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Wendy J. Fibison, Ph.D.
Associate Director, OTD
Phone: 301-496-2638

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Intramural NIAID Research Opportunities (INRO)

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Join the NIAID research community for 4 days in February to learn about the research training experience at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a leader in global health research. Find out what it is like to train as a researcher at a leading multi-disciplinary research facility. NIAID will pay expenses for travel and hotel accommodations and reimburse INRO students for meals after the program.

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What happens during the 4-day INRO program?

Picture of Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.
NIAID Director
January 10, 2012: Video: Dr. Fauci's talk on "Emerging and Re-Emerging Infectious Diseases: The Perpetual Challenge to Global Health" at the first 2012 session of the weekly NIH Demystifying Medicine lecture series.

Be part of a diverse community of aspiring NIAID researchers. Join other dedicated science students like yourself for a 4-day visit to our research facility in Bethesda, Maryland, to

  • Learn about our global health research from NIAID's premiere scientists
  • Interview with potential mentors
  • Meet trainees currently doing research in one of NIAID’s laboratories

Each year, we choose a theme that emphasizes a specific research focus or group of scientists within NIAID. View past years' INRO agenda to glimpse the typical day at INRO.


What training programs will I learn about at INRO?

The INRO program seeks students interested in conducting research in allergy, immunology, or infectious diseases. Only those students actively pursuing a research training position at NIAID will be selected. At INRO, you will learn about the many training opportunities available to you, including the following:

  • Postdoctoral Intramural Research Training
    Researchers spend a minimum of 2 to 3 years of research in one of the NIAID labs to train in the basic and clinical sciences. Invest time in finding the right mentor and research fit for you. Learn all you can about NIAID laboratories and investigators to determine which lab is conducting research in your area of interest.
  • Graduate Partnerships Program
    Students spend their first year at the university while taking graduate-level courses. In the second year, students move partially or completely to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) campus for their research and continue in higher-level graduate courses. The following years are dedicated completely to research. Affiliation with the home university is maintained throughout the graduate program experience.
  • Year-Off Training Program for Graduate and Medical Students
    These programs are designed to provide research training at NIAID for students who are enrolled in graduate or medical degree programs and have permission from their institution to interrupt their current education, with the understanding that they will return to their degree-granting institution within one year.
  • Post-baccalaureate Intramural Research Training
    Recent college graduates will spend a year engaged in biomedical investigation at one of NIAID's research laboratories. In addition, during their tenure in the program, post-baccalaureate fellows also are expected to initiate the application process for graduate or medical school. Fellowship can be extended for an additional year, provided the performance of the trainee is satisfactory and continued support by the laboratory is available.
  • Summer Internship Program
    Successful applicants will join one of NIAID's research laboratories for a minimum of eight consecutive weeks between late May and August. Some flexibility in scheduling exists to accommodate individual student needs.

INRO is intended to support students from populations underrepresented in the biomedical sciences interested in pursuing a research career in allergy, immunology, or infectious diseases. If your interests lie outside the biomedical research areas of NIAID, NIH offers a number of other training programs for which you may be eligible. For information on all NIH training programs, please visit Research and Training Opportunities.

Participation in INRO does not guarantee a training position at NIAID. Every effort will be made to identify laboratories within NIAID that would be a good match for INRO participants.

Responsibilities of an INRO-sponsored research trainee:

As an INRO trainee, the Office of Training and Diversity (OTD) ensures that you receive rigorous research training in the laboratory, complemented by career and professional mentoring and skills development to ensure your competitiveness in the field of biomedical research. As a trainee, you will do the following:

  • Participate in an entrance interview with the OTD associate director upon arrival
  • Develop an individual development plan
  • Participate in monthly brown bag lunch seminars
  • Participate in an exit interview with the OTD associate director upon departure
  • Participate in the subsequent year's 4-day INRO program as a trainee mentor

Where can INRO take you? Stories from past INRO students.

Over the past several years, students from across the continental United States, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico applied to participate in the INRO program. Outstanding undergraduate and graduate students were chosen to participate each year based on their overall academic excellence and their interest in biomedical research.

Our research fellows are part of a group of committed scientists crossing scientific boundaries to solve today's complex global health problems. Read the stories of those who have come before you and what they are doing now.

The Postdoc Experience

photo of Tshaka Cunningham

Tshaka Cunningham

From Science to Business to Science

The first male in his family to go to college, much less an Ivy League school, Tshaka felt pressure to go into business. Deciding to follow his heart, Tshaka went on to earn a Ph.D. in Virology from Rockefeller University and did fellowships at the Louis Pasteur Institute in Paris, at NIAID, and at the National Cancer Institute. Finding himself at a crossroad once again and ready to take a step away from the bench, Tshaka began to explore his options.

Today, Tshaka is a scientific program manager for the Department of Veterans Affairs, where he and his team fund $150 million annually for research that advances the health of America's veterans. Although he is no longer in the lab full time, Tshaka still has "a toe," as he calls it, in the door of research. The many journals he reads and his adjunct assistant professor position at Howard University teaching medical virology keep him up to speed on the science. Is it enough? "I am very satisfied," says Tshaka.

Of his experience at NIAID, Tshaka says "NIAID offers that high level training." His advice to others, "Make the best of the opportunity—get on well with your lab mentor and make as many connections as you can inside and outside of NIH," because you never know which direction you may go.


photo of Eleca Dunham

Eleca Dunham

Research That Affects Change

INRO, Eleca thought, would give her a nice introduction to the Institute, where she was pretty sure she wanted to do her postdoc. She was pleasantly surprised, though, by the amount of support she received. "As a graduate student, you feel isolated, not sure if you are making the right decisions― it was nice to come to a program that had such a support system."

"I knew this was the Institute for me." At NIAID, she explained, it is not just about research. "You meet people involved in writing, administration, public policy work. The world is really your oyster when you come here." In fact, it is this merging of different disciplines that Eleca finds so attractive about NIAID. Ultimately, she wants to do work that goes a step beyond the bench, work that "feeds directly into public policy or disease management."

After only 2 years at NIAID, it seems Eleca's work is paying off. Her recently published paper on the different evolutionary trajectories of European avian-like and classical swine H1N1 influenza A viruses was the Journal of Virology's second most read article for the June 2009 issue.


photo of Jose Ramirez

Jose Ramirez

Taking Advantage of NIH's Resources as a Postdoc

Jose Ramirez was finishing his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University and looking for a place to do his postdoctoral training. He had met some researchers at NIAID during his graduate work and started noticing how much of the research fit his interests and what he wanted to do with his future.

Seeing INRO, he applied and set to work defending his thesis as he waited to hear whether he was accepted. Then he heard about a postdoc position opening in a lab at NIAID. Relying on the old adage—apply to everything that interests you—he interviewed with NIAID's Dr. Carolina Barillas, Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research, and signed on to begin his postdoc fellowship in the new year. A few weeks later he learned that he had been accepted to INRO.

Jose is studying vector-host interactions at the molecular level to see how mosquitoes respond to infection. But it's not just the lab that excites him. This is one of the best places to do this research, he says. "Our research crosses so many fields. The opportunity to talk with people in other labs who also are working on vector research really expands my own research."

Jose also reaps the benefits of being an INRO participant. "The monthly brown-bag lunch series offers a wealth of training skills—how to present, how to network—and opportunities to learn about other areas of biotechnology. I'm very proud to be included in INRO," he says, to be "part of this community and at the same time to learn so much."

Clinical Research

Photo of Donal Cheatem

Donald Cheatem

"INRO superseded my goals. The research described was very cutting-edge and groundbreaking."

As a graduate student at the University of Illinois-Chicago, Donald applied to INRO to gain a better understanding of research opportunities available. He knew that he wanted to pursue his interest in immunology, obtain a medical degree, and conduct research at a teaching hospital. He also knew that NIAID was at the forefront of research in immunology and would be a wonderful place for him to feed his desire for discovery through research. INRO offered the chance to see exactly what opportunities might be available to him.

Donald spent a summer honing his research techniques and gaining a broader understanding of research protocols through NIAID's summer internship program.

Donald continued his educational training at the University of Illinois in the M.D./Ph.D. program.

The Postbaccalaureatte Experience

photo of Neysha Martinez

Neysha Martinez

Two Postbacs

Neysha planned to go directly to grad school after completing her bachelor's at Pontifical Catholic University at Puerto Rico, thinking it would be better for her career. After encouragement from her professor, though, Neysha attended INRO, deferred her graduate work and committed to a 1-year postbac traineeship at NIAID.

Neysha choose to do her postbac at RML to work under Steve Porcella, Ph.D., Research Technologies Branch. During INRO, Neysha was intrigued by Porcella's presentation, talked with him informally, and by week's end, was convinced RML was for her.

RML gave Neysha what she was looking for, a strong foundation of "important research techniques." "My project focused on developing a technology and methodology capable of accurately analyzing and quantifying low amounts of RNA and DNA in hundreds of samples from various sources by using the Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer and RNA 6000 Pico Kit." Neysha also learned how to give scientific talks and was co-author of a paper.

Seeking to broaden her research experience, Neysha signed on to do another postbac traineeship with NIAID investigator, Dr. David Greenberg, Laboratory of Clinical Infectious Diseases, this time at NIH headquarters in Maryland. Because of the skills she learned at RML, Neysha had a little more independence during this postbac. "I was excited to have my own experiment studying Granulibacter bethesdensis (a newly identified bacterium) in longer life phagocytes."

After two postbac research traineeships, Neysha is ready to begin graduate school at the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus to study industrial pharmacy. "INRO surpassed all my expectations. It was challenging and enriching. I feel more prepared and confident to go to grad school and then go on with what I'm positive will be an exciting career."


Photo of Mila Ortigoza

Mila Ortigoza

"I was thrilled to learn that the research component was definitely something I could incorporate with my medical career.… INRO solidified for me that research."

At INRO, Mila attended scientific lectures and had the opportunity to interview with several researchers, including Edward A. Berger, Ph.D., chief of the Laboratory of Viral Diseases. She talked with Dr. Berger about the research in his lab and what she might do if she signed on for a research traineeship. After talking with Dr. Berger, Mila says, "I had no doubt that I wanted to take a year off and learn more about independent research at NIH."

Today, Mila is pursuing her M.D./Ph.D. at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York through the Medical Scientists Training Program, an NIH-funded program. She hopes to practice medicine and eventually to have her clinical experiences influence the research she ultimately would like to do in virology.


Photo of Juliana Lewis

Juliana Lewis

Juliana Lewis attended INRO on the advice of her mentor at Northeastern University in Boston. She had just completed her first laboratory experience as an undergraduate and was sparked with a newly found interest in biomedical research. Her mentor thought that INRO might help Juliana decide whether she wanted to move forward with her original goal of attending medical school or perhaps take another path.

"At INRO, I learned about the science behind the medicine," Juliana explained. "I realized that there are additional paths that will lead me toward my career goal of helping mankind lead a longer, healthier, and more fulfilling life. Biomedical research happened to be a side of medicine that sparked my interest on a deeper level than hands-on patient care."

Juliana did a summer internship position with the Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Immunology at NIAID. She then secured a postbaccalaureate position at the same laboratory. Intending to stay for one year, Juliana signed on to continue her research as a postbaccalaureate trainee for an additional two years.

Juliana has recently been awarded her doctoral degree in immunology at Tufts University in Boston. She speaks openly about her change from her original desire to attend medical school to her current path, that of obtaining a Ph.D. "It's an exciting milestone in my life."


Photo of Imran Babar

Imran Babar

"The programs sounded like an exciting opportunity to learn about NIAID research.…"

As an undergraduate at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, Imran Babar became fascinated with basic cell and molecular biology. On the advice of a professor, he applied to INRO and was accepted.

Imran met and interviewed with several NIAID investigators. Dr. Stephen F. Porcella, chief of the Laboratory of Human Bacterial Pathogenesis at RML, sparked his interest. "I wanted to learn microarray analysis, and researchers at the RML were doing a lot of it."

Under Dr. Porcella's mentorship, Imran learned how to set up an effective control, gained a wealth of experience with microarray analysis, received advice regarding graduate school, and was able to coauthor a publication in a respected peer-reviewed journal.

Imran's research experience motivated him to apply to some of the Nation's top graduate schools. He entered the Ph.D. program in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at Yale University.


photo of Jawara Allen

Jawara Allen

Making a Valuable Contribution as a Postbac

Jawara Allen was pretty sure he wanted to become an infectious disease researcher but thought it would be a good idea to do a postbac before beginning his M.D./Ph.D. education just to be sure. The decision led to his applying to INRO to find out more about NIAID.

INRO, Jawara says, "really highlighted how much diversity there is in biomedical research and that I can do any number of things." He interviewed with Thomas L. Leto, Ph.D., in NIAID's Laboratory of Host Defenses. "Dr. Leto had clearly read my application in detail and knew the work that I had done in the past." In fact, Dr. Leto already had a project in mind that utilized Jawara's genetics research experience, leaving Jawara "feeling that I would be a valuable member of the lab, bringing something unique to the research. "

Jawara continued to be impressed during his first couple of weeks in the lab when Dr. Leto sat down with him to discuss both of their goals. "Dr. Leto wanted to make sure my time was used well and that I learned to think like a scientist," says Jawara.

During his postbac, Jawara will apply to M.D./Ph.D. programs. Of one thing he is sure, "I definitely will come back to NIH for a postdoc."

Summer Internships

JoLynn Azure

JoLynn Azure

Making the Most of the Summer Internship

JoLynn Azure, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, heard about INRO through her membership with the Association of American Indian Physicians and jumped on the opportunity. After interviewing with Kim Y. Green, Ph.D., Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, and learning more about the research underway in the lab, JoLynn signed on for a summer internship.

While at NIAID, JoLynn used her eight weeks wisely. In addition to doing a poster on her research, she job shadowed at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center, a hospital devoted to clinical research. Twice a week she followed staff to get a sense of the day-to-day life of a physician who is also conducting research. The experienced fueled her goal of going to medical school.

Asked whether she felt uncomfortable at NIAID given that there are so few American Indians in biomedical research, JoLynn remarked on how welcome she felt, "My work crew is very diverse which is helpful. I felt like I fit in very well."

After completing her summer internship, JoLynn returned to her hometown of Minot, North Dakota, to help her family rebuild their home which was flooded when the Souris River—heavy with intense snowmelt and rain—overtopped levees. She plans on going to medical school in the fall.


Elisa Frankel

Elisa Frankel

Technologically Speaking

When she applied to INRO, Elisa Frankel didn't know anything about NIH. But after attending the 4-day program in February, she knew she wanted to come back. She spent the summer working with Olivia Steele-Mortimer, PhD., Salmonella Host-Cell Interactions Section, at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) in Hamilton, Montana, studying salmonella bacteria using a transmission electronic microscope.

The experience whetted her appetite to learn more about the technologies that support biomedical research. After her summer internship Elisa is traveling to Israel under a Fulbright scholarship to study the electronic properties of DNA base lesions at the Weizmann Institute of Science, where she is excited to incorporate both physics and biology into her investigations.

For Elisa, there are too many choices. "I'm not sure what I want to do," she says of her career path. When she returns from Israel she will attend graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she plans to get a Ph.D.


photo of Josh Baeza

Josh Baeza

A Summer Internship, Then a Postbac—Totally Worth It

Josh had attended a small university with few research programs and thought INRO was the chance to delve into the full experience of biomedical research. "It was the best opportunity I've ever had," he says. "I listened to so many different researchers talk about their work. That clinched it for me. I knew I wanted to come back for the summer."

Josh was offered a summer internship with Dr. Shyam Kottilli, Laboratory of Immunogenesis, where he worked on HIV/hepatitis C co-infection. In addition to gaining invaluable research skills, he was co-author on a paper, an uncommon accomplishment for summer interns. The experience went so well that he returned for a postbac after finishing his undergraduate education at the University of Texas.

Josh is now in the Ph.D. program at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Looking back on INRO, Josh says, "It was a catalyst, a big stepping stone to getting to where I am now." Missing 4 days of school and playing catch up, he says, "was totally worth it." He believes the experience made him very competitive for the National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship. "I don't think I would have gotten it without my experience at NIH."

This program offered by the: Office of Training and Diversity, Division of Intramural Research, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health.

Last Updated February 19, 2014