Dr. Troy Roepke, an Associate Professor of Animal Sciences in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, gains the most satisfaction out of mentoring students, at all levels, by providing an environment in which the thrill of scientific discovery and academic research success. In 2020, Roepke was awarded their first R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) after participating in the National Research Mentoring Network-CIC Academic Network (NRMN-CAN) Grant Writing Group hosted at Rutgers.

Roepke’s research focuses on chronic exposure to stressful experiences resulting in stress-related mood disorders in humans, and men and women who have distinct responses to these stressors. Particularly, the Roepke lab will investigate the role of corticotropin-releasing hormone signaling in the sexually dimorphic bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST). Roepke’s research will use a combination of electrophysiological, genomic, and optogenetic tools to fully investigate how BNST mediates behavior in both male and female mice.

“After a successful collaboration with the Rutgers colleague, Dr. Benjamin Samuels, Assistant Professor of Psychology, that lead to one publication, we decided to utilize our collective expertise and write an R01 to investigate the sex differences in the behavioral response to chronic stressors in mice. Because I have expertise in sex differences, estrogen signaling, electrophysiology, and RNA sequencing and he has the expertise in chronic stressors, mood disorders, behavior assays, and optogenetics we work well together and are very excited to begin these studies.”

Even though Roepke had written many grants during postdoc training and pre-tenure days at Rutgers, they actively participated in grant writing workshops.

Roepke learned about the NRMN-CAN grant writing group by way of Dr. Lauren Aleksunes, the Workforce Development Core Lead for the NJ Alliance for Clinical and Translational Sciences (NJ ACTS), and she invited him to participate. “We were working on a grant together and she thought it would be helpful for my grant writing.” Aleksunes works with Dr. Suzie Chen, both Professors in the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, to run monthly peer review sessions of NIH Specific Aims pages among early stage and mid-career investigators. Since joining the NRMN-CAN grant writing group, Roepke states that, “My participation in NRMN has certainly changed the way I write grants, specifically the specific aims page. My writing is much clearer and succinct and hopefully more impactful.”

Through conversation with Roepke about this recent accomplishment, we asked, if someone called you and asked, “Why should I become involved with NRMN?” Roepke’s response – encourage them to enjoy the grant writing process. This will allow gratitude as they get paid to think about their specific area of science. “One of the benefits for me was having non-neuroscientists read my aims page. If they understand the project, then any neuroscientist should.”

The NRMN-CAN Grant Writing Group is supported by NJ ACTS, the School of Graduate Studies, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, NIEHS Center for Environmental Exposures and Disease, and the Office of Research and Economic Development. For more information about NRMN-CAN, email aleksunes@eohsi.rutgers.edu or suziec@pharmacy.rutgers.edu.

Prepared by Yasheca Ebanks, MS, Project Manager, NJ Alliance for Clinical and Translational Sciences, Workforce Development Core