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Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research (U-STAR) Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to College Student Questions:

Answers to Faculty/Staff Questions Cover the Following Topics:


 

Answers to College Student Questions:

Q. What is the MARC U-STAR program?

A. MARC U-STAR is a research training program for honors junior and senior level undergraduate students. The program is designed to increase the number of individuals from groups that are underrepresented in biomedical sciences by preparing students for high-caliber graduate training at the Ph.D. level.

Q. I am a college student, how can I participate in the MARC U-STAR program?

A. To be eligible for support through a MARC U-STAR award, you must be majoring in the sciences--such as biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, psychology, etc.--and attend a college or university that has a MARC U-STAR grant. MARC U-STAR institutions are responsible for selecting the students to be supported, so students apply directly through their institution. See a list of colleges and universities that participate in the MARC U-STAR program.

Q. What groups are underrepresented in biomedical research?

A. For institutional awards such as MARC U-STAR, underrepresented students are individuals belonging to particular groups that have been determined by the grantee institution to be underrepresented in biomedical research. See groups NIH is particularly interested in encouraging the recruitment and retention of to enhance diversity in the biomedical sciences.

Q. Must I be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to be eligible to participate in the MARC U-STAR program?

A. Yes. You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to be eligible for a MARC U-STAR program. Individuals on temporary or student visas are not eligible.

Q. What does MARC U-STAR provide to participants?

A. This program builds the next generation of biomedical science leaders. MARC U-STAR trainees participate in a variety of training activities (such as seminars, workshops and meetings), conduct biomedical research in laboratories through a summer research training experience and learn about various science careers as they prepare to enter graduate school to pursue a research doctorate (Ph.D.) or combined dual degree research doctorate such as an M.D.-Ph.D. The program provides MARC students with an annual stipend (see the section "Kirschstein-NRSA Stipend Levels" for current levels) plus partial undergraduate tuition and fees.

Q. Is foreign travel (for meetings, summer research training, etc.) for MARC U-STAR trainees allowable?

A. No. Trainee travel is limited to domestic institutions (U.S. states, possessions and territories) only.

Q. What other programs does NIGMS offer to increase the number of underrepresented biomedical scientists?

A. NIGMS' Division of Training, Workforce Development and Diversity offers various programs to increase diversity in the biomedical sciences for high school students, college and graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows.


 

Answers to Faculty/Staff Questions Cover the Following Topics:

Note: Answers to many common questions can be found on the MARC U-STAR Web site. New applicants are strongly encouraged to contact NIGMS staff to discuss their plans to submit a new application as early as possible. Information on allowable costs and other grants management information are available in OMB Circular A21.

Preparing and Submitting a New or Renewal MARC U-STAR Application

Q. What goals does NIGMS expect for the MARC U-STAR Prebaccalaureate training program?

A. Successful MARC programs are expected to provide broad and rigorous research training and programmatic activities that enhance the participant's successful program completion, B.S. or B.A. degree attainment and pursuit of Ph.D. in the biomedical sciences. Activities should include contemporary academic and research training opportunities across participating MARC U-STAR departments, coursework and seminars, training in the responsible conduct of research, and proactive mentoring and monitoring of student outcomes. Additional program activities that enrich the training experience could include retreats, journal clubs, opportunities for students to present their research progress and development of participant's professional skills and career preparation and planning. Programmatic oversight, evaluation and monitoring the research training program for continual improvement are expected.

Q. I am a faculty member, how can my institution apply for a MARC U-STAR grant?

A. Eligible faculty from colleges and/or universities that have a significant underrepresented student population may be eligible for the MARC U-STAR program. For eligibility and other pertinent details, including how to submit an application, read the latest MARC U-STAR Funding Opportunity Announcement.

Q. I am planning to submit an application for the MARC U-STAR program, are there other materials I can use for guidance in addition to the Funding Opportunity Announcement?

A. Yes, the MARC U-STAR Web site contains details related to the program. At this site, there are listings of currently supported MARC U-STAR institutions, and many of these programs have links to active Web sites. Information about how to complete the budget pages for application submission and various MARC policies are also available.

Q. What roles do the program director and faculty trainers play in this program?

A. The MARC program director(s), with input from the steering or advisory committee, develops the MARC U-STAR training plan, establishes the expectations for the program, annually monitors trainee and faculty participation and secures institutional support. The faculty trainers serve as research mentors and may assist with trainee recruitment, selection, monitoring and support of the program's enrichment activities.

Q. Are there specific formats for the tables that are requested in a MARC U-STAR application?

A. Yes, there are suggested MARC U-STAR Tables for submitting a competing application. These tables are not required; however the information requested in them must be presented in the application in some format. For uniformity and consistency, the use of the suggested tables is encouraged.

Q. What is meant by Group A, B and C on the MARC Tables?

A. This refers to students at the applicant institution who belong to groups A, B and C as stated in the NIH Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research Program.

Review

Q. Who evaluates MARC U-STAR applications?

A. Applications are reviewed by scientists who are actively involved with undergraduate training in committees organized by the NIGMS Office of Scientific Review. Many of these reviewers are themselves directors of training grant programs. See current review committee rosters.

Q. Will our MARC U-STAR applicant institution receive a site visit?

A. Site visits are at the discretion of the NIGMS Office of Scientific Review and are prioritized based on a number of factors, including: Was the application site visited for the last competing application? Have there been any significant changes since the last competing application (e.g., significant change in the structure or objectives of the program)? Generally, competing renewal applications receive higher priority for site visits than new applications. In all cases, it is critical that applications for both new and continued support should be thorough, accurate and up to date to allow a complete evaluation without a site visit.

Budget and Funding

Q. Are MARC U-STAR applications subject to NIH policies requiring prior approval before submitting applications with direct costs exceeding $500,000 in any one year; i.e. including a cover letter identifying NIGMS staff who have agreed to accept assignment of the application?

A. No, the MARC U-STAR applications are exempt from the prior approval policy.

Q. Can I expect to be fully funded at the Council recommended slot levels listed on my summary statement?

A. While NIGMS tries to support all programs at or near the Council recommended slot level; full support depends on NIGMS' training budget and other factors. Never assume your program will receive an increase in slots, either in the competing or noncompeting years, until told by the MARC U-STAR program officer or stated on the Notice of Grant Award.

Trainee Appointments and Terminations

Q. How is the Statement of Appointment Notice submitted and when is it due?

A. The standard time to appoint MARC U-STAR trainees is anywhere from June - September 30 annually, as per the MARC U-STAR Trainee Appointment Policy. The Statement of Appointment (Form PHS 2271) should be submitted at the time of the trainee's appointment and is required for both new appointments and re-appointments. This action is thereby done every year. Grantees must submit the PHS 2271 data electronically using the xTrain system. The form can be found on the Form and Applications page on the Office of Extramural Research Web site. More information is available on the xTrain Web site (eRA Commons).

Q. Is a Termination Notice needed for each MARC trainee once the student completes the program?

A. No. Per the NIH GPS (section11.3.13.3; see http://grants.nih.gov/grants/policy/nihgps/HTML5/section_11/11.3_institutional_research_training_grants.htm#Other) no Termination Notice is required for prebaccalaureate (T34) trainees, including MARC U-STAR.

Q. What is the minimum and maximum length of an appointment for a MARC U-STAR trainee?

A. MARC is a consecutive 24 month program for each trainee; appointments are thereby made for two full-time 12-month continuous periods. Depending on when a trainee is appointed to the program (anywhere from June - September 30), the minimal program time would be 21 months.

Q. If my award includes four trainee slots; does that mean I can only appoint four students?

A. Yes. However, should a student leave the program and you want to appoint another student, you may readily do so if that new student would be appointed during the standard appointment period (June - September 30). After September 30, the MARC program director would need to make an official request (through your business office/signing official) to NIGMS for the new student's appointment.

Q. One of our undergraduate students is an asylee (refuge/person seeking asylum) who has applied for but has not yet received a currently valid Alien Registration Receipt Card (I-551A). Can we submit an approval letter from the U.S. Department of Justice Immigration and Naturalization Service while awaiting the I-551A along with the Statement of Appointment form?

A. No. Policy requires that NRSA trainees must have a currently valid Alien Registration Card (I-551A) and provide a notarized statement verifying the possession of permanent residency documentation with the Statement of Appointment Form (2271) at the time of award. There is a distinction between an asylee and a permanent resident. An asylee is not considered a permanent resident.

Q. May a new trainee be appointed during a no-cost extension?

A. No. No-cost extensions are granted to allow continuation of MARC trainees currently appointed.

Progress Reports and Publications

Q. When is my annual non-competing progress report (T-5) due?

A. Progress reports are due annually. They are required to document grantee accomplishments and compliance with the terms of award. All MARC U-STAR programs begin on June 1 and progress reports are due on October 15, annually. This means that the reporting period for the first award year is truncated, while the remaining years are not, such that:

Year 1: reporting period = June 1 - October 14 of the same year

Year 2-Year 5: reporting period = October 15 to October 15 of the following year

Q. I heard that MARC annual progress reports (T-5) will no longer be submitted using PHS 2590 format, is this true?

A. Yes. Per NIH notice NOT-OD-14-092, beginning with the November 1, 2014, due date and thereafter, all MARC progress reports require use of the Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) module to submit annual progress reports; grantees no longer us the former PHS 2590 format. See information and resources on the RPPR, including the current RPPR Instruction Guide and training archives.

Q. In completing the annual progress report, do I need to include Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training for MARC U-STAR students?

A. Yes, reporting on RCR training is a required element on MARC progress reports. A concise description of RCR training should be done and be no longer than one page in length.

Q. Do we need to list all publications (full citation) for each MARC trainee that resulted from work done during their MARC U-STAR training? How should this information be provided?

A. Yes. The NIH Public Access Policy requires that any publications of individuals supported by a MARC U-STAR grant be linked to the grant and have a PMCID number. Listing MARC trainee publications on progress reports that were done during a reporting period must include a PMCID number; non-compliance could delay the start of the MARC award. Visit the Public Access Policy Web site for more details.

Post Award and Grants Management

Q. Can funds be re-budgeted between categories on a MARC U-STAR training grant?

A. Funds may be re-budgeted, but only as follows (see also the answer to the next question below):

Trainee-Related Expenses (TRE): Rebudgeting of funds awarded in a lump sum for trainee-related expenses does not require NIGMS prior approval.

Trainee Costs: For rebudgeting purposes, trainee costs include funds awarded in the stipends or tuition/fees budget categories. These costs may not be used for other purposes except under unusual circumstances and then only with the prior approval of NIGMS. Unless otherwise restricted, rebudgeting into or within the stipends and tuition/fees is allowable without prior approval of the NIH awarding IC.

Trainee Travel: For rebudgeting purposes, trainee travel is not considered a trainee cost and, therefore, may be rebudgeted into any other budget category without prior approval of NIGMS.

Summer Research Experience (SRE): The MARC program requires trainees to spend at least one summer away conducting biomedical research at a domestic research-intensive host institution. NIGMS adds funds, at the time of award, for SRE as follows: These funds, which cover 50% of the total trainee slots awarded, are based on $3,000 per trainee slot for per diem expenses for 10 weeks and $500 for travel ($750 per trainees for programs in Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) plus 8% F&A costs. They are restricted solely for this purpose and may not be rebudgeted into other categories, unless granted by NIGMS. Please review the SRE guidelines.

Q. Is NIGMS prior approval required for rebudgeting of funds on a training grant?

A. Yes, in some cases. Prior approval is required to rebudget stipends and/or tuition into the Travel or Trainee Related Expenses (TRE) categories. However, no prior approval is required (unless otherwise restricted by the terms and conditions of the grant award) for categories as shown on the following table. Note that SRE funds are restrictive and cannot be rebudgeted into any other category, unless granted permission from NIGMS.


INTO


FROM

Tuition

Stipend

Travel

TRE

SRE

Tuition

---

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Stipend

Yes

---

Yes

Yes

No

Travel

No

No

---

Yes

No

TRE

No

No

Yes

---

No

SRE

No

No

No

No

---



Q. Can we use funds from training-related expenses to partially fund the salary of individuals involved in managing our program?

A. Yes, training-related funds may be used to help defray such costs as staff salaries when they are directly related to the training program.

Q. Can the faculty on the MARC U-STAR training grant use MARC funds for travel to institutions to give seminars and to present information about the training program?

A. Yes, as long as the activity is directly related to the MARC training program. Under the Training Related Expenses category, funds are provided to help defray such training costs as staff travel and other expenses directly related to the training program.

Q. Is carryover of unexpended balances permitted on MARC U-STAR training grants?

A. No. NIGMS does not permit automatic carryover from one budget period to the next on MARC U-STAR grants, unless there are extraordinary exigent circumstances (e.g., natural disaster). These funds are used by NIGMS to offset future year commitments. This helps us to utilize the training budget available in the most judicious manner possible.

Q. Is it possible for NIGMS to change the start date of the MARC award to coincide with the start of the school year?

A. No. MARC grants all start on June 1, annually. Programs should thereby plan accordingly in selecting MARC students for the program.

Q. How do we change the MARC program director (PD)?

A. A request for change of PD must be countersigned by the grantee organization, the current PD and the proposed new MARC PD, and must include a current biographical sketch or CV for the nominee. NIGMS will review the nominee's qualifications, re-evaluate the program in light of the proposed change and provide a written decision to the MARC grantee institution.

Q. If the PD plans to be absent from the program for more than 3 months, what is required?

A. A countersigned letter requesting approval of an acting MARC PD must be submitted to NIGMS. The letter should describe plans for the conduct of the program during the original PD's absence and indicate that the acting PD will have signature authority on trainee forms. NIGMS will review the request and provide a written decision to the MARC grantee.

Q. Can we transfer our training grant to another institution?

A. Generally, no. MARC U-STAR is a Ruth Kirschstein-NRSA institutional research training grant. Such grants may not be transferred except under the most unusual circumstances.

Q. Where do I submit the Federal Financial Report (FFR)?

A. Electronic submission of the FFR through the eRA Commons is required from the grantee for each budget period no later than 90 days after the end of the calendar quarter in which the budget period ended. Additional information on electronic submission of FFRs is available at the Commons Web page, or by contacting the eRA Helpdesk at commons@od.nih.gov or 866-504-9552.

Q. What is the importance of submitting Termination Notices, Appointment Forms and Federal Financial Reports in a timely manner?

A. The forms are critical to establishing the payment of stipends and other costs. Failure to submit the required forms in a timely manner will result in an expenditure disallowance or a delay in any continuation funding.


 

For more information on the Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research (U-STAR) Program, contact:

Sailaja Koduri, Ph.D.
National Institute of General Medical Sciences
45 Center Drive, MSC 6200
Bethesda, MD 20892-6200
Tel: 301-594-3900
E-mail: sailaja.koduri@nih.gov

 

This page last reviewed on July 11, 2016