ASRC-NSF Postdoctoral Research Training Program

**Application deadline June 21, 2023 at 8:00 p.m.**

CUNY postdoctoral researchers in STEM, Social Science, STEM education fields (and possibly, some humanities fields) that fit within NSF’s areas of interest are invited to apply for a new training/mentoring bootcamp series: TRANSPIRE – A transdisciplinary dialogic pedagogy for conceptualizing research questions with transformative potential.

The TRANSPIRE program is primarily designed for postdocs who are at the stage of transitioning to an independent research position (as faculty or in industry). The program will initially run for two years, for two different postdoc cohorts. For year one, the focus is research that has some connection to the environment, sustainability, and/or climate change.

  • Do you envision a faculty or industry career where you lead a team in researching immensely challenging, globally significant scientific problems that could have a global impact?
  • Are you excited by the potential of collaborations of highly inter- or cross-disciplinary research teams?
  • Does the prospect of germinating the types of research questions that would drive such a research program seem overwhelming or mysterious?
  • Would you like to contribute to evaluating the TRANSPIRE program’s effectiveness: what works and why, as well as the potential for scaling the program to other institutions?

If the prospect of honing these skills with a focused, transdisciplinary group of peers and mentors and providing input that may shape the future of the program seems exciting, we encourage you to apply.

Bootcamps will begin in September 2023.

While there are many interpretations of transdisciplinarity, within the framework of TRANSPIRE we consider it to be an approach to research and research design that integrates or is enhanced through knowledge across academic disciplines and, if relevant with non-academic stakeholders, to address societal challenges. It is guided by the principle that ‘scientific rigor meets societal relevance’.* We use interdisciplinary to indicate that a group will be composed of researchers from intentionally diverse fields.

* Adapted from

Starting Premise: Solving significant, previously intractable, scientific problems that have plagued science and society over decades begins with formulating transformative research questions. Such questions will contribute new knowledge to science, be methodologically sound, feasible, and provide viable solutions to the target problem.

Motivation: While an important career step, the postdoc path tends to insufficiently prepare researchers for the independent mindset required to lead their own research group as faculty or in industry. The TRANSPIRE program brings together scientists from different disciplines, including the social sciences, for mentoring activities focused on preparing postdocs for the job market and independent research careers. Each participant in the program will be mentored to develop their own research questions and research statements and provide feedback to others in their group (postdocs are not expected to develop collaborative projects within the TRANSPIRE program).

Training/Mentoring Goals:

  • Mentor postdocs in the process of formulating impactful research questions at the stage in which they are embarking on their path towards becoming independent researchers / scholars.
  • Create a supportive transdisciplinary environment that fosters communication and harnesses incommensurability to challenge thinking and build understandings across disciplines, and that the mentors also benefit from these transdisciplinary interactions.

Project Research Goals:

  • Evaluate whether, how, and why TRANSPIRE expands habits of mind as well as postdocs’ capacities to germinate and evaluate potentially transformative research questions.
  • Assess the potential scalability of the TRANSPIRE model and disseminate the model and findings.
  • Note: as the program is in part a research project, we will be asking for participants’ consent to participate in the research (as per IRB requirements).

Postdocs TRANSPIRE Activities

  • Each postdoc will work on their own independent questions and projects, which will include
    1. Reflect on and conceptualize their own researcher identity
    2. Develop an understanding of the role that a driving research question plays in shaping a principle investigator’s lab focus, identity, and long-term impact
    3. Understand what is meant by potentially transformative and why that matters for specific projects and over the span of a research career
    4. Develop skills in conceptualizing and communicating potentially transformative research questions and programs; apply those skills to writing research statements and job/chalk talks
  • These activities and work products will be developed with ongoing feedback from their assigned, interdisciplinary bootcamp group and from the TRANSPIRE Advisory Board.
  • The goal is that research & questions that emerge would be a step towards conceptualizing the postdoc’s future, independent research path. As such, it may be grounded in current work but during the program, the underlying questions and scope would likely evolve or expand. New directions are also encouraged.

To be eligible for the ASRC-NSF TRANSPIRE Bootcamp, participants must:

  • Have a current postdoctoral position in a relevant field, at a CUNY college, for the 2023-24 academic year
  • After completing their postdoc training, expect to pursue an independent research position (principle investigator as faculty, in industry, etc)
  • Have a collaborative and interdisciplinary orientation to research
  • Be a researcher who is interested in pursuing and solving grand challenge types of problems
  • Be willing to commit to the TRANSPIRE program and its evaluation

The TRANSPIRE Bootcamp Program will run over the course of the academic year (no summers) for two years, with a separate cohort of participants recruited into the program for each year.

Group bootcamp meetings will be virtual, on Zoom (and require a video connection). Two annual Spring presentation events (postdocs’ chalk talks, posters) are planned to be in person, most likely at the ASRC.

Each bootcamp group will include a mix of disciplines/fields and each group will be no more than 6 participants.

Year One Activities and Anticipated Timeline

Fall / winter 2023 Winter / spring 2024 Mid May 2024
8 weekly bootcamp meetings focused on building your researcher identity through activities such as:

  • Conceptualizing your potential research impact
  • Reflecting on transformative & collaborative research thinking
  • Analyzing how successful faculty conceptualize and communicate the research questions that drive their research or lab
  • Understanding types of knowledge and how those inform impactful research questions
  • Collaborating with others outside your discipline to examine what makes a research question potentially transformative
  • Visualizing your future lab
  • Developing individual researcher identity maps
Germinating research questions and translating these into materials for applying for positions where you will be expected to demonstrate your potential for an independent research career (i.e., as the principle investigator):

  • Develop research statements for
  • (& possibly, develop a grant proposal white paper)

Presentations of research statements to the TRANSPIRE Advisory Board (senior faculty)

Developing targeted job/chalk talks

Presentations of chalk talks / job talks to the TRANSPIRE Advisory Board (senior faculty)

Scheduling of the Bootcamp groups will begin once postdocs are notified of their acceptance into the Bootcamp and will be managed via Doodle poll. If accepted, postdocs are expected to attend all sessions and contribute respectfully to the group discussions. Group meetings (except for the two presentation events) will be virtual, on Zoom.

Participating in the bootcamp is not expected to interfere with the postdocs’ regular responsibilities or to affect how postdocs’ are evaluated by their immediate supervisors.

“I can’t recommend TRANSPIRE highly enough! Prior to the program I had no idea where to start or what was involved with formulating research questions. I now have a series of research questions as-well-as a proposed research program that I will be submitting for an NIH K99/R00 grant application. Having a dedicated environment coupled with a group of experienced mentors allows you to discuss and dissect ideas, critique yourself, and ultimately grow as a researcher. The hard work definitely pays off!”

— Ali Ebrahim, ASRC Structural Biology


“I strongly believe that ALL postdocs should participate in the TRANSPIRE program. This is a personalized boot camp to train for current and future research, whether you will end up choosing academia or other industry set-ups. It is a time commitment, but it represents the only time you have available in your postdoc career to sincerely think about what YOU are planning to work on, and not your supervisor. The program director and faculty fellows advising are very responsive to feedback, so you can tailor the participation at the program to served best your interests.”

— Miruna Ghinia-Tegla, CCNY, Neuroscience


“TRANSPIRE teaches postdocs the importance of thinking about their research from multiple angles, and its broader impacts. It is comprised of a group of extremely talented peers and faculty fellows who provide feedback in a remarkably friendly group. All of this would not be possible without Linda, who plays an essential role in directing this enterprise through the ever-changing waters of the academic ocean.”

— Budhaditya Chowdhury, ASRC Neuroscience


“The TRANSPIRE program helped me hone my ability to ask insightful research questions and to present my research agenda in a compelling way. I was more effective presenting my work in job interviews this spring because of my participation in TRANSPIRE. The feedback I received from program mentors and peers was invaluable in challenging me to iteratively revise my thinking, my questioning, my writing, and my presentation of my work. As someone who has to be intentional about asking questions, I found the interactive and iterative nature of TRANSPIRE to be quite helpful in getting me to think outside my comfortable box. It gave me an invaluable opportunity to hear perspectives from other fields about my research questions, my research statement, my research direction across the next five years, and my presentation of my research agenda. I highly recommend this program to any postdoctoral researcher who would appreciate the opportunity to gain insight into how your work comes across to others and to actively try out different ways of crafting and communicating your work to increase its transformative potential.”

— Catherine Manly, BMCC & GC, Equity Through Education Research Group

The TRANSPIRE project is a pilot program and funded by NSF* and includes a research and evaluation component to assess the effectiveness of the training model and its potential for scaling. Postdoc participants and the entire team will participate in the program evaluation.

*National Science Foundation, Germination Program, award #2203605

Participation in the ASTC-NSF TRANSPIRE Bootcamp is by application only. Note that the application requires several documents to be uploaded. We suggest reviewing the application pdf preview before starting the application (below).

Applications for the 2023-2024 program must be submitted by 8:00 p.m. on June 21, 2023.

  • Download a preview of the application
    • We suggest you review this before starting the online application form, as the form needs to be completed in one session; additional documents are required to be uploaded as well.
  • Application deadline: Wednesday, June 21, 2023, 8:00 PM
  • Notification of acceptances / declines: Friday, July 7 (approximate)
  • Informed consent process: after acceptances
  • Anticipated start: September (schedules TBD)

For more information, please contact:

Linda Vigdor, M.F.A., Ph.D.

Associate Director of Proposal Development
Advanced Science Research Center

  • The TRANSPIRE team: PI, Bootcamp facilitator, and primary contact: Dr. Linda Vigdor (; co-PIs Dr. Joshua Brumberg, Interim President of the CUNY Graduate Center; and Dr. Rosemarie Wesson, Associate Vice Chancellor & University Vice Provost for Research, CUNY
  • Advisory Board of senior faculty (Dr. Kevin Gardner (Director, ASRC’s Structural Biology Initiative), Dr. Orie Shafer (Professor, ASRC’s Neuroscience Initiative), Dr. Ahu Aydogan (Assoc. Professor of Architecture, CCNY), Dr. Mark Hauber (Executive Director, CUNY ASRC), Dr. Tammy Lewis (Professor of Sociology, Brooklyn College and Professor of Sociology and Earth and Environmental Sciences, CUNY GC), and Dr. Melissa Checker (Assoc. Professor of Urban Studies, Queens College and the PhD Programs in Anthropology and Environmental Psychology, CUNY GC); Dr. Jeanne Grassman (Assoc. Professor of Environmental, Occupational, and Geospatial Health Sciences, CUNY SPH); Dr. Virginia Valian (Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Hunter College)
  • Faculty Fellows (junior faculty from an array of disciplines who participate in the bootcamp sessions and co-mentor postdocs), and an evaluation team from Teachers College, Columbia University: Dr. Ellen Meier & Ms. Caron Mineo.