U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Research Training & Career Development Frequently Asked Questions

Getting Started

Where do I start?

​You should start by answering the following questions, which are those that would be posed to you if you contacted one of the NIDDK training program directors. 

  • Are you an MD or a PhD?
  • How long ago did you get your degree?
  • Do you want to do basic or clinical research? If clinical, will you be dealing with patients directly or indirectly?
  • What research experience do you have?
  • Where are you located?
  • Are you planning on staying there?
  • Do you have publications?
  • Is your CV up to date?
  • Where would you like to be, career-wise, 10 yrs from now?
Then go to our Types of Training Programs and Eligibility by Career Level​ pages to look at the appropriate career stage information, or contact us.​ ​​


What kinds of fellowships and career awards does the NIDDK support?

​​The NIDDK supports many kinds of training awards, fellowships, and career development awards.  For more information, visit the Training and Career Development page.


How do I find a postdoctoral position in my area of research?

​You can find a postdoctoral position by:

  • Looking at our list of Institutional Awards Training Slot Program Locations and contacting the principal investigator of the program in which you are interested
  • Doing a keyword search using the NIH RePORTer system to see who the NIDDK is currently supporting.  Contact the principal investigators directly to see if they are amenable to having another postdoc in their lab.  You can limit your search by state and also should limit it to “research grants.”  If you are interested in a postdoctoral position in our intramural program, see our Training and Employment page.


Where and how does the NIDDK support training?

​The NIDDK offers both intramural​ and extramural​ funding opportunities. Support can be in the form of a training grant, where the principal investigator at an institution selects graduate students, medical students, or postdoctoral fellows for training, or in the form of individual fellowships or career development awards. For fellowships and career development awards, applicants identify a sponsor or mentor, complete an application, and have their university or medical school submit it to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on their behalf.


Do I need a green card to apply for a grant?

You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to receive funding for a training grant, individual fellowship, or career development award, with the exception of the K99/R00​. You may apply for an F32 or K award while you are in the process of becoming a permanent resident or citizen, if your institution allows it. R-series​ grants do not have this restriction.​


A very talented, underrepresented diversity candidate would like to be appointed to the training grant, but all the slots are filled. What should I do?

Applications for diversity supplemental slots are accepted any time until July 1 of the year in which the slot would be awarded. Please visit the section on the Supplemental Slot Program​ for more information about the application process.​


Changes During Award Period

My mentor is moving and I want to move with him/her. Is that possible?

Yes, as long as your project does not change substantially, the new institution will accept your grant, and the new institution can provide an environment, resources, and career development activities comparable to your current institution. To learn more, review the NIDDK instructions on requesting reloacation (transfer) for F32 fellowships and K-series projects. You must contact your Research Training and Career Development program director​ prior to submitting the paperwork to discuss the move and to be assured that it will, or will not, be approved.​


My mentor is moving but I want to stay where I am. Is that possible?

Yes—as long as you can identify a new mentor, your project does not change, and your department/division indicates it will still support you. You can keep your current mentor as a long-distance co-mentor as well. Be sure to discuss this change with your Research Training and Career Development program director​, who will be the one to approve or disapprove the request. ​


What if I want to take maternity leave?

The NIH allows you to receive the same benefits as anyone employed by your institution. If your local policy is to allow 8 weeks of paid maternity leave, you may draw salary from your K award during that 8-week period. If you wish to take more time off, you may take an unpaid leave of absence if your institution and mentor concur, and your project will still be viable after the leave. Discuss this option with your Research Training and Career Development program director​, who is responsible for approving or disapproving your request.

The time you are gone may be added to the end of your funding period, so you will not lose it. For example, should you decide to take an additional 6 months of leave (with your institution’s and mentor’s concurrence), your office can extend the end date of your K award in the final year. This is called a no-cost extension.​


T32 Awards

One of my colleagues has a trainee to consider for our T32. He received his M.D. degree overseas and has been engaged in research activities in the U.S. since he came here 6 years ago. Is he eligible for an appointment to the T32?

​​Possibly.  First of all, a candidate for any National Research Service Award position must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.  Second, postdoctoral trainees with no clinical responsibilities (e.g., Ph.D. degree, M.D. degree with no U.S. board certification) and more than 5 years of postdoctoral research experience (i.e., stipend-level 6 or higher) must receive prior approval from the NIDDK before being appointed to an NIDDK training grant.  We recommend that you send the trainee's biosketch to your Research Training and Career Development program director for consideration.​


I am the director of an NIDDK T32 postdoctoral research training program. A very talented predoctoral student wants to apply for a trainee slot. Can I sign him up?

​​Possibly.  First of all, a candidate for any National Research Service Award position must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.  Second, postdoctoral trainees with no clinical responsibilities (e.g., Ph.D. degree, M.D. degree with no U.S. board certification) and more than 5 years of postdoctoral research experience (i.e., stipend-level 6 or higher) must receive prior approval from the NIDDK before being appointed to an NIDDK training grant.  We recommend that you send the trainee's biosketch to your Research Training and Career Development program director​ for consideration.​


Four months remain in my last T32 award and an exceptional trainee expressed interest in joining our program. Should I consider?

​​Perhaps.  If you have a slot available, you could use the 12 months  of that slot to appoint the individual, as long as the trainee understands that the second (i.e., “payback”) year is not currently available.  Having departmental funds available to support the trainee during the second year of research training, i.e., in case your renewal application is not funded, would be best.  Of course, if your program is strong and favorably peer-reviewed, your application should be funded for another 5 years and the trainee's second-year appointment can be made.  However, the NIDDK generally discourages appointing new trainees to the last year of a training grant.​


A PhD fellow approached me about applying for support on T32. She received her PhD 7 years ago. Is she eligible?

No. 


K Awards

Does the NIDDK offer K awards for a PhD?

​​Yes, NIDDK uses the K01​ to support the transition of PhD investigators from postdoc to junior faculty.​​


For which K award should I apply?

  • If you are an M.D. and are doing basic research, you should apply for a K08.
  • If you are an M.D. doing clinical research where you interact directly with patients for your research (not just to fulfill your commitment to your department), apply for a K23.
  • If you are a Ph.D. or a nonboard-eligible M.D., apply for a K01.
  • If you are a nonbiomedically trained Ph.D. (e.g., mathematics, organic chemistry, etc.) moving into biomedical research, apply for a K25.

The NIDDK does not support the K02 award for more senior scientists, but as a clinical investigator you should consider the K24 once your career is established.  Our chart overview of all K awards offered by the NIDDK outlines the conditions of each award.​


What does NIDDK expect from a mentor on a K award?

A K-award mentor advises a candidate on scientific and career issues and is an advocate at the institutional level.  Since a K award often does not pay the full cost of salary and research support, the mentor, along with the department/institution, is expected to ensure that the awardee has the protected time and resources needed to complete the research project as well as career development plans outlined in the funded application.  The project for the awardee should be one that will allow the candidate to distinguish his or her career from the mentor’s (e.g., it cannot be one of the aims from the mentor’s R01 grant).  The awardee should be free to take the project should he or she leave the institution.


I am making a presentation to our fellows. Is there concise information on all the K awards the NIDDK offers?

Yes. Our K awards table​ outlines this information in an easy-to-read format. ​


I would like to move to Europe for a few years. Can I take my K award with me?

No. The NIDDK does not support K awards​ outside the United States.​


Am I still considered a new investigator when I submit my R01A application if I have a K award?

Yes. “new investigator” refers to your R01 status. The NIH does not consider K awards independent grants, since you have a mentor. Therefore, you are still a “new investigator” when you apply for your first R01. ​


Am I still considered a 'New Investigator' when I submit my R01 application if I have a K99/R00 award?

​Yes.


I have a K award and just learned that my R01 will be funded. Can I keep my K award?

Yes. Whether or not you can draw salary from both the K and R depends on how many years are left on your K award. If you are in the final 2 years of your K, you not only may keep both awards, but you can draw a salary from both if it makes sense to do so. If your salary is more than $100,000, and the amount we award on the K does not equal a true 75 percent of your salary, we can reduce your effort on the K without reducing the amount of the award. This way, you can make up the difference with an appropriate percent effort of salary on the R. The total of your effort on the K and the R must not fall below 75 percent, with the K effort remaining at a minimum of 50 percent. This policy can be found in guide notice NOT-OD-08-065​.


If I am currently funded by a K12 program, can I still apply for a K08/K23/K01 from the NIDDK?

Yes, but the NIDDK will only award an individual K award for the number of years that will give you a total of 6 years of support on the K12 and the individual K.


If an applicant on a K01 award is no longer available, may the Mentor of the application change the Mentee with a qualified replacement?

No. The PI of any K award cannot change.​


Loans, "Packback," and Payment

Can I apply for a loan repayment while on a training grant?

Yes, as long as at the time the loan repayment contract would be issued, you have 2 remaining years of research time. In other words, if you are appointed to a training grant in July and apply for loan repayment in December, you should have 2 years of research training remaining as of July of the following year. For new applications, loan repayment contracts are for 2 years, not 1.


What does 'payback' really mean?

Payback means you should stay on a postdoctoral training grant or individual postdoctoral fellowship, or any combination of the two, for 2 full years.​


Does my award have an associated payback obligation?

Predoctoral support, limited to 5 years, does not incur a payback obligation. This includes both individual predoctoral fellowships and training grant (T32) support, or any combination of the two.

Every postdoctoral NRSA fellow (T32, F32, or any combination) incurs an obligation to ‘pay back’ the first 12 months of NRSA support. Months 13 and beyond are the usual ‘pay back’. This policy is in place because studies have shown that postdocs who engage in 2 or more years of research once they obtain their degree are more likely to pursue a research career.


What happens if I don’t complete my payback obligation?

At the time that you are appointed to a training grant, or activate your individual fellowship award, you will be required to sign a payback agreement. Should you not complete 24 months of NRSA support, you will have to verify that you are engaged in bona fide research or other specified activities, for a minimum of 20 hours a week for a period that completes your service obligation. Should you be unwilling to complete your payback service obligation, the government will expect to receive monetary compensation, with interest, for the NRSA support you have received.


Does the NIDDK have scholarships to pay for my graduate school?

NIDDK does not supply 'scholarships', but we support the training of predoctoral students on institutional training grants and via individual fellowships (F31​PA-11-112​).​


Will the NIDDK pay for my master's degree?

Not usually. The NIDDK supports predoctoral training, not graduate work leading to a master’s degree. The exception would be for a physician or Ph.D. supported by a grant (such as an F32​ or K award) that would allow tuition payment for a master’s degree or, for diversity students, a T32 diversity supplement.


What stipend level does the trainee receive?

NIH sets stipend levels, beginning at the 0 level of experience, i.e. in the year following completiongof a doctoral degree. A trainee must complete a full year of postdoctoral training to receive the next higher stipend level. For example, if a trainee has received 18 months of training, he or she would receive the level-one stipend and remain at that level the entire year. Upon reappointment, the individual would receive the level-two stipend.​