The University of Kentucky Research Leadership Academy (RLA), supported by the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR), is a multi-component program with three independent programs which will accelerate the development of aspirational research leaders and their research projects. The RLA is an immersive program focused on research leadership development, complex programmatic grant development, and emerging themes for research. 

Why did we create the Research Leadership Academy?

  • Align research infrastructure with college research missions

  • Develop future research leaders within the colleges

  • Train the next generation of ADRs, Center Directors, Asst/Assoc VPRs, VPRs

  • Provide strategic and focused support for large programmatic grant proposals

  • Support emerging themes in research and creative work

The University of Kentucky RLA program will consist of three independent tracks:

  • Research Leadership Development Program

  • Complex Programmatic Grant Development Program

  • Emerging Themes for Research Program

Each program has separate application requirements. Individuals may apply for more than one RLA program. See below for details on each program.


Research Leadership Development Program


The purpose of the Research Leadership Academy’s Research Leadership Development Program is to cultivate and support efforts of faculty and staff who have the potential to lead research projects, special programs, or programs that align with their college’s research priorities and/or lead multidisciplinary cross-college research efforts.

Details, Events & Concierge Activities

  • Competitive application process that results in selection of participants with a program duration of one year
  • Kick-off meeting where applicants describe their research leadership goals, five-year plan, and research project, including the college alignment with their project.
  • Weekly meetings and/or professional development workshops to assist with progress on specific goals for project implementation and reporting of progress.
  • Numerous enrichment opportunities including:
    • Establishing mentoring relationships
    • Engaging with senior UK leaders
    • Participating and presenting in Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) meetings: including the Research Advisory Group, Associate Deans for Research (ADR), Research Priority Area leaders (RPA), OVPR Centers and Institutes Director meetings, and OVPR Lunch and Learn series
    • Attending University Research Professors Lecture Series and other OVPR events


Senior-level faculty and staff involved in research are eligible to be nominated to the RLA Research Leadership Development Program. Nominees must have the support of their college dean and/or ADR to apply. The college must agree to contribute support (at least 10% effort) as professional development and/or research effort.

RLA Project

Applicants will develop a detailed milestone-driven special project

  • Approved by the dean and/or ADR of the college, to be completed within the one-year RLA program

  • Aligned with the college’s research strategic plan. Examples of projects include instrumentation or complex grant applications, development of a new college center, coordination of a conference, or creation of a new graduate program track.

Priority will be given to individuals not already in an administrative role.

Letters of Intent

The RLA Leadership Development Program accepts Letters of Intent (LOI) as a first step to applying for the program. The LOI should be assembled in a single PDF document, 11-point type, single space and submitted electronically via the online funding portal.

Letters of Intent should include brief information (one to two sentences) on the following:

  • One to two tentative research leadership development goals
  • Brief statement describing the focus of a potential RLA research project
  • Prior experience with leadership development programs or activities
  • A biographical sketch or abbreviated CV


The application must be assembled into a single PDF document, 11-point type, single space and submitted electronically via the online funding portal (Research Leadership Academy: Leadership Development Program). 

Applications should include:

  • Cover Page
  • Proposal Narrative (2-page) that addresses the following:
    • Goals for research leadership career, including a five-year plan
    • Description of how RLA participation will facilitate the applicant’s development
    • Detailed plan to work with dean/ADR to implement a project that is consistent with the college’s research strategic plan
      • Description of the vision framing the project and its specific goals and objectives
    • Plan for specific tangible activities and milestones as an outcome of RLA project
  • Biographical Sketch (up to 5 pages) – acceptable formats include NIH, NSF or the attached template:
    • Education and training
    • Personal statement including contributions to the field
    • Positions and appointments
    • Honors and awards
    • Publications and or research/scholarly products
    • Active and recent (past 5 years) funding
  • Letter of support from Dean that describes how the proposed RLA project and development plan of the applicant align with college research priority(s), how their potential research leadership supports the college mission and strategic plan, and the dean’s commitment to provide a minimum of 10% effort.

Submission Process

The RLA Research Leadership Development Program has been deferred for a year because we have extended the current cohort into August and are implementing a comprehensive assessment of the program for continuous improvekent. The next application cycle for the Fall 2025 program (FY26) will begin in the spring of 2025.

Current Participants (FY24)

  • Melinda Ickes (College of Education), Project: PREVENT: Prevention Research to Educate, adVocate, and Empower the Next generaTion
  • Yuha Jung (College of Fine Arts), Project: The Center for Humanities, Ethics, and Legal Studies in A.I.
  • Peter Kalliney (College of Arts and Sciences), Project: Supporting Research at the Commonwealth Institute for Black Studies (CIBS)
  • Liang Luo (College of Arts and Sciences), Project: Global Asias Research and Creativity Hub to Advance Kentucky
  • Barbara Nikolajczyk (College of Medicine), Project: Advancing TRAnslational researCh Teams (ATRACT)


Complex Programmatic Grant Development Program


The RLA Complex Grant Development Program assists faculty in accessing available UK research infrastructure and processes while providing tailored services for development and submission of a specific complex grant proposal.

This program will help familiarize faculty with available UK research infrastructure and processes. The program will provide specialized individual assistance and best practice support for development and submission of a specific complex grant proposal including preparation, submission, project management, and compliance.


  • To provide specialized assistance and best practice support across multiple research support domains.

  • To facilitate and expedite the development and submission of specific complex grant proposals.

  • To facilitate acquisition of needed resources that require coordinated multi-unit support.

  • To assist with proposal planning and preparation, budget and regulatory submission, project management, industry and partner liaisons/ coordination, overall compliance, and more.

Key features of complex grants

  • Bold thematic vision and broad scope

  • Transformational research often contributing to a larger national agenda and impact

  • High value to the universities

  • Multiple synergistic or complementary components, such as projects and cores

  • Multi- or cross-disciplinary approaches

  • High-level team management

  • Coordination across contributing internal and external partners

  • Embedded education and training aligned within the program theme

  • Potential for sustainability of the program

See the Research Enrichment Program site for details on F&A return for complex grants.


  • Faculty or staff with relevant expertise and evidence of success in the field of study are eligible to apply.

  • Applications to the Complex Programmatic Grant Development Program must identify a specific funding mechanism or grant opportunity as the focus of RLA complex grant services.


  • See application for requirements
  • Continuous submission accepted (ongoing)


  • William Stoops (College of Behavioral Science), Project: Center for Research on Existing & Alternative Treatment Outcomes (CREATE)

  • Scott Berry (College of Engineering), Project: Advancing Environmental Surveillance for Pandemic Prediction in Remote and Resource Poor Settings

  • Ian McClure (UK Innovate), Project: KY Tech Hub, Phase 1

  • Ian McClure (UK Innovate), Project: From a Carbon Centric to Circular Economy: Generating Advanced Manufacturing Excellence for Change (GAME Change) for the Southeastern Commerce Corridor, Phase II

  • Kelly Pennell (College of Engineering), Project: PREVENT - Prevent and Reduce EnVironmental Exposures in KeNTucky

  • Rodney Andrews (Center for Applied Energy Research), Project: Climate Change Hazards in Appalachia: Towards Resilience and Geoscience Equity in Kentucky (CHARGE)

  • Seth Himelhoch (College of Medicine), Project: Appalachian Tobacco Regulatory Science Team (AppalTRuST)


Emerging Themes for Research Program



The purpose of the Emerging Themes for Research Program is to support emerging research that creates, grows and sustains a healthier, wealthier and wiser Kentucky.

The RLA Emerging Themes Program is designed to provide seed funding and support for multidisciplinary research teams from colleges and centers across the university toward the following goals and objectives:

  • Find answers to the economic, workforce and health challenges that disproportionately affect Kentuckians
  • Support strategic college research goals and objectives with the intent of extending unit goals for broader participation
  • Promote leadership development across the full research spectrum
  • Align with national priorities and funding opportunities in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) and Health science fields (STEM+H) and/or have societal impact
  • Leverage talent, intellect, and resources across campus in a collaborative manner
  • Address three key factors: our faculty, our infrastructure and our systems (for example, operations, facilities, equipment, systems for compliance and safety)

The intent of the program, with potentially a three-year duration, is to develop new, nationally competitive, transdisciplinary research programs. Proposed collaborations, activities and/or infrastructure will promote the formation of a critical mass of innovators, who can “take the next step” toward national prominence as exemplified by significant long-term funding, innovative discovery and/or transformational impact in the thematic area proposed.

Prior to application, the program includes a required Preparatory Preapplication Process (see below).

Program Support

The RLA (pre-application process and/or post-application support) will provide:

  • Seed funding of up to $100,000/year for a maximum of three years, depending on productivity, to cover costs such as, but not limited to:

    • Use of research cores and centers, institutional resources, and infrastructure

    • Conferences, workshops, and seminars

    • Pilot projects

  • Opportunities for engagement with UK senior administration, relevant deans, and RLA leadership

    • Engagement and mentorship by leaders of centers, institutes, Research Priority Areas and UK Innovate

    • Centralized financial and other administrative staff support

    • If needed, assistance in developing mechanisms of sustained growth, including partnerships with industry, capacity to attract extramural grant funding and/or philanthropy.


Teams of faculty and/or staff with relevant expertise and evidence of success in the field of study who are involved in STEM+H research and who have the support of their college deans are eligible to apply. The Program Leader should devote at least 10% effort to the emerging theme.

  • Eligibility is limited to full-time faculty (regular, research, clinical, and special) and/or staff. At least one Program Leader should be senior-level faculty and/or staff.

  • Investigators in training, including residents, post-doctoral fellows, and clinical fellows, are NOT eligible to serve as Program Leaders but may be co-leads.

  • Volunteer faculty and adjunct faculty are NOT eligible to serve as Program Leaders but may be co-leaders.

Application Steps

  1. Call for Emerging Themes applications: January 31, 2023

  2. Preparatory preapplication process (see next section)

  3. Preapplication submission deadline: March 23, 2023

  4. Preapplication review and invitation for full application submission

  5. Full application submission deadline: September 30, 2023

  6. Full application review and notification by: December 1, 2023

Preparatory Invited Full Application Process

Prior to submission of the invited full application, applicants are required to participate in a process, in collaboration with the RLA and other parts of UK’s research infrastructure, that is intended to facilitate development of their emerging area of research. This might include the following activities:

  • Networking researchers towards research themes of interest (e.g., Scholars @ UK to identify relevant participants)

  • Aligning applications with program and unit goals, national priorities and/or funding opportunities (e.g., ADRs, department chairs, center and institute directors, Proposal Development Office,)
  • Facilitating interactions with campus leaders for development of research themes (i.e., cluster hiring involving department chairs)
  • Assuring leveraging of resources, infrastructure support and talent (e.g., ADRs, center and institute directors)
  • Providing access to institutional data in support of a program initiative (e.g., OVPR Research Data Analytics)
  • Assisting in the development of milestones and metrics for success (e.g., theme leaders, ADRs, OVPR Research Data Analytics)
  • Linking to other potential sources of sustained support (e.g., Philanthropy, Proposal Development Office)

These activities will occur prior to submission of the full application and information that is obtained could be used to develop a full application, if solicited. Please contact Sarah Buzo at for assistance in scheduling meetings.


Deadline: Thursday, March 23, 2023

Submit the RLA Emerging Themes Preapplication form assembled into a single PDF document, 11-point type, single space, electronically via the online funding portal (choose VPR Support Grants). Include the following information:

A two-page preapplication that includes:

  • Brief description of Program Leader and relationship to the theme

  • Program overview and justification

  • Describe how the Program addresses the objectives of the Emerging Research Themes Program

In addition, provide the following supportive information:

  • Biosketches or other forms of abbreviated curriculum vitae (CV) for Leadership Positions

  • Other potential participating units and identified faculty (spreadsheet format is appropriate)

Invited Full Application

Following the pre-application process, emerging themes that address the program’s goals and objectives will be invited to submit a full application for review. Assemble the full application into a single PDF document, 11-point type, single space, and submit electronically via the online funding portal (link to be provided).

Full Application due September 30, 2023

Application requires:

  • Proposal Narrative and Justification (5 pages):

    • Describe the emerging theme and participating entities:

      • Include relevant data from SciVal or other sources obtained through the pre-application process towards participating entities and available evidence of prior or collaborative research activity and/or scholarship.

    • Describe how the emerging research theme aligns with the stated program’s goals and objectives.

    • Describe how seed funding will augment the emerging theme and create competitive advantage for participants.

    • Describe the emerging theme’s growth potential and impact at UK, locally, nationally and/or globally with respect to community and/or the economy.

  • Aims and Mission (1 page) indicating the specific goals and objectives of the proposed emerging theme.

  • Governance (2 pages):

    • Proposed faculty leadership

    • Proposed faculty membership

    • Faculty roles and responsibilities

    • Organization chart

    • Reporting structure

  • Facility Needs (1 page):

    • Equipment

    • Support

    • Staff

    • Space

  • Budget (2 pages):

    • A detailed budget and budget justification including salary support, startup support (if applicable), supplies, etc.

      • Sufficient justification and detail should be provided to validate the need and cost of each item

    • Priority will be given to applications that incorporate the following:

      • Matching or leveraged support provided by the relevant college, or other unit (chair, center director, and/or deans)

      • For applications including matching support, include a letter that details leveraged effort of participating leaders, other forms of matching support

    • Plans for sustainability at the end of the award period, including ongoing sources of funding and fundraising.

    • Funding distributions will be formulaic, bi-annual, and contingent on meeting metric goals related to the success of the Program.

  • Letters of Support

    • Participating deans’ letters (Applications that include financial support and/or cost share as articulated in the letters from participating college deans will be given higher priority.)

    • Other letters (Support from department chairs or relevant center directors for faculty and staff participation in the emerging theme is required.)

  • Biographical Sketches (limit of 6, up to 5 pages) – acceptable formats include NIH, NSF, or the attached template:

    • Education and training

    • Personal statement including contributions to the field

    • Positions and appointments

    • Honors and awards

    • Publications and or research/scholarly products

    • Active and recent (past 5 years) funding

Preapplication and Full Application Review Process

  • Reviewers from units involved in theme are in conflict.

  • For Full Applications, the Deans/ADRs of the Project Leaders may recommend three external reviewers from other institutions that have similar entities.

  • Representatives from the Provost and OVPR (RLA leaders) will serve as reviewers.

  • Study section style reviews with written critiques will assess the following:

    • Alignment with program goals and objectives

    • Ability to augment participating unit research mission

    • Relationship to UK’s institutional goals for a healthier, wealthier, wiser Kentucky

    • Team leadership and transdisciplinary representation

    • Potential for sustainability (extramural funding, philanthropy, etc.)

Notifications by: December 1, 2023

Program Period: January 1, 2024 through December 31, 2024

Funded Emerging Theme Requirements

For Emerging Research Themes that receive an initial year of support, continued funding will be contingent on adherence to the following expectations and indicators of progress:

  • Schedule of program meetings with agenda, time and location posted on the OVPR’s and Provost’s websites.

  • Required monthly leadership meetings organized by the OVPR.

  • Surveys, business and/or meetings, seminar series, newsletters, or other forms of engaging members.

  • Required Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) Training and other training in responsible conduct of research.

  • Use of LabArchives electronic research notebook, when applicable.

  • Acknowledgement of program support on all resultant publications, presentations, or other forms of research output.

  • A semi-annual progress report, to include progress towards milestones, along with expenditures or other stated research outputs.

This information will be reviewed by OVPR, the Office of the Provost, and RLA leaders.


  • Alison Gustafson (Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment), Project: Food As Health Alliance

  • Julie Pendergast (College of Arts and Sciences), Project: Circadian and Sleep Health for a Healthy Kentucky (CASH KY)

  • Ilhem Messaoudi Powers (College of Medicine), Project: Consortium for Infectious Disease Research at the University of Kentucky

  • Rebekah Radtke (College of Design), Project: Global x Appalachia

  • Christopher Richards (College of Arts and Sciences), Project: Nanomedicine and Bioelectronics

  • Dmitry Strakovsky (College of Fine Arts), Project: Creative Gateway for Advancing Digital Health

  • Christopher Waters (College of Medicine), Project: Kentucky Research Alliance for Lung Disease (K-RALD)



Questions may be directed to Linda Dwoskin, Senior Associate Vice President for Research or Kathleen Grzech, Executive Director, Proposal Development Office at

What is the definition of Research as it relates to the RLA?

Research at UK includes highly diverse innovative discovery and creative work, and spans disciplines from:

  • Basic science research on the laboratory bench
  • Research with human subjects and clinical trials
  • Community research
  • Research in the humanities and fine arts, such as performances, concerts, and books of poetry

Who is eligible to apply for each program?

All faculty and senior staff are eligible to apply. Please see the specific eligibility requirements  for each program.

What is a Complex Programmatic Grant?

Typically, complex programmatic grants have large dollar budgets; however, to be eligible for this program these projects need to address strategic priorities but may not have large budgets. In all cases they meet the scope and requirements in the Complex Programmatic Grant Development Program (see above).

How will my proposal be scored?

Below are the review criteria for RLA proposal submissions:

RLA Review Criteria: Research Leadership Development Program
RLA Review Criteria: Complex Programmatic Grant Development Program
RLA Review Criteria: Emerging Themes for Research Program

RLA Research Leadership Development FAQs

What leadership development model is used for the RLA Research Leadership Development Program?

The RLA Research Leadership Development model provides opportunities to connect, interact, and gain insights from successful leaders on campus who have made the transition to leadership. These interactions are enriched by asynchronous training modules offered through Academic Impressions, an organization providing online professional and leadership development for higher education professionals. Modules are supplemented with faculty-led facilitated discussions.  Other opportunities for professional development cover professional growth, problem-solving, and more with faculty leaders.

How much time should I expect to commit to RLA activities?

At a minimum, we suggest committing 10% effort, which translates to about 4 hours each week of the year-long program. Participants are encouraged to be involved beyond this minimum expectation as time allows.

What are the expectations regarding the creation, development and implementation of the RLA-focused project?

RLA members should design a long-term (5 year) vision for their project, with at least two realistic  milestones that can be accomplished within the first 6 months and 1 year, respectively, from program beginning.  

What is the schedule for RLA-required meetings during the program?

Attendance is expected at RLA Professional Development Workshops and Project Progress Meetings scheduled for Thursdays from 2-3 pm and at facilitated discussions of Academic Impressions modules, which occur monthly on Wednesdays from 12-1pm.

Engagement in other high-level leadership opportunities is a component of the program, e.g., OVPR Lunch & Learn sessions (Wednesdays, 12-1pm), University Research Professors Lecture Series (Tuesdays, 12-1pm) and at OVPR Research Advisory Group meetings (third Monday of the month, 9-10:30am).

What special opportunities allow RLA participants to interact with senior university administrators?

By invitation and at least once during the program, participants are invited to attend each of the following meetings: OVPR Unit Directors Meetings, Associate Vice President for Research meetings, Associate Deans for Research meetings, Research Priority Area leadership meetings, and Centers & Institutes meetings.

Research Leadership Academy Team

Linda Dwoskin
Senior Associate Vice President for Research

Lisa Cassis
Vice President for Research

Kathleen Grzech
Executive Director, Proposal Development Office

Sarah Buzo
RLA Program Manager

Nora Whitehead
RLA Grants Manager

Anna Ortynska
RLA Project Manager