Postdoctoral Research Associate Training (PRAT) Program Answers to Frequently Asked Questions


What is the NIGMS PRAT Program?

The overarching goal of the NIGMS PRAT Program is to provide high quality postdoctoral research training in the basic biomedical sciences, in NIH intramural research laboratories, to a diverse group of postdoctoral fellows to prepare them for leadership positions in biomedical careers. Training includes a mentored laboratory experience as well as intensive career and leadership development activities. More information about the PRAT Program.

What benefits does the program provide?

Fellows selected for the PRAT Program will receive 3 years of stipend support and benefits, a travel allowance, and will participate in PRAT Program activities. Appointments are made at competitive stipend levels, commensurate with experience and the competitive selection process for this program.

Who is eligible for this program?

Applicants must have earned a Ph.D. or a professional degree (M.D., D.D.S, D.O., D.V.M. or Pharm.D.) in any area relevant to biomedical research by the time the applicant is appointed to the PRAT Program, and be citizens or permanent residents of the United States. Applicants may apply prior to coming to NIH. Applicants that have started postdoctoral research training in an NIH intramural laboratory are eligible as long as they began no earlier than July 1 of the year preceding the application due date (e.g. July 1, 2018 for the October 2, 2019 due date).

What research areas are appropriate for the PRAT Program?

PRAT fellows conduct research in laboratories in the NIH Intramural Research Programin the basic biomedical research areas that are within the NIGMS mission. These areas include but are not limited to biological chemistry, biophysics, bioinformatics, cellular and molecular biology, computational biosciences, developmental biology, genetics, immunology, neuroscience, pharmacology, physiology, and technology development.

When is the next due date for applications?

September 2, 2019
PRAT application submission period begins
October 2, 2019
Applications and letters of reference must be received by 5:00 p.m.
February-March 2020
Scientific review of applications
April-May 2020
Summary statements available, and finalists notified
Late summer/early fall 2020
Earliest start date for new PRAT fellows (typically, September 1)

How do I apply to the PRAT Program?

Applications are accepted once a year and must be submitted via grants.gov in response to the Funding Opportunity Announcement (PAR-19-286). PRAT Program (Fi2) (i=intramural) applications are similar to the NRSA/F32 postdoctoral fellowship application template and are reviewed by a study section convened by NIGMS. The applications must be submitted by the NIH Institute or Center where the proposed postdoctoral research training will occur.

How do I obtain an eRA Commons log-in and who submits my application?

Each NIH Institute and Center has an Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR)/Signing Official. This person has the credentialing to create eRA Commons accounts or to affiliate an existing eRA Commons account with the NIH Institute. The AOR/Signing Official is also the person who submits grant applications on behalf of their Institute and who you will need to work with to submit your PRAT/Fi2 application. Contact this person early in your decision to apply for the PRAT program as they may have their own timeline or requirements that need to be met in order to submit your application. The list below includes the AORs for many of the NIH Institutes. If the Institute where you propose to conduct your postdoctoral research is not listed or you are unable to reach the Signing Official, contact the NIGMS PRAT director for assistance. You may also contact the NIH intramural training director at the appropriate Institute to learn this information.

How do I identify a mentor/sponsor in the NIH Intramural Research Program?

The NIH Intramural Research Program website allows you to search for intramural investigators by research area. You may also become aware of NIH investigators through literature searches and other venues. After identifying an intramural investigator with a research program of interest to you, and where there is an opportunity to develop a project that falls within the mission of NIGMS, contact that person directly to discuss the opportunities available within the research group and your interest in applying for the PRAT Program. These connections need to be made well in advance of the application receipt date since you need to work with the potential research mentor on developing a research proposal and writing other parts of the FI2 application.

Can I have a co-sponsor who is not in the NIH Intramural Research Program?

Yes, the majority of the work needs to be done on-site in the NIH Intramural Research Program but a co-sponsor who is not at NIH and is contributing substantially to the project through the exchange of reagents, data and/or important scientific discussions is permitted.

What are the required components for the application?

Please see the list of required components below. The application does not need to be submitted before the letters of reference are submitted. Letters of reference can be submitted at any time provided you have an eRA Commons account that these can be linked to. There is no grace period for letters of reference. All components of the application are due by 5 p.m. on the receipt date.

Application Components

  1. Project Summary/Abstract
  2. Project Narrative
  3. Bibliography & References Cited
  4. Facilities & Other Resources
  5. Equipment
  6. Leadership Statement
  7. Biographical Sketches for Key Personnel. All individuals listed as key personnel must have an eRA commons ID. Many intramural investigators do not have an eRA commons ID and the Institute AOR may need to create this account for your sponsor(s).
  8. Specific Aims
  9. Research Strategy
  10. Use of Vertebrate Animals
  11. Resource Sharing Plan
  12. Respective Contributions
  13. Selection of Sponsor and Institution
  14. Responsible Conduct and Research
  15. Goals for Fellowship Training and Career
  16. Activities Planned Under this Award
  17. Doctoral Dissertation and Other Research Experience
  18. Sponsor and Co-Sponsor Information
  19. Three letters of references submitted directly via eRA Commons

Do I need preliminary data before I apply?

We recognize that some applicants may be applying before starting their postdoctoral training, and would not have had the chance to generate their own data. As such, we advise reviewers to give more weight to the ideas and approach than to preliminary data. It may be necessary, however, to include data generated by others in the proposed laboratory to demonstrate the rationale for the proposed study or feasibility of the approach. We strongly encourage individuals who are completing their Ph.D. training and have not yet started a postdoctoral fellowship to consider the NIH Intramural Research Program as an option for their postdoctoral training and to apply for the PRAT Fellowship.

How do I submit the application?

The AOR for the NIH Institute or Center where the work will be conducted will submit the application on your behalf. Please contact the AOR early in the process and follow their guidance regarding the materials needed and timeline for submitting your application.

What is expected in the Leadership Statement?

Applicants should include a description of past leadership and service activities in the scientific community, or to enhance public engagement/understanding of scientific research. Include a description of commitment to diversity in the biomedical sciences, and leadership, mentoring and outreach activities to enhance diversity – especially involving groups underrepresented in the biomedical research enterprise.

Describe planned activities during the fellowship to develop or enhance leadership skills (e.g. leading teams, skills to work effectively with scientists from a wide variety of backgrounds and promote inclusive and equitable scientific biomedical research environments, etc.). Applicants can speak with their preceptors or institute training directors about opportunities for fellows to take leadership roles (e.g. planning seminars or retreats), as well as consider opportunities available through the Office of Intramural Training and Education.

Any additional advice?

In the research training plan, it’s important to clearly describe how the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses employ the highest standards of experimental design to ensure reproducible results (e.g., power analysis, consideration of relevant biological variables as appropriate, etc.). The NIH website on rigor and reproducibility provides resources that may be helpful in formulating your proposal.

Logistically, identify your potential research mentor and Institute’s AOR very early in the process so you can prepare a strong application and submit the application on time. Identifying a research mentor and working on the PRAT application together could take several months. In addition, some AORs have asked for advanced notice of your intent to apply for the PRAT Program. This can vary by Institute but may be as much as 6 weeks in advance of the application receipt date.

Whom do I contact with questions?

Feel free to contact the PRAT director with any questions about the application process or suitability of the research proposed for the PRAT Program.