Who We Are

Our Team

Alan is our managing partner. He developed the original GRFP course at UCR Riverside in 2010 and subsequently refined it in partnership with two university writing centers.

Alan was born in NYC, grew up in rural Arizona, attended the University of Wisconsin and now resides in Los Angeles. Trained as a geographer and economist, his emphasis on applying theory to real problems puts his work squarely in the field of community development. Alan has consulted for school districts, health care organizations, law enforcement agencies and faith-based organization. His past projects include program design and evaluation for university institutes and centers; startup business planning for NGOs; board retreats for government and NGOs; policy analysis for state government; municipal economic development planning; and executive education for government and military agencies.

Patrick is a Partner. He provides editing, writing, and training services for all clients.

Patrick Ryan is a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at UC Riverside, studying the historical development of philosophy and cognitive neuroscience. He also works on foundational issues in logic and mathematics. Patrick teaches philosophy at Cal State Fullerton and Fullerton College.

Patrick has extensive experience as a writing teacher and coach. He learned the nuts and bolts of writing as a grammar and composition teacher and developed a deep understanding of the art and science of persuasion by teaching critical thinking courses. Patrick joined Brainsteering after serving as a writing consultant at UCR’s Graduate Writing Resource Center, where he helped his clients produce compelling, polished grant applications, cover letters, proposals, and essays.

Patrick’s work at Brainsteering focuses on crafting storyboards for proposals and other strategic communications, and editing and polishing drafts into works of art.


River is our Project Manager. They provide website and design support, as well as video production services.

River graduated from Cal State Fullerton in 2019 with a Bachelor’s Degree in both Cinema Television Arts and Philosophy. They are a freelance worker with a wide range of services including video production and editing, freelance writing, and photography services. They currently work as a Utility Tutor teaching most all subjects k – 12 including Essay Writing and AP Test prep.

Their design knowledge comes from experience building multiple websites across various platforms including WIX, WordPress, and GoDaddy. River has vast academic writing capabilities as well as an interest in Graphic Design. Samples of River’s creative projects are available on their portfolio page.

Andrew Hollenbach


Professor of Genetics and co-director of the Basic Sciences Curriculum at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans.

He is the author of A Practical Guide to Writing a Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Grant, now in its second edition from Academic Press. He provides insider knowledge to F-Series grant applicants and mentors on how these applications are evaluated, the biases inherent in the reviews, and the information required for a successful NRSA application. He focuses on the exact purpose of each section of the document and offers suggestions and recommendations on how to construct a winning application.

Dr. Hollenbach is also the lead editor for the AAMC publication “Instituting Curricular and Institutional Climate Changes to Improve Health Care for Individuals who are LGBT, Gender Nonconforming, or Born with DSD.”

What is Brainsteering?

Brainsteering orients and focuses us by asking the “right” questions.

(Note the contrast with brainstorming, which can go in any direction.)  

To develop our GRFP course, we compared the essays and reviewer comments for hundreds of people who won versus those who received an honorable mention. On measurable objectives like grades, preparation, and feasibility, there was little difference between applicants.

What’s the difference between winning and almost winning?

It seems that the reviewers trust both groups to succeed. The difference is that they love the winners more than the almost-winners. The reviews almost always make reference to some personal quality or life events or commitment to service. They want to be inspired.

So, we assembled a set of questions to help you focus their attention on your application.  

We developed a unique approach to create that trust and love by telling a compelling story. Every good story sets its events into a plot that engages the readers and leads them where the author wishes.

We’ll steer your brain to construct a story that will steer the reviewers toward giving you the award.