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NRSA Institutional Predoctoral Training Grants Program Description and Guidelines

NRSA Institutional Predoctoral Training Grants Program Description and Guidelines

NIGMS accepts predoctoral research training grant applications from eligible institutions to enhance graduate research training in basic biomedical sciences relevant to the NIGMS mission. The overall goal of these programs is to promote fundamental, interdisciplinary and innovative research training essential for future biomedical researchers.

NIGMS strongly encourages institutions to design training programs that are foundational in nature, providing support for trainees in their early years (e.g., years 1-3), and preparing them for subsequent, more differentiated research and for a variety of research careers. Each application must clearly state the objectives of the proposed program and how they are distinct from or relate to other training programs at the same institution; identify the faculty involved and describe their roles and responsibilities, and indicate whether they participate in other training programs at the same institution; demonstrate access to a pool of highly promising scholars, including those currently underrepresented in the biomedical sciences such as individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups and individuals with disabilities.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to integrate quantitative biology or advanced statistical approaches in their programs to develop a mathematical fluency among all trainees. In addition, applicants are encouraged to propose innovative approaches to training that will prepare a strong and diverse biomedical research workforce for the 21st century.

Program Description

Instructions for Preparing an NIGMS Predoctoral Training Grant Application

Notes: NIGMS does not accept applications requesting support for a combined predoctoral and postdoctoral training. Also, NIGMS does not require T32 applicants requesting $500,000 or more in direct costs for any year to contact staff to obtain agreement that the IC will accept the application. Applicants should also note that NIGMS will support only one training program in a given training area at an institution.

NIGMS strongly recommends that applicants planning to submit a competing renewal application do so at least one year - but preferably one and a half years - before the current grant is scheduled to terminate. Thus, if your grant is scheduled to terminate on June 30, 2016, you should submit a competing renewal application on September 25, 2014 or January 25, 2015, but no later than May 25, 2015. This will ensure that if the Institute is able to fund your renewal application, support can be continued without an interruption in funding beyond June 2016. We strongly advise applicants not to wait until the September 25, 2015, receipt date, since most of the NIGMS research training budget will have been committed by the time applications for this receipt date are reviewed.

Program Description

Training Program Overview

Successful applicants are expected to provide trainees with broad access to research opportunities across disciplinary and departmental lines and to maintain high standards for intellectual rigor and creativity. Collaborative involvement of faculty members who are from several different academic units and who conduct research programs in differing disciplines is essential. The students in these training programs should come from several academic units, and each student should participate in a variety of interdisciplinary training activities that broaden research skills and approaches. Institutions are expected to select appropriate students and faculty for their training program activities. These activities should include cutting-edge research opportunities, coursework and seminars that are appropriate to the focus of the training program, laboratory rotations, training in the responsible conduct of research and proactive mentoring. Additional program activities that could enhance the training experience include retreats, journal clubs and opportunities for students to present on their research progress. The graduate programs are expected to monitor trainee progress carefully and to ensure timely completion of the degree requirements. Programs are encouraged to develop methods for ongoing evaluation of the quality of the training program and must provide information describing evaluation plans. Programs are required to demonstrate successful efforts to recruit and retain a diverse trainee population, including students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups and individuals with disabilities. Trainees should master a core scientific area in depth while becoming conversant in related fields and acquiring information, skills and experience that will equip them for subsequent research careers. This includes ensuring that students obtain the appropriate quantitative training to pursue cutting-edge research and providing opportunities for exposure to topics related to human health, physiology and disease. There are varied ways to achieve these interrelated goals, and institutions should capitalize on their strengths and unique features in this pursuit.

Role of a Training Grant Program Within the Home Institution

The applicant must describe the mission and objectives of the proposed training program and how it fits into in the institution's overall graduate training programs. In particular, the proposal should clearly describe the intended outcomes of the training elements, and how they differ among any other NIGMS predoctoral programs. The training program elements should generally be made available to students beyond those supported by the NIGMS training grant, since this approach broadens its impact and extends the benefits of the training grant activities to a wider cadre of students. NIGMS strongly encourages innovation in its training programs and recognizes the value of established programs that are providing effective interdisciplinary training and programmatic activities to their own trainees and are serving as models for other predoctoral training programs in the institution.

Length of Support

Training grants are usually awarded for 5 years. Students are typically supported by the training grant for 1-3 years of graduate studies in Ph.D. programs or for 2-6 years in M.D.-Ph.D. programs. Use of training grant support in the early years of training (e.g., years 1-3), is strongly encouraged in order to provide maximum flexibility in the selection of courses, rotations, research fields and mentors. The NRSA limit of 5 years of support for predoctoral trainees can be waived for trainees in M.D.-Ph.D. programs.

Training Grant Program Areas and Contacts

Predoctoral training grant applications will be accepted in the Medical Scientist Training Program (M.D.-Ph.D.) and in the 11 Ph.D. support areas listed below.

Dr. Shiva Singh -- 301-594-3900

Behavioral-Biomedical Sciences Interface: Dr. Shiva Singh -- 301-594-3900

Programs should provide graduate research training for students at the behavioral sciences-biomedical sciences interface. The goal of the program is to develop basic behavioral scientists with rigorous broad-based training in biology and biomedical science who are available to assume leadership roles related to the Nation's biomedical research needs. These programs must provide an interdisciplinary research training experience and curriculum for predoctoral trainees that integrates both behavioral and biomedical perspectives, approaches and methodologies. These training programs must include coursework, laboratory rotations and programmatic activities that reinforce training at this interface. Significant participation by faculty and leadership from both behavioral and biomedical science departments is required, as is co-mentoring of trainees by faculty from both components.

Bioinformatics and Computational Biology: Dr. Stephen Marcus -- 301-451-6446
Programs should train students in the background theory and biological application of information sciences (including computer science, statistics and mathematics) to problems relevant to biomedical research. Of particular interest are multi-scale and large-scale problems in biology. Training should include the use of theory and computer application to the full spectrum of basic research in the biomedical sciences, including the analysis of molecular sequence and structure, molecular function, cellular function, physiology, genomics and genetics.

Biostatistics: Dr. Stephen Marcus -- 301-451-6446

Provides support for predoctoral training that integrates biostatistical theory and evolving methodologies with basic biomedical research including, but not limited to, bioinformatics, genetics, molecular biology, cellular processes and physiology, as well as epidemiological, clinical and behavioral studies. The goal is to ensure that a workforce of biostatisticians with a deep understanding of statistical theory and new methodologies is available to assume leadership roles related to the Nation's biomedical research needs.

Biotechnology: Dr. Barbara Gerratana -- 301-594-3827
This training program supports the education of graduate students in the techniques and principles needed to pursue research in biotechnology. The education should be multidisciplinary, but provide a firm grounding in one or more of the fields that contribute to biotechnology, such as engineering, biophysics, biochemistry, genetics and cell biology. Faculty trainers and students participating in this program should be drawn from several departments but with a focus on engineering. The trainers should be conducting research relevant to the understanding and utilization of biological processes for biotechnological applications. These programs are expected to provide holistic training that should include, besides scientific theoretical and practical knowledge, communications skills, career development, and an understanding of regulatory, commercialization and IP issues in bringing a biotechnology product to the market. The program requires a mandatory 3 month internship in pharmaceutical or biotechnological industry. A close interaction between academic and industrial partners is strongly recommended.

Cellular, Biochemical, and Molecular Sciences: Dr. Joe Gindhart -- 301-594-0828
Programs should be cross-disciplinary and involve in-depth study of biological problems at the level of the cellular and molecular sciences. The research training offered should encompass related disciplines, such as biochemistry, bioinformatics, biophysics, chemistry, cell biology, developmental biology, genetics, immunology, microbiology, molecular biology, neurobiology and pathology. These research opportunities should be available in the represented disciplines with faculty mentors from interacting departments and/or interdisciplinary Ph.D. programs.

Chemistry-Biology Interface (CBI): Dr. Miles Fabian -- 301-594-3827
Programs in this area should provide significant biological training to students receiving in-depth training in synthetic/mechanistic chemistry and provide significant training in synthetic/mechanistic chemistry to students being trained in depth in the biological sciences. It is expected that CBI programs will consist of faculty drawn from departments of chemistry, medicinal chemistry and/or pharmaceutical chemistry and faculty from the biological disciplines, such as biochemistry, cell biology and immunology. Students trained at the chemistry-biology interface should be well-grounded in a core discipline and sufficiently well-trained in complementary fields to allow them to work effectively in a multidisciplinary team.

Genetics: Dr. Susan Haynes -- 301-594-0943
Programs should emphasize broad, multidisciplinary training in the principles and mechanisms of genetics and related sciences. Training in a variety of areas such as classical genetics, molecular genetics, population and behavioral genetics and developmental genetics should be offered. Programs may also include training and research opportunities in related disciplines such as biochemistry, cell biology and statistics. Programs are generally expected to include faculty members in disciplines other than genetics.

Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP, leading to the combined M.D.-Ph.D. degree): Dr. Peter Preusch -- 301-594-0828
The MSTP supports the integrated medical and graduate research training that is required for the investigation of human diseases. It assures highly selected trainees a choice of a wide range of pertinent graduate programs in the biological, chemical and physical sciences that, when combined with training in medicine, lead to the M.D.-Ph.D. degree. Programs are encouraged to provide a breadth of doctoral research training opportunities consistent with individual institutional strengths. In addition to the above disciplines, support of trainees in other disciplines such as computer sciences, social and behavioral sciences, economics, epidemiology, public health, bioengineering, biostatistics and bioethics is encouraged. Proposed MSTP programs should be flexible and adaptable in providing each trainee with the appropriate background in the sciences relevant to medicine, yet be rigorous enough to enable graduates to function independently in both basic research and clinical investigation.

Molecular Biophysics: Dr. Paula Flicker -- 301-594-0828
Training in this area should be multidisciplinary and focus on the applications of physics, mathematics and chemistry to problems of biological structure, primarily at the molecular level. These programs should bring together faculty and students from departments such as chemistry, physics and engineering who have an interest in biologically related research with faculty and students in biological science departments whose orientation is the application of physical methods and concepts to biological systems.

Molecular Medicine: Dr. Alison Cole -- 301-594-3827
Training in this area is intended to combine rigorous didactic training in the basic biomedical sciences with exposure to concepts and knowledge underlying the molecular basis of disease. The goal is to train a cadre of scientists prepared to work at the interface of basic biomedical science and clinical research, an area sometimes referred to as translational research. Trainees should have dual mentors in basic and clinical science, and exposure to the concepts of medicine. Training faculty should be broadly drawn from multiple departments and disciplines and thesis research topics should reflect a broad range of interdisciplinary opportunities in the basic biomedical sciences. This training opportunity should be primarily designed for Ph.D. candidates.

Pharmacological Sciences: Dr. Richard Okita -- 301-594-3827
Training in this area should incorporate a quantitative and systems approach to pharmacology. Individuals should receive training that will enable them to conduct research in the development of therapeutic agents. It should also provide training in regulatory sciences that includes the study of pharmacometrics and the principles of absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion and toxicology (ADME-Tox). Thesis research opportunities should be available with faculty members in a variety of disciplines, such as biochemistry, physiology, molecular biology, cell biology, chemistry, medicinal chemistry and toxicology, as well as pharmacology. Students trained in this program should be able to contribute to the design and evaluation of therapeutic agents and strategies based upon the competence they have acquired through specialized training in the pharmacological sciences, both through their individualized research area and their understanding and being conversant with the overall drug discovery and development process.

Systems and Integrative Biology: Dr. Stefan Maas -- 301-594-0943
Training in this area should be directed toward building the broad research competence required to investigate the integrative, regulatory and developmental processes of higher organisms and the functional components of these processes. The training program should bring together varied resources, approaches and thesis research opportunities with faculty mentors of such disciplines/departments as physiology, biomedical engineering, the behavioral sciences, biochemistry, systems biology and cell and developmental biology. Graduates of the program should be well versed in quantitative approaches to biology.

Instructions for Preparing an NIGMS Predoctoral Training Grant (T32) Application

I. NIH Training Grant Information and Requirements

Beginning with submissions intended for the January 25, 2010, due date, applications for Institutional Training Grants (T32) must be submitted electronically through (see NOT-OD-10-008) using the NIH T32 Parent Program Announcement PA-14-015.

Note: NIGMS does not accept applications requesting support for a combined predoctoral and postdoctoral training. Also, NIGMS does not require that T32 applicants requesting $500,000 or more in direct costs for any year to contact staff to obtain agreement that the IC will accept the application. Applicants should also note that NIGMS will support only one training program in a given training area at an institution.

The required data tables are designed to be used in conjunction with specific instructions that are included in the FOA. Detailed instructions, sample tables, and blank, fillable tables are provided. If you have any questions regarding the organization of your application, please contact the NIGMS Office of Scientific Review (301-594-2881) and an appropriate staff member will assist you.

All NIH training grant applicants are expected to present detailed descriptions of:

  • the objectives, organization and direction of the training program
  • the qualifications of the program director and leadership
  • the qualifications of the proposed faculty participants, including their experience as trainers and their current research programs and grant support
  • the past research training record of the program, program director and faculty
  • the criteria for trainee recruitment and selection
  • the size and quality of the applicant pool
  • the institutional training environment, commitment and resources
  • the mechanisms to be used in evaluating the quality and success of the training effort
  • how the program plans to provide instruction in the responsible conduct of research (see NOT-OD-10-019)
  • the program's plans/efforts to recruit and retain a diverse trainee population, including individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups and individuals with disabilities (see information on Recruitment and Retention Plan to Enhance Diversity): NOTE: To be considered Acceptable, an application must provide plans for both the underrepresented racial and ethnic groups as well as for individuals with disabilities categories
  • for renewal applications, describe the program's success in recruitment, retention and graduation of individuals from underrepresented groups (see NOT-OD-11-110)

II. Additional Suggestions for NIGMS Training Grant Applicants

NIGMS offers the following suggestions for training grant programs to enhance the training experience. If relevant, descriptions of these activities in the training grant application would be appropriate:

  • Graduate programs supported by these training grants are encouraged to offer opportunities for interested trainees to obtain experience in teaching.
  • Graduate programs could, if appropriate, offer opportunities for interested students to take industrial or other internships outside of the training institution. Applications for a biotechnology training grant are required to include industrial internship experiences in their research training programs.
  • Graduate programs are encouraged to provide information to trainees and prospective applicants about the career outcomes of recent graduates and to organize student seminars and workshops for discussions of career opportunities and options.
  • Graduate programs are encouraged to recruit trainees with a variety of undergraduate science backgrounds, including mathematics, engineering and the physical sciences.
This page last reviewed on July 01, 2015