Are you an early career investigator who craves opportunities to attack challenging research questions with unconventional approaches?  If so we need you for an Innovation Lab to re-imagine research on lifestyle and health.  Innovation Labs are a facilitated 5-day collaborative journey in planning creative and audacious new solutions. Vanderbilt University will host The Staying Power Innovation Lab at the Airlie Conference Center in Virginia, from April 23 to 27, 2018.

Early career investigators from around the country will be selected to turn their unique expertise into cutting edge grant ideas for durable interventions to enhance diet, physical activity, and self-care in service to wellness.

Breakthrough ideas will require everyone at the table. Driving innovation must draw on far flung expertise: metabolomics to hypnotherapy, CNS reward pathways to the business of food marketing, and urban planning to Blockchain. No vantage point is too distant or esoteric if you are passionate about sustaining changes in lifestyle to improve health.


This Innovation Lab is about far more than obesity and weight loss. Ample research is aimed at achieving weight loss and/or improved elements of metabolic profile (e.g. blood sugar or cholesterol control) in specific populations.  A wide range of interventions have significant short-term effectiveness but few have long-term success.  We can either accept relapse as a frustrating feature of human nature or propose that we are not supporting change over the long haul and exploiting novel tools to do so.

A focus on sustaining the effects of obesity, fitness, and lifestyle interventions is an essential extension of current research.  While longer, more naturalistic trials are being conducted, the need remains for research on retaining, enhancing, and building on the benefits of interventions over time. This includes supporting lifestyle choices of healthy adults in addition to study of those already experiencing health consequences.  Completely new thought models, intervention tools, measurement approaches, and collaborations will be essential for breakthroughs.

Interested applicants should not be invested in a single direction of travel for promoting wellness. Indeed the concept of an Innovation Lab is built around the surprise factor of fresh, transformational paths that emerge during the course of the event.


Innovation Lab methodology is designed to counteract myriad forces that favor monodisciplinary, incremental science. Innovation Labs move quickly but deliberately over five days to scope the problem, exchange information, and generate novel combinatorial solutions and “stretch ideas”. Participants create and refine solutions as draft proposals with real-time peer-review. The idea is to develop sketches of high-impact, novel proposals. Throughout the process, we focus on expertise identification and the creation of trust and shared understanding.

The Innovation Lab on Staying Power will be facilitated by an interdisciplinary team of mentors.  Stay tuned as we announce experts and provocateurs who will be joining us for the week.

Participants need not bring “canned” research ideas to the Lab.  Rather, teams and ideas are developed through real-time peer input.  Ideas rapidly iterate, in a group setting, with the benefit of constant commentary. A small team of scientific experts play dual roles of coaches and reviewers, reinforcing novel ideas while balancing them with the realities of funding and scientific politics.


All early career investigators intrigued with seeking new approaches are encouraged to apply.  We are seeking very broad representation across a wide territory.  Breakthroughs happen at the intersection of different disciplines and mindsets.  As examples, behavioral scientists have key insights on diagnostics, intervention, and treatment.  Basic scientists working on understanding pathways or pharmacologic tools to modify signaling of satiety, metabolic set-point, and craving can contribute.  Psychologists examine the human condition, adaptability, resilience, habit, addiction, motivation, and commitment.  Social psychologists bring concepts of influence and interactions to the table.  Pure mathematicians can transform seemingly disparate factors and date points into relationship equations.  Applied statisticians come with the qualitative and quantitative tools to support the quest via visualizing, modeling and predicting.  Big data experts bring speedy harnessing of signals from large complex data sets.  Digital technology innovators incorporate social media, internet-of-things, e-health applications, and smartwear.

We want to engage those outside traditional STEMM territory too, for example economists (output and productivity), marketing specialists (communications, capture and dissemination tools), political scientists (policy and regulations), educators (developmental phases, lifestyle learning), philosophers (ethics, logic, meaning, rigor), social anthropologists and ethnographers (custom, culture and historical context), and sociologists (demography, gender, class).  Imagination is key – early career investigators from any discipline who can bring a novel look at the challenge will enrich the Lab.


These Innovation Labs to Drive Early Career Grants (supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health UL1TR001412) are directed by:

Timothy Murphy, MD
Senior Associate Dean for Clinical and Translational Research
Director, Clinical and Translational Science Institute
University at Buffalo

Katherine Hartmann, MD, PhD
Associate Dean for Clinical and Translational Scientist Development
Director of Education, Training and Career Development for Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research
Vanderbilt University

Larry Hawk, Jr., PhD
Professor, Department of Psychology
College of Arts and Sciences
University at Buffalo


Eligible applicants will be within 10 years of completion of research training and affiliated with a National Institute of Health Clinical Translational Science Award hub. If you are not currently associated with a CTSA and are confident you have interest in applying, please be in touch to strategize creation of a pathway to application with a member of the Innovation Lab leadership.

Our application and additional information at:

Overview: Staying Power Innovation Lab Summary

Online Application Form: Staying Power Innovation Lab Application

Due by February 9, 2018 and participants will be selected by early March.

Contact Katherine Hartmann for questions:, please use subject line Innovation Lab.


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