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NRSA Institutional Predoctoral Training Grants Program Description and Guidelines

NIGMS accepts predoctoral research training grant applications from eligible institutions for support of promising students who seek research training in the basic biomedical sciences and related behavioral and clinical fields. The overall goal of these programs is to promote interdisciplinary, collaborative, and innovative research training in areas relevant to the mission of NIGMS.

Program Description

Instructions for Preparing an NIGMS Predoctoral Training Grant Application

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; individuals with disabilities; and financially disadvantaged backgrounds. 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 have 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 should explain the mission and objectives of the proposed training program and how it fits into in the institution’s overall graduate training programs. In some cases, including efforts to establish a new training focus at an institution, a training program may concentrate its activities on a limited group of training grant-supported students to achieve a unique training experience. However, for both new and continuing training grants, the training program 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 to 3 years of graduate studies in Ph.D. programs or for 2 to 6 years in M.D.-Ph.D. programs. Use of training grant support in the early years of training 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. In general, only one application in a given training area will be supported at an institution. In addition, NIGMS will accept applications for predoctoral training programs that combine two or more of the 11 Ph.D. support areas listed. This option is intended to facilitate the merger of existing training grant programs when the applicant determines that this combination will remove barriers or improve access to multidisciplinary research training. It also will foster the development of new integrated programs from institutions that lack sufficient numbers of faculty or students in any one of the individual Ph.D. support areas. Institutions interested in pursuing this option should contact Dr. John Norvell, Dr. Alison Cole, or other NIGMS staff listed below.

Dr. John Norvell - Assistant Director for Research Training -- 301-594-0533
Dr. Alison Cole - Deputy Assistant Director for Research Training -- 301-594-3827

Behavioral-Biomedical Sciences Interface: Dr. Alison Cole -- 301-594-3827

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, behavioral, and clinical 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. Karin Remington -- 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. Shawn Drew -- 301-594-3900

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, clinical, and behavioral research needs.

Biotechnology: Dr. Warren Jones -- 301-594-3827

Training in this area should be multidisciplinary and provide students substantial technical and intellectual skills in fields of research that centrally utilize biotechnology (biochemical engineering, biochemistry, bioengineering, biomaterials, metabolic engineering, marine biology, molecular biology, nanobiotechnology, pharmacology, plant biology, tissue engineering, etc.). The training program must include an industrial internship to give students a meaningful research experience in a biotechnology or pharmaceutical firm. The training program should produce investigators with the facility and orientation to combine basic and applied research.

Cellular, Biochemical, and Molecular Sciences: Dr. Marion Zatz -- 301-594-0943 and Dr. Peter Preusch -- 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. Michael Rogers -- 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 and Dr. Clifton Poodry -- 301-594-3900

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. Bert Shapiro -- 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. Marion Zatz -- 301-594-0943

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. 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 be multidisciplinary and should emphasize exposure to the broad field of pharmacological sciences. Individuals should receive training that will enable them to conduct research on the biological phenomena and related chemical and molecular processes involved in the actions of therapeutic drugs and their metabolites. 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 strategies based upon the competence they have acquired through specialized training in the pharmacological sciences.

Systems and Integrative Biology: Dr. Alison Cole -- 301-594-3827

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 neurosciences, 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

Applicants should follow the instructions described in both the PHS 398 grant application for Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA), as well as instructions in the NIH Institutional Research Training Grant program announcement (PA-08-226). 

Previous versions of the PHS 398 have required the submission of tabular data in support of training grant applications, but not provided specific format templates or example data. Several of the Institutes of the NIH have offered recommended table formats and made them available on their Web sites, but there has been variability in the formats. The new version (11/07) of the PHS 398 includes a set of table formats that all ICs have agreed to use as the standard format set. The tables and their instructions have been designed to capture the same information that has been required in previous versions of the PHS 398 and to implement changes in NIH-wide institutional training grant policies and program announcements that have been issued since the last revision. This has resulted in some regrouping of data elements and reordering of data tables. It has also involved the addition of data fields to capture Diversity Recruitment information and to place that data in comparison with data on the overall trainee pool and trainee environment. 

The required data tables are designed to be used in conjunction with specific instructions that are included in the FOA and PHS 398. 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 be happy to 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
  • the program’s plans/efforts to recruit and retain a diverse trainee population, including individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups; individuals with disabilities; and financially disadvantaged backgrounds (see information on Recruitment and Retention Plan to Enhance Diversity)
  • for existing programs, describe the program’s success in recruitment, retention, and graduation of individuals from the groups listed in the bullet above

II. NIGMS Special  Requirements That Must be Included MANDATORY

All applicants for NIGMS-funded predoctoral training grants are required to address each of the following (in a section titled “Special Requirements” to be inserted at the end of Section 8.9.2. “Background” of the PHS 398 application):

  1. Describe the mission and objectives of the program to be supported by the training grant.
  2. Describe how the proposed training grant fits into the institution’s overall graduate training programs: How is it unique from other existing predoctoral training programs?
  3. Describe collaborative and interdisciplinary features of the proposed training program. For ongoing programs, has training in any scientific disciplines or fields been added or deleted?
  4. Describe any innovative features or activities that will be provided for trainees.
  5. Do the prospective trainees have adequate quantitative backgrounds relevant to the proposed training to pursue cutting-edge biomedical research?  Describe what the training program does to ensure that students have appropriate quantitative graduate training.
  6. Describe how the training program provides opportunities for exposure to topics related to human health, physiology, and disease.

III. 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 updated December 31, 2008