Pilot Project Core

The Specific Aim of the Pilot Project Core is to promote new research projects in FASD research that build on and enhance the Center’s research activities.  The primary objective is to recruit new investigators from diverse fields into the FASD research field.  These investigators will receive extensive mentoring and support, in all aspects of FASD research, including the preparation of independent research grants.  Funds will be provided for obtaining preliminary data to position the investigators for competitive extramural funding.  Investigators will also benefit from having access to all resources of the NMARC, including the Administrative Cores.  The Pilot Project Core is expected to increase the Center’s foundation of funded investigators, bring new areas of scientific expertise into the center, and forge new research directions in the FASD field.

Application Procedure

Pilot project proposals will consist of an abstract, two-page research plan that includes a discussion of how the project will contribute to NMARC’s strategic objectives, a budget and budget justification, and a tentative timetable for the submission of a NIAAA grant to support the continuation of the work.  Letters of support from the department chair and key collaborators are required as part of the application.  The application will also include biographical sketches for the PI and other key personnel, and information on other support and vertebrate animals or human subjects. 

Review Procedure

All applications will undergo a rigorous peer-review process.  Projects will initially be reviewed by Drs. Valenzuela and Savage, who will identify two extramural FASD researchers with relevant expertise (either members of the Program Advisory Committee or other extramural researchers, depending on the nature of the project).  The extramural reviewers will provide written constructive feedback on their application, including advice on whether a resubmission is encouraged.  The evaluation criteria are:

  1. Significance of the research question, strength of the scientific premise, feasibility of the studies, and alignment to NMARC’s strategic goals.
  2. Appropriateness of the approach; scientific rigor and transparency, consideration of sex as a biological variable, use of state-of-the-art techniques and Administrative Core resources.
  3. Conceptual and technical innovation, including whether the project brings new expertise to the NMARC.
  4. Qualifications of the investigator, with preference given to new investigators without major NIH funding.
  5. Quality of plan for obtaining independent NIAAA funding; potential for obtaining extramural funding.
  6. Letter of support from department chair, including plan for career development of new investigators.


October 1st:  Call for applications and information sessions; Pilot Project Core PI and appropriate NMARC Investigators meet with interested faculty members.

November 1st:  Letter of intent.  Pilot Project Core PI to meet with Chairs and Center Directors, if there are too few applications.

February 1st:  Deadline for Application Submission.

February-March:  Review of applications.

April:  Final decision made during Annual NMARC Meeting with Program Advisory Committee.  Award notification provided to PIs.  Written feedback provided to all applicants.

By May 1st.  Meeting of new pilot project PIs with Pilot Project Core PI.

May-June.  Submission of animal protocol to IACUC or human subjects protocol to IRB.  Configuration of advisory team.

July 1st:  Project begins. See Oversight Section for reporting requirements.

NMARC Pilot Projects

  • Pilot Project 8A.  Ultrasound Markers of Fetal Alcohol Exposure.  (Co-Principal Investigators:  Steffen Brown, M.D., Assistant Professor, OB/Gyn Dept; Ludmila Bakhireva, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., Associate Professor, School of Pharmacy; Co-investigator:  William Rayburn, M.D., Professor, OB/Gyn Dept; August-November 2014). 
  • Pilot Project 8B.  Effects of ethanol on cellular composition and network behavior in human cortical neurons derived from pluripotent stem cells.  (PI: Jason Weick, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Neurosciences, August 2014-June 2016). 
  • Pilot Project 8C.  Neural-immune processing in FASD.  (Principal Investigator:  Erin Milligan, Ph.D, Associate Professor, Department of Neurosciences, August 2014-June 2016). 
  • Pilot Project 8D.  Placental Dysfunction and Alcohol Exposure:  Uncovering Mechanisms of Impaired Neurodevelopment.  (Lauren Jantzie, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, January-June 2015).
  • Pilot Project 8E. Prenatal ethanol exposure and neural representations of space.  (Benjamin Clark, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, and Derek Hamilton, Ph.D., Professor, Dept of Psychology, January-June 2015). 
  • Pilot Project 8F.  Developing Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)-Based Self-Management Interventions for Children with FASD.  (Megan Griffin, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Susan Copeland, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Special Education, College of Education - July 2015 to June 2017). 
  • Pilot Project 8G.  Entorhinal Cortical Mechanisms of Spatial Memory Deficits after Prenatal Alcohol Exposure.  (PI: Benjamin Clark, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology - July 2016 - June 2018). 
  • Pilot Project 8H.  The Impact of Antenatal Bonding on Prenatal Alcohol Exposure and Infant Development (PI: Sanjuan - Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Addictions and Co-Is: Julia Stephen, Mind Research Network and Jean Lowe, Department of Pediatrics - July 2016 - May 2017). 
  • Pilot Project 8I.  Systematic profiling and functional assessment of ethanol-induced circular RNAs.  (PI: Nikolaos Mellios M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Neurosciences, University of New Mexico School of Medicine; July 2017-June 2019). 
  • Pilot Project 8J.  Placental Insufficiency and Prenatal Alcohol Exposure:  Investigating the Impact of Multiple Intrauterine Insults on Brain Development. (PI: Jessie R. Maxwell, MD, Assistant Professor, Division of Neonatology, Department of Pediatrics, Co-I: Lauren L. Jantzie, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics & Neurosciences, July 2017-June 2019).