Big Proposal Bootcamp

Big Proposal Bootcamp is an 11-week program, kicking off each January and concluding in April, which introduces a small cohort of faculty to the skills to do large-scale, cross-disciplinary proposals and connect them to the diverse resources of support that Pitt has to offer as they develop those proposals.

These large-scale projects are strategic investments that attract the attention of sponsors’ boards of trustees or oversight staff, in the case of a federal agency. They almost always involve institutions distributed across a region or the country.  They frequently involve corporate or non-profit partners. And, they increasingly require a wide diversity of disciplinary expertise to be successful.  As a result, big proposals are different.

Bootcamp includes guest speakers from across campus who offer research support services related to major elements of big proposals as well “deep dive” case studies with senior faculty who have led successful large-scale proposals. During the program, participants will have the opportunity to develop the outlines of a big proposal, and the series will conclude with a “pitch” competition. The winning pitch will be rewarded with a small prize they can invest in developing their project. The prize amount is less than a PMF Priming award. 

View the list of the 2024 Big Proposal Bootcamp participants >>

Bootcamp Topics

The agenda will continue to evolve with every cohort, but sessions have covered topics such as:

  • Strategic Context for Big Proposals
  • Team building and team management
  • Broader impacts and broadening participation
  • Intellectual property & technology transfer
  • Corporate and community partner ecosystem
  • Working with foundations
  • Budget & finance
  • Working with proposal development professionals
  • The review process
  • Case studies

Bootcamp Logistics

Nomination process: In early November, SVC Rob Rutenbar requests nominations from Deans and the Directors of UCIS, LRDC, and UCSUR of faculty who (i.) the Deans or Directors think are ready for a next step in the scale of their research activities and (ii.) who they know are now thinking about either doing something big or want to be part of bigger team efforts going forward.   If you are a faculty member interested in participating in Big Proposal Bootcamp, please let your Dean, Director, or Associate Dean for Research know of your interest. Michael Holland, Vice Chancellor for Science Policy & Research Strategies (, does keep track of faculty whom he knows are interested, and we include their names as a courtesy in SVC Rutenbar’s November nomination request for their Dean’s or Director’s consideration.

Meeting Times: Weekly meetings are held at times that works for the majority of participants. For faculty with schedule conflicts that are unresolvable, we always offer a chance to participate in a subsequent cohort. For conflicts that arise during the semester, we record our sessions (Zoom when virtual, Panopto when live) and make those recordings available to cohort participants to catch up. So that speakers feel free to be as forthcoming as possible, we do not distribute those recordings further.

Success stories: A partial list of Bootcamp success stories includes:

Melissa Bilec

Melissa Bilec (2019 bootcamp), a member of Eric Beckman’s $400,000 Pitt Momentum Funds Scaling Award team, led a coordinated set of 5 NSF Growing Convergence Research proposals that have been awarded $1.3 million to date with the potential to reach $3.6 million. Her $1.6 million award, Convergence Around the Circular Economy, is linked to one of NSF’s 10 Big Ideas, and Melissa is in the first round of those GCR awards.  Melissa is an associate professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Co-Director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation.

Kevin Binning

Kevin Binning (2021 bootcamp) leveraged a $60,000 Pitt Momentum Funds Teaming Award into two federal awards.  Kevin is the PI on a $2 million project, Developing a Context-Integrated Mindset / Belonging Intervention to Eliminate Demographic-based Underperformance in Challenging Large Lecture Undergraduate Courses, from the Institute for Education Sciences to expand and scale up his Momentum Fund team’s Ecological Belonging intervention across large lecture courses at Pitt.  Kevin is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and a Research Scientist in the Learning Research & Development Center

 Linda DeAngelo

 Linda DeAngelo (2021 bootcamp), Kevin’s Pitt Momentum Funds co-investigator, is PI on an aligned $2.4 million NSF award, Collaborative Research: Course-based Adaptations of an Ecological Belonging Intervention to Transform Engineering Representation at Scale to apply the intervention at Purdue and UC Irvine engineering schools and add a faculty development component for cultural sensitivity in teaching URM students.  Linda DeAngelo is an associate professor of higher education in the Administrative and Policy Studies Department and Center for Urban Education faculty fellow.

Michele Reid-Vazquez

Michele Reid-Vazquez (2021 bootcamp) leveraged her 2020 $60,000 Pitt Momentum Funds Teaming Award into a $175,000 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Institute for Higher Education Faculty grant for “Transnational Dialogues in Afro-Latin American and Afro-Latinx Studies.” Michele Reid-Vazquez is an Associate Professor in the Department of Africana Studies at the University of Pittsburgh and a Global Studies Center Fellow.

Cori Richards-Zawacki

Cori Richards-Zawacki (2020 Bootcamp) led a team of researchers from Pitt, UC-Santa Barbara, UC-Berkeley, University of Nevada Reno, University of Alabama, University of Massachusetts Boston, and Vanderbilt that won a 5-year, $12.5 million NSF Biology Integration Institute, Uncovering mechanisms of amphibian resilience to global change from molecules to landscapes, in 2021. OSVCR provided support, including proposal development coaching by McAllister & Quinn, red team reviews, and reverse site visit coaching, for Cori’s 2020 proposal and her 2021 revision and resubmission.  Cori participated in the 2020 Big Proposal Bootcamp, won her cohort’s pitch day competition prize. She had previously won a 2020 Central Research Development (CRDF) award (the precursor program to the PMF).