Fellowship Grants (F)

Fellowship Grants (F)

Table of Contents

Overview

NIH awards National Research Service Award (NRSA) individual fellowship grants to provide research experience to students and scientists at various stages of their careers.

Investigators must be U.S. citizens, noncitizen nationals, or permanent residents with a valid Alien Registration Receipt Card (Form I-551) at the time of award. People on temporary or student visas are not eligible.

NIAID offers fellowships at the predoctoral and postdoctoral levels:

  • NRSA Fellowship for Students at Institutions Without NIH-Funded Institutional Predoctoral Dual-Degree Training Programs (Parent F30) or the NRSA Fellowship for Students at Institutions With NIH-Funded Institutional Predoctoral Dual-Degree Training Programs (Parent F30) — To qualify, you must be enrolled in a formally combined M.D. and Ph.D., DVM and Ph.D., D.D.S. and Ph.D., or Au.D. and Ph.D. program, and be supervised by a sponsor for the research doctoral component.
  • NRSA Individual Predoctoral Fellowship (F31) — To qualify, you must be at the dissertation research stage of training at the time of award and enrolled in a Ph.D. or equivalent research degree program, a formally combined M.D. and Ph.D. program, or other combined professional/clinical and research doctoral program in the biomedical, behavioral, or clinical sciences.
  • NRSA Individual Predoctoral Fellowship to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (F31) — To qualify, your institution must certify in a letter that you are from an underrepresented group. See the Fellowship Grants SOP for details. You must be enrolled or accepted into a Ph.D., combined M.D. and Ph.D., or other combined doctorate and research Ph.D. program in biomedical and behavioral sciences or health services research.
  • NRSA Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship (F32) — To qualify, you'll need a doctoral degree from an accredited institution. You may request support for training abroad. A detailed justification for the foreign training is required and should include reasons why the facilities, the sponsor, or other aspects of the proposed experience are more appropriate than training in a domestic setting.

Grants are awarded for a maximum number of years as follows:

  • F30 — six years
  • F31 — three years (for NIAID)
  • F31 Diversity — five years
  • F32 — three years

Fellowships are not renewable. They require full-time effort, 12 person months a year. In addition to the full-time training, fellows may spend on average, an additional 25 percent of their time (e.g., 10 hours a week) in part-time research, teaching, or clinical employment, so long as those activities do not interfere with, or lengthen, the duration of their NRSA training.

For Some Grants, You'll Owe Work Time

Postdoctoral fellows must repay the government for their grant support. This isn't like paying off a loan; your debt is one of time and effort, not money. You can pay it off by continuing to work on the project for which you were funded.

During the first year of your appointment, you'll owe one month of payback for every month you're supported by NIH funds. After the first year, you can start paying back. For every month you continue to work—even with funding—you pay back one month of your debt. If your training lasts two years, your obligation will be paid in full.

If You Can't Pay Back With Work

If your project loses funding after the first year, you can complete your payback through continued research or teaching on at least a half-time basis (20 hours per week). Unless there are serious extenuating circumstances, you must complete the payback within two years after termination of support.

If you fail to repay your obligation within two years, you'll owe the government the full amount of your grant, plus interest. If you don't perform the research or teaching necessary for payback, make sure you'll have the money to reimburse the government for your grant.

Your Payback Agreement

For information on submitting your payback agreement, see Submitting Your Fellowship Forms, Contacting NIAID.

Applying for a Fellowship

When Are Applications Due?

NIH uses multiple due dates for fellowship applications:

  • F30, F31 and F32 (non-AIDS)—April 8, August 8, and December 8
  • AIDS and AIDS-related fellowship applications follow standard AIDS due dates: May 7, September 7, and January 7

Submit your application electronically, either using downloadable forms or NIH Application Submission System and Interface for Submission Tracking (ASSIST). Check with your business office to see what approach it uses.

Follow the instructions in the relevant funding opportunity announcement below. See the Fellowship Grants SOP for more information.

What Do Fellowships Pay For?

Fellowships provide

  • Stipends—See Salary Cap and Stipends for details.
  • Tuition and fees
    • F30 and F31—60 percent of level requested by applicant institution, up to $16,000 per year; 60 percent up to $21,000 for formally combined dual-degree training.
    • F32—60 percent of level requested by applicant institution, up to $4,500 per year; 60 percent up to $16,000 for formally combined dual-degree training.
  • Institutional allowances, including health insurance
    • F30 and F31—$4,200 per year at non-federal, public and private, non-profit institutions (domestic and foreign) and $3,100 per year for federal and for-profit institutions.
    • F32—$8,850 per year at non-federal, public and private, non-profit institutions (domestic and foreign) and $7,750 per year for federal and for-profit institutions.

What Are Your Chances of Succeeding?

Find success rates at Success Rates on NIH's RePORT.

For more data and statistics, see NIH Extramural Training Mechanisms.

Find A Mentor To Help You

A mentor can serve as your advisor, advocate, critic, and instructor, helping you with your application and award. Learn more at Know What to Look for When Choosing a Mentor.

Writing a Fellowship Application

Carefully read the relevant funding opportunity announcement below and the supplemental instructions for individual fellowship applications in the SF 424 Application Guide to learn what your electronic application should include.

Be sure to request at least three (but no more than five) reference letters. Since they must be submitted by your application's due date, make sure the people you ask to write letters can meet the deadline.

See our Fellowship Grants SOP for more information and read the Reference Letter Instructions in the SF 424 Application Guide for detailed instructions, including information you should give to people writing your letters.

Keep in mind that you must comply with NIH public access policy, which includes citing papers from NIH-funded research in your application. See our Public Access of Publications SOP for more information.

Also note that beginning as early as FY 2017, applications will need to address rigor and reproducibility. Learn more at the NIH Rigor and Reproducibility page.

Sending Materials Post-Submission

You may send certain materials after you have submitted your application and before initial peer review. For fellowships, this includes a one-page summary to update your sponsor's funding information.

Send no more than one page to your scientific review officer by 30 days before the review meeting. Include a note from your business office stating its concurrence or ask your authorized organizational representative to send the information on your behalf.

For more information, see Send Post-Submission Materials.

Also check Fellowship (F), Career Development (K) and Training Grant (T) Applications in NIH's Frequently Asked Questions on the post-submission materials policy.

Initial Peer Review

The NIH Center for Scientific Review will peer review your application. Fellowship applications are assigned to review groups based on scientific content, then clustered for review by activity code. This clustering is also used for streamlining, a process that allows reviewers more time to discuss applications likely to be supported.

In evaluating your application, reviewers gauge the likelihood the fellowship will enhance your potential for and commitment to a productive research career. For postdocs, they also assess whether you have what it takes to be an independent researcher.

To learn how peer reviewers determine an application's merit, read the Application Guide. To see the review guidelines they follow for each type of fellowship, go to the F Awards (Fellowship) section of NIH Guidelines, Critique Templates, and Review Criteria.

For an overview of the peer review process, see the NIAID Review Process.

Promote Your Research Plan

Your Research Plan may be the most important part of your fellowship application. Your plan must communicate

  • Clarity, completeness, and coherence
  • Originality, significance, and practicality of goals
  • A clear description of the research skills and knowledge you want to acquire, and your plan's potential for meeting these objectives
  • Potential of training to serve as a foundation for your health sciences career (for predoctoral investigators) or to advance your career as an independent researcher (for postdoctoral investigators)
  • Plans to include a diverse human subjects population including women and minorities
  • Plans to include animals as test subjects, if applicable
  • Plans to obtain training in ethical research conduct

Regarding the research, start with a hypothesis, then ask yourself: can I develop Specific Aims based on this hypothesis, as well as experiments to either prove or disprove it? When thinking about your Specific Aims, be careful not to propose too much since you'll have a limited time to accomplish your aims.

You may want to address some key aspects. Is your research of high scientific quality, commensurate with your level of experience, and something you're able to handle? Also, explain for reviewers the part you'll have in your mentor's research. For example, if you're working on a Specific Aim of his or her R01 grant, describe for reviewers what you, versus your mentor, will be doing.

Though having a strong plan is critical, reviewers have different expectations for predoctoral candidates than they do for postdocs, and will look at whether the plan fits the applicant's level of research experience. For predocs who generally have little or no experience, reviewers won't expect as sophisticated a plan as they would for postdocs who are working towards independence.

Read more advice at Write Your Research Plan.

Review Your Plan

Ask your sponsor to review your Research Plan for thoroughness, consistency, and effective presentation of valid and original goals. You may also want others, e.g., colleagues, to read your plan and provide feedback.

Make sure you've included required elements. For example, you must include a plan for instruction in responsible research conduct. If you leave it out, your application will be considered incomplete and won't be reviewed until you provide an acceptable plan of instruction. Read the Responsible Conduct of Research: Training SOP for more information.

The worst thing peer reviewers can say about your application is: "I can't believe that the investigator's mentor read this." Reviewers will forgive minor omissions but not major ones. Even too many minor omissions will add up and hurt your overall impact/priority score.

Additional Application Tips

Here are some general tips to help you prepare a strong application.

Talk About Yourself

To convince reviewers that you deserve a fellowship award, write clearly about your experience and qualifications.

In the Personal Statement section of your biosketch, describe your level of research experience, passion for research, strengths, and weaknesses. Show how you plan to bolster those weaknesses, such as taking courses or engaging in other activities, like submitting papers, giving scientific presentations at local or national conferences. You may also want to point out that you maintain a level of interest in your field through other related training and work experience.

Also highlight any publications you have (especially if you're applying for an F31), since reviewers will be on the lookout. Perhaps most importantly, tell them what you hope to gain from a fellowship, i.e., what added value it would give your career, as opposed to conducting research under your mentor's grant.

Read What Others Write

Your sponsor and co-sponsor (if any) will have to complete part of your application. Be sure to read what they write about the research plan, your qualifications and career goals, so the information that both you and they provide works well together. You certainly don't want reviewers to find discrepancies.

You may also want to read letters from collaborators and the letter of commitment your institution provides.

Organize, Organize, Organize

Make it easy on your reviewers to read through your application by writing a well-organized one. Use headers, charts, graphs, and other elements that will make your application appealing and user friendly.

For more on this, read Apply for a Grant.

Advice for Predoctoral Fellowship Candidates

Make sure your Research Plan presents

  • A thorough grounding in the design, methodology, and analysis of a research protocol
  • Research stages, including proposal, execution, presentation, and publication
  • Problem solving
  • Opportunities to interact with other members of the scientific community

Peer reviewers will consider your academic record, which can be bolstered or undermined by your other credentials. Although there's no cutoff for acceptable grades and test scores, you should highlight your academic prowess. Ideally, you'll document previous research projects at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Applications for predoctoral fellowships do best at review when the candidate has performed research in a lab for at least a year or two. Investigators with this level of experience can write a state-of-the-art Research Plan. Investigators who haven't yet selected a lab cannot match the knowledge gained from research experience.

Advice for Postdoctoral Fellowship Candidates

As a postdoctoral fellow, you should be taking steps now to become an independent investigator. Your preparation should include, for example, publishing papers, and applying for grants.

For more information on this, plus additional guidance on writing a fellowship application, go to Postdocs' Guide to Gaining Independence: Laying the Groundwork.

Submitting Your Fellowship Forms, Contacting NIAID

Submit your NRSA forms for activation, payback, and termination as follows.

Online With xTrain

You can submit termination forms through the xTrain module in the eRA Commons.

If you don't have an eRA Commons account, learn how to get one at eRA’s Create and Edit an Account.

You should also review instructions and training resources on the xTrain website.

Note: You may download and print payback agreements from xTrain, but you will need to send us an original, signed agreement. See the next section for more information.

On the Paper Trail

Submit paper forms for activation and payback using the instructions below. Make sure you have the latest forms at Managing Fellows and Trainees.

Activation Notices and Payback Agreements

For the initial year of NRSA postdoctoral (F32) support, you must mail your activation notice and an original, signed payback agreement to:

Tamia Powell
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH
5601 Fishers Lane,  MSC 9833
Room 4G48
Bethesda, MD 20892-9833 (use Rockville, MD 20852 for overnight and courier deliveries)

More Advice and Contacts

For general grants management questions about fellowships, contact Tamia Powell.

For all other questions, contact the appropriate staff member below:

F30

F31General (non-diversity)

F31Diversity
Diane Adger-Johnson

F32
Diane Adger-Johnson


Quick Facts on Fellowship Grants

NRSA Fellowship for Students at Institutions With or Without NIH-Funded Institutional Predoctoral Dual-Degree Training Programs

Award Type

NRSA Fellowship for Students at Institutions Without NIH-Funded Institutional Predoctoral Dual-Degree Training Programs (Parent F30) 

NRSA Fellowship for Students at Institutions With NIH-Funded Institutional Predoctoral Dual-Degree Training Programs (Parent F30)

Award Specifics

Duration of up to six years, not renewable.

Stipends at levels listed on Salary Cap and Stipends.

Tuition and fees of 60 percent of level requested by applicant institution, up to $21,000 a year.

Institutional allowances of:

  • $4,200 a year at nonfederal public,  private, and nonprofit institutions (domestic and foreign)
  • $3,100 a year for federal and for-profit institutions

Full-time effort (12 person months a year) required.

Applicant Profile

Enrolled in a formally combined M.D. and Ph.D., D.V.M. and Ph.D., D.D.S. and Ph.D., or Au.D. and Ph.D. program.

Supervised by a sponsor for the research doctoral component.

Shows evidence of high academic performance in the sciences and commitment to a career as an independent physician-scientist or other clinician-scientist.

Application

Research training plan should facilitate the fellow’s transition to a residency program appropriate for his or her career goals, or to a postdoctoral program as appropriate for the particular clinical degree (e.g., D.D.S. or D.M.D.).

The plan must include

  • Research Strategy
    • A well-defined research project (typically hypothesis-driven)
    • Background leading to and significance of the proposed research
    • Research approach (design and methods) for achieving the Specific Aims, the rationale for the proposed approach, potential pitfalls, and expected/alternative outcomes of the proposed studies
  • Resource sharing plan
  • Plan for the responsible conduct of research

Application must also include educational information, e.g., description of dual-degree program in which applicant is enrolled.

NRSA Individual Predoctoral Fellowship

Award Type

NRSA Individual Predoctoral Fellowship (Parent F31)

Award Specifics

Duration of three years (for NIAID), not renewable.

Stipends at levels listed on Salary Cap and Stipends.

Tuition and fees of 60 percent of level requested by applicant institution, up to $16,000 a year; 60 percent up to $21,000 for formally combined dual-degree training.

Institutional allowances of:

  • $4,200 a year at nonfederal public, private, and nonprofit institutions (domestic and foreign)
  • $3,100 a year for federal and for-profit institutions

Full-time effort (12 person months a year) required.

Applicant Profile

At the dissertation research stage of training at the time of award.

Enrolled in a Ph.D. or equivalent research degree program, a formally combined M.D. and Ph.D. program, or other combined professional/clinical and research doctoral program in the biomedical, behavioral, or clinical sciences.

Shows evidence of high academic performance in the sciences and commitment to a career as an independent research scientist.

Application

The research training plan should be individually tailored and well integrated with the applicant's research project. It should also describe the skills and techniques that the applicant intends to learn as well as any planned, non-research activities (e.g., those relating to professional development) during the award period. The applicant should provide a timeline for the proposed research training and related activities.

The plan must include

  • Research Strategy
    • A well-defined research project (typically hypothesis-driven)
    • Background leading to and significance of the proposed research
    • Research approach (design and methods) for achieving the Specific Aims, the rationale for the proposed approach, potential pitfalls, and expected/alternative outcomes of the proposed studies
  • Resource sharing plan
  • Plan for the responsible conduct of research

Application must also include educational information, e.g., description of dual-degree program in which applicant is enrolled.

NRSA Individual Predoctoral Fellowship to Promote Diversity

Award Type

NRSA Individual Predoctoral Fellowships to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (Parent F31-Diversity)

Award Specifics

Duration of five years, not renewable.

Stipends at levels listed on Salary Cap and Stipends.

Tuition and fees of 60 percent of level requested by applicant institution, up to $16,000 a year; 60 percent up to $21,000 for formally combined dual-degree training.

Institutional allowances of:

  • $4,200 a year at nonfederal public, private, and nonprofit institutions (domestic and foreign)
  • $3,100 a year for federal and for-profit institutions

Full-time effort (12 person months a year) required.

Applicant Profile

Ph.D., combined M.D. and Ph.D., or other combined doctorate and research Ph.D. program in biomedical and behavioral sciences or health services research.

Has identified a research project and sponsor.

Shows evidence of high academic performance in the sciences and a commitment to a career as an independent research scientist, or as an independent physician-scientist or other clinician-scientist (dual-degree training).

Application

The research training plan should be individually tailored and well integrated with the applicant's research project. It should also describe the skills and techniques that the applicant intends to learn as well as any planned, non-research activities (e.g., those relating to professional development) during the award period. The applicant should provide a timeline for the proposed research training and related activities.

The plan must include

  • Research Strategy:
    • A well-defined research project (typically hypothesis-driven)
    • Background leading to and significance of the proposed research
    • Research approach (design and methods) for achieving the Specific Aims, the rationale for the proposed approach, potential pitfalls, and expected/alternative outcomes of the proposed studies
  • Resource sharing plan
  • Plan for the responsible conduct of research

Application must also include educational information, e.g., description of dual-degree program in which applicant is enrolled.

NRSA Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Type

NRSA Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship (Parent F32)

Award Specifics

Duration of three years, not renewable.

Stipends at levels listed on Salary Cap and Stipends.

Tuition and fees of 60 percent of level requested by applicant institution, up to $4,500 a year; 60 percent up to $16,000 for formally combined dual-degree training.

Institutional allowances of

  • $8,850 a year at nonfederal public, private, and nonprofit institutions (domestic and foreign)
  • $7,750 a year for federal and for-profit institutions

Full-time effort (12 person months a year) required.

Applicant Profile

Has doctoral degree (e.g., Ph.D., M.D., D.O., D.C., D.D.S., D.V.M.) from an accredited domestic or foreign institution.

Shows evidence of high academic performance in the sciences and commitment to a career as an independent researcher.

Application

The research training plan should be individually tailored and well integrated with the applicant's research project. It should also describe the skills and techniques that the applicant intends to learn as well as any planned, non-research activities (e.g., those relating to professional development) during the award period. The applicant should provide a timeline for the proposed research training and related activities.

Have Questions?

For general grants management questions about fellowships, contact Tamia Powell.

For all other questions, contact the appropriate staff member below.

Content last reviewed on October 27, 2016