,” said Samantha Kendrick, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the College of Medicine Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. “The FIRE program supports these efforts, and I encourage anyone unsure about applying for a fellowship to consider how the process greatly prepares them for the next phase of their career.”

“Getting a fellowship as a graduate student really gives your career a big boost — it’s been a huge part of my own success,” said Brian Koss, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. “We created this program to encourage trainees to apply for external fellowships. With the FIRE program we can start to change the culture surrounding fellowships at UAMS and help our trainees reach their full potential.”

More information about the FIRE program is available here or by e-mailing