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NRSA Institutional Predoctoral Training Grants Program Description and Guidelines

NIGMS accepts predoctoral research training grant applications from eligible institutions to enhance graduate (Ph.D.) research training in 12 broad areas of basic biomedical sciences relevant to the NIGMS mission. In addition, NIGMS supports the integrated medical and graduate research training through the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP).

NIGMS encourages institutions to design training programs that are foundational in nature, preparing graduate students for subsequent, more differentiated research and for a variety of research or research-related 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 demonstrate access to a pool of highly promising scholars, including those underrepresented in the biomedical sciences.

Trainees are expected to participate in a predoctoral curriculum that fosters broad, multidisciplinary approaches to research, including networking and collaboration, emphasizing the competencies needed to prepare a strong and diverse biomedical research workforce for the 21st century. It is critical that students obtain a thorough understanding of experimental design, including the principles of experimental rigor through formal training and mentoring activities. Programs are encouraged to integrate quantitative biology or advanced statistical approaches in their training curriculum to develop a mathematical fluency among all trainees. This curriculum may include quantitative problem-solving, statistical analysis and/or other didactic or hands-on activities that will enhance student understanding of the value of quantitative approaches to answering scientific questions. Programs should also provide students with outstanding mentoring and training in other critical skills such as written and oral presentation, leadership, grant and manuscript writing, and time management.

Notes: NIGMS encourages all applicants for training grants (new as well as renewal) to contact program staff before submitting an application.

An institution may not have duplicate or highly overlapping applications in the same training area under review at the same time.

NIGMS will support only one training program in a given training area per institution (normally identified by having a unique DUNS number or NIH IPF number).

NIGMS does not accept applications requesting support for a combined predoctoral and postdoctoral training program.

Applicants should also note that 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.

Training Program Overview

Successful applicants are expected to provide trainees with broad access to research opportunities across disciplinary and departmental lines (i.e., much broader training experience than would normally be available in a single laboratory or department) and to maintain high standards for intellectual rigor and creativity. Thus, 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 research design and methods in areas related to conducting reproducible and rigorous research; 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.

In addition to outstanding scientific training, solid mentoring and regular career guidance are critical for advancement and success in science. Students who successfully obtain a Ph.D. degree should do so in a timely manner, and with an understanding of the many career opportunities available to them as Ph.D. scientists and what is required to successfully compete for these different opportunities. This wide range of knowledge and skills, including communication, teamwork, management and leadership skills needed for success in a scientific endeavor, cannot be gained by students merely within the first 2 or 3 years of graduate school, but are met by a continuous training and mentoring environment throughout their graduate school career. The graduate programs are also encouraged to develop methods for ongoing evaluation of the quality of the training program and must provide information describing evaluation plans.

Graduate programs are encouraged to recruit trainees with a variety of undergraduate science backgrounds, including mathematics, engineering and the physical sciences. 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. Graduate programs supported by these training grants are encouraged to offer opportunities for interested trainees to obtain experience in teaching, as well as to organize student seminars and workshops for discussions of research career opportunities and options in a variety of venues, such as industry, government or entrepreneurial enterprises. Applications for a biotechnology training grant are required to include industrial internship experiences in their research training programs.

Institutional research training grants must be used to support a program of full-time research training. The program may not be used to support studies leading to the M.D., D.D.S. or other clinical, health-professional training. Note that the MSTP program does allow for the combined M.D.-Ph.D. degree training.

NIGMS encourages graduate programs that receive support from NIGMS predoctoral T32 training grant(s) to make the career outcomes of their trainees publicly available to prospective and current students, preferably by posting the outcomes on their institutions' websites and consolidating them by department or broad program, rather than just listing individual examples. The Institute also encourages new and competing as well as non-competing renewal T32 program applicants to include information on how their institutions inform students about career outcomes.

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 at the institution. The training program elements should generally be made available to other students in the department or broad program from which the trainees are drawn, since this approach broadens its impact and extends the benefits of the training grant activities to a wider cadre of students. NIGMS 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. NIGMS encourages both new and established programs to promote innovation in training.

Length of Support

Training grants are usually awarded for 5 years. Students are typically supported by the training grant for 1-2 years of graduate studies in Ph.D. programs or for 2-4 years in M.D.-Ph.D. programs. Use of training grant support in the early years of graduate research training (e.g., during the first 3 years), is 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.

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

All applications for institutional training grants (T32) must be submitted electronically through (see NOT-OD-10-008) using the NIH T32 Parent Program Announcement PA-16-152.

All supplemental instructions to the SF424 (R&R) for preparing an Institutional Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) application must be followed, with the following additional instructions: Particular attention must be given to the required training data tables. Applicants are encouraged to summarize what they view as especially important results contained in the data tables (may include, but is not limited to, a summary of trainee publication and grant records, faculty training records, outcome data) within the text of the application. This summary does not replace the training data tables, and applicants are urged to ensure consistency between the summary and table information.

The required data tables are designed to be used in conjunction with specific instructions that are included in the FOA. Table formats, instructions and a completed set of tables with sample data may be found on the NIH website. In addition, see the NIGMS training tables webinar slides [PDF, 365KB]. There are also Answers to Frequently Asked Questions that have been created to answer the majority of related questions. If you have any questions regarding the organization of your application, please contact the NIGMS Office of Scientific Review or call 301-594-3907.

Applicants should also note the instructions for the implementation of the new required Biographical Sketch Format in all applications, including training grant mechanisms.

Applicants should note that the initial review of institutional predoctoral T32 training grants is carried out in study sections organized by the NIGMS Office of Scientific Review. Site visits are employed on some occasions as part of this process; however, applicants should not assume that site visits are automatic.

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

  • The objectives of the program for trainees.
  • The planned strategy and administrative structure to be used to oversee and monitor the program and ensure appropriate student progress, mentoring and career guidance to promote the highest possible level of trainee success. If there are multiple PDs/PIs, then the plan for Program Administration is expected to synergize with the "Multiple PD/PI Leadership Plan" section of the application.
  • What distinguishes the proposed training program from others at the institution, if applicable. How these programs will synergize with one another, and whether the pool of faculty, potential scholars and resources are robust enough to support the proposed program.
  • The qualifications of the program director and leadership team, including its leadership, administrative and training experience, and scientific expertise, and how these relate to the proposed management of the training program.
  • 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 predoctoral training curriculum, including the core/common course(s) taken by all trainees, required laboratory rotations, seminars/journal clubs and/or retreats, training in quantitative skills, reproducibility and rigor in experimental design and interpretation of results, and other critical skills such as leadership, team science, written and oral presentation, grant and manuscript writing, as well as exposure to multiple research careers.
  • The criteria for trainee recruitment and selection.
  • The size and quality of the applicant pool.
  • The institutional training environment, commitment and resources.
  • The approaches 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.
  • For renewal applications, the program's success in recruitment, retention and graduation of individuals from underrepresented groups (see NOT-OD-11-110).

NIGMS 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, 2018, you should submit a competing renewal application on September 25, 2016, or January 25, 2017, but no later than May 25, 2017. This will ensure that if the Institute is able to consider your renewal application for funding without interruption. We advise applicants not to wait until the September 25, 2017, receipt date, since most of the NIGMS research training budget will have been committed by the time applications for this receipt date are reviewed.

Before preparing an application, applicants are urged to contact the staff member who is responsible for the specific area of training.

For general information about these institutional NRSA T32 predoctoral training programs, contact:

Dr. Shiva P. Singh
Chief, Undergraduate and Predoctoral Training Branch
Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity
National Institute of General Medical Sciences
45 Center Drive MSC 6200
Bethesda, MD 20892-6200
Tel: 301-594-3900

For questions about the review of applications, contact:

Dr. Stephanie Constant
Chief, Office of Scientific Review
National Institute of General Medical Sciences
National Institutes of Health
45 Center Drive MSC 6200
Bethesda, MD 20892-6200

For financial and grants management aspects of the training grant programs, contact:

Ms. Grace Olascoaga
Grants Management Officer
National Institute of General Medical Sciences
45 Center Drive MSC 6200
Bethesda, MD 20892-6200
Tel: 301-594-5520

This page last reviewed on October 13, 2017