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THE FALL 2018 CATALYST COMPETITION is CLOSED. The SPRING 2019 competition will LAUNCH in MARCH 2019. 


Download the most recent RFP here.


Catalyst Success Spotlights

Congratulations to the Spring 2018 CNS Catalyst award winners: Chris Sullivan/Jenny Jiang ("Launching the field of transposon-based immunotherapy") and Elaine Li/Nanshu Lu ("Mechanically Tunable Two-dimensional Moiré Crystals in a van der Waals Heterostructure")!

Three previous CNS Catalyst award winners have leveraged the results from their “catalyzed” studies into successful NSF, NIH, and DoD proposals. Congratulations!

  • Molly Cummings, “NSF/Collaborative Research: UV-MultiSpectral-Polarization 3D Imaging of the Underwater World” (NSF, $630,448)
  • Marvin Whiteley, “Scanning electrochemical microscopy: a tool for studying chronic wound infections” (DoD, $98,146)
  • Ilya Finkelstein, "Mechanism, specificity, and design of CRISPR RNA-mediated gene regulation" (NIH, $2,347,245)

About CNS Catalyst Grants

The CNS Catalyst Grant program is a College of Natural Sciences (CNS) internal funding mechanism meant to inspire interdisciplinary research collaborations that will seed efforts to secure external funding. Proposals for interdisciplinary projects with faculty members from different UT departments or colleges, including Dell Medical School, are requested. Principal investigators who accept a CNS Catalyst Grant must commit to the pursuit of external funding for the collaborative effort within 12 to 18 months of receiving Catalyst Grant funding. The CNS Strategic Research Initiatives Office will, as needed, assist teams receiving Catalyst Grant funding with the development of their proposal to an external funding agency.


Since its inception in the spring of 2014, 45 proposals have been submitted to the CNS Catalyst Grant program over five competitions. In addition to collaborators from 15 CNS departments and ORUs, these interdisciplinary proposals have included investigators from the Cockrell School of Engineering, the Colleges of Liberal Arts and Education, the Jackson School of Geosciences, and Dell Medical School. This broad expertise has enriched a diversity of proposed research topics ranging from the impacts of language brokering on educational outcomes in Mexican-American adolescents to the development of next-generation wound dressings. Past CNS Catalyst Grant winners are provided below.




Principal Investigators


Spring 2014 Development of Transformative Tracking and Mapping Instrumentation—for tracking, mapping and identifying camouflage and navigation strategies in dynamic, complex environments

Molly Cummings

Todd Humphreys

Wilson Geisler

CNS/Integrative Biology

CSE/Aerospace Engineering


Spatial Organization of the Microbiome in Health and Disease

Marvin Whiteley

Howard Ochman

Nancy Moran

Andrew Ellington

Jason Shear

CNS/Molecular Biosciences

CNS/Integrative Biology

CNS/Integrative Biology

CNS/Molecular Biosciences


Spring 2015 Hacking Next Generation Sequencing for Genome-Scale Biochemistry

Ilya Finkelstein

Bill Press

CNS/Molecular Biosciences

CNS/Computer Science

Fall 2015 Integrating paleontology and genomics to characterize long-term responses of Caribbean coral reefs to climate change

Mikhail Matz

Rowan Martindale

CNS/Integrative Biology

Jackson/Geological Sciences

Spring 2016 Trans-generational influence of alcohol on alcohol sensitivity by epigenetics

Jon Pierce

Vishy Iyer


CNS/Molecular Biosciences

Fall 2016 Investigating Protein Conformational Dynamics with IR Spectroscopy

Carlos Baiz

Richard Aldrich



Spring 2017  Dissecting the neural code for memory: bridging cellular and circuit mechanisms with nanoscale neural interfaces

Alexander Huk

Chong Xie


CSE/Biomedical Engineering

Exploring the Mechanisms of Nutritional Programming Using a Novel Model Animal

Lee Fuiman

Stefano Tiziani

CNS/Marine Sciences

CNS/Nutritional Sciences

Fall 2017

Uncovering the Dark Neuropeptidome

Hans Hofmann

Ed Marcotte

CNS/Integrative Biology

CNS/Molecular Biosciences

Socio-Cultural Stress Profiles, Stress Responses, and Health in Mexico-Origin Adolescents

 Su Yeong Kim


Deborah Parra-Medina

CNS/Human Development & Family Sciences

CLA/Mexican American and Latina/o Studies

Spring 2018 Launching the field of transposon-based immunotherapy

Chris Sullivan

Jenny Jiang

CNS/Molecular Biosciences

CSE/Biomedical Engineering

Mechanically Tunable Two-dimensional Moiré Crystals in a van der Waals Heterostructure

Elaine Li

Nanshu Lu


CSE/Aerospace Engineering

Fall 2018 Developing human electrophysiology approaches to determine how brain rhythms support memory

Alison Preston

Laura Colgin

Andrew Watrous

Robert Buchanan



Dell Medical/Neurology

Dell Medical/Neurosurgery

Rapid identification of personalized tumor immuno-therapies

Lauren Ehrlich

Jennifer Maynard

CNS/Molecular Biosciences

CSE/Chemical Engineering



Award Information

Up to two CNS Catalyst Grants ($50,000 maximum each) will be awarded to teams of 2 or more members to begin new interdisciplinary research collaborations. Two award cycles are being offered for Fiscal Year 2018-2019, with proposal deadlines in April and October. Teams whose CNS Catalyst Grant proposals are not selected in a given award cycle are allowed to resubmit their proposals in subsequent cycles.


Eligibility Guidelines

CNS Catalyst Grant funding is meant to catalyze new research collaborations in high-impact, emerging fields that have potential for major external funding. With this goal in mind, we expect that a successful Catalyst Grant proposal will possess the following characteristics:


  • Project teams should include at least two members, each with a primary UT appointment to a different academic department, who are tenure-track faculty, non-tenure-track faculty or permanent research scientists, and who have not previously received external funding as a team. The participation of individuals at the Assistant and Associate Professor ranks is particularly encouraged. Adjunct faculty, visiting researchers and postdocs are not eligible Co-PIs but may be named investigators in proposals.

  • Cross-college collaborations are allowed, but Catalyst Grant funds may only be used to support the CNS portion of the collaboration. If a cross-college collaboration requires funding or in-kind support for the other college, the commitment for those funds or support must be provided by the other college and be described in the proposal submission.

  • Project teams must provide convincing evidence that external funding exists that will be viable to pursue. A target grant mechanism must be identified at the time of proposal submission.

  • The timeline for submitting a Catalyst Grant application should be 12 to 18 months ahead of the team’s anticipated submission to one or more target external grant programs.

  • Previous Catalyst Grant winners may submit an application no sooner than two calendar years from their winning competition cycle (e.g., a winner from Fall 2015 would not be eligible to submit another application until Fall 2017).

  • Previously successful investigator teams are not eligible to submit a new Catalyst proposal as a team.


What Will a CNS Catalyst Grant Pay For?

CNS Catalyst Grant funding should develop promising new research areas and teams in order to enhance competitiveness of applications to external agencies.


ALLOWED Expenses:

  • Materials/supplies/consumables

  • Graduate student support including tuition; Postdoc or Research Scientist support. (Note: Salary funds may only be paid to UT-Austin employees and may not be transferred outside the University.)

  • Travel or conference hosting for team-building in advance of external sponsor proposal submission


  • Faculty salary (summer or otherwise)

  • Administrative or secretarial support


Application Instructions

Application Website: https://utexas.infoready4.com/#competitionDetail/1775777

Create your application (UT EID and password required) and upload the items listed here at the website above to be considered for CNS Catalyst Grant funding in the next award cycle:


1. Lay Summary. In 200 words or less describe for a general audience the proposed collaboration and its potential impact.


2. Proposal. Limit to three (3) pages. Organize the proposal in the specified order using the section headings (Rationale and Vision, Justification, Participating Faculty) and the instructions provided below.


  • Rationale and vision. Explain the innovative and transformative nature of the proposed interdisciplinary collaboration, and provide an assessment of why the project team is particularly well-positioned to develop competitive external proposals in this research area.  

  • Justification. Explain why a Catalyst Grant is required to initiate the collaboration, and how the grant will impact the team’s probability of success in securing external funding.

  • Participating Faculty.  List participating faculty members providing a clear explanation of each member’s role in the collaboration. If your proposal involves faculty members from other colleges, describe the source(s) of support for those members’ portion of the collaboration


3. External Funding Landscape. Limit to one (1) page. Summarize the external funding landscape for which the seed funding proposal is being prepared and plans to pursue external funding. Include an anticipated timeline with milestones for development of an external proposal, names of potential sponsoring agencies, and relevant deadlines for those agencies.


4. Budget and budget justification. No page limit. Submit a detailed budget outlining expenditures in appropriate categories. Other resources that will be committed to the effort, such as support from academic units, should also be outlined. If your proposal involves a cross-college collaboration, specify the source of support for the other college’s participation and provide email confirmation of preliminary commitment from the appropriate college/department/center.


5. Biosketches or CVs.  Submit biosketches or CVs for all members of the faculty team.


Application Review Process and Evaluation Criteria

CNS Catalyst Grant applications will be reviewed by a committee of CNS faculty with appropriate subject matter expertise. One award will be announced approximately 3 weeks after each grant cycle deadline, and funds will be disbursed approximately 4 weeks after each deadline. Evaluation criteria include:

Evaluation criteria include:

  • Demonstrated commitment by the faculty team to establish a new interdisciplinary collaboration

  • Evidence that Catalyst Grant funding will enable the faculty team to overcome identified barriers that currently prohibit a successful collaboration

  • The proposed collaboration’s potential to enhance UT-Austin’s competitiveness in securing external funding

  • Strength of the proposed plan to secure external funding


What's Required of Me After I Receive a CNS Catalyst Grant?

In addition to submitting a proposal for external funding, you must submit the following information to Dan Bost in the Office of Research and Facilities 6 and 12 months after receiving the award:

  • A two-page progress report including (i) research outcomes and (ii) progress toward securing external funding. If progress has been hindered in one or both of these areas, a clear explanation for the delay is required.

  • A list of any other key outcomes of Catalyst Grant funding (e.g., manuscripts published or submitted; external collaborations formed)

 Successful collaborative teams may also be asked to:

  • Highlight their collaborations in a College-wide forum such as a CNS Town Hall meeting or research symposium.

  • Provide subject matter expertise by participating on a review panel for a future Catalyst Grant competition.