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Finding example F30, F31, and F32 NIH NRSA applications

Posted by on Tuesday, April 28, 2020 in Path to Career Resources.

Grad students and postdocs who are in the midst of writing fellowship applications, and especially F30 or F31 or F32 NIH NRSA applications, usually find it helpful to see examples of successful fellowship proposals. Reading funded proposals provides insight into how the scientific proposal is structured, and the expected quality of the essays and training plan.

There are a few sample applications available online that can orient you to the structure of a well written application. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) recently published several new example F31 applications on their website, including one donated by recent Vanderbilt University graduate, Nicole Putnam. Former Vanderbilt postdoctoral fellow, Chris Smith, has shared his F31 predoctoral and F32 postdoctoral fellowship applications – and their corresponding summary statements from reviewers – on his blog.

Since fellowship expectations and application forms are always-evolving, it’s also a good idea to use the database of funded NIH projects (the NIH RePORTER) to find Vanderbilt students or postdocs who have had an F NRSA funded recently by the specific institute you are targeting with your proposal. Then, reach out to them directly for advice and to see if they’re willing to share their application with you as an example.

To use the NIH RePORTER effectively, search for “Vanderbilt University” under “Organization” limit the search to “Fellowships” (or one of the specific fellowship subtypes) under “Activity Code.” The search will pull results from the most recent fiscal year, which is where you should begin your search since the application requirements change fairly often. If you want to get more results, change the project funding period to include previous years.

In the grant number, the first two letters after the F activity code indicate the NIH institute that funded the award. (This cheat sheet from the NIH has a key to understanding which two-letter code corresponds to which NIH institute.) Scan the list for awards made by the institute(s) to which you plan to apply. In many cases, this will be the same institute(s) that funds your research advisor, but there may be others that are appropriate to fund the type of research you plan to do.

Once you have identified a few fellowships awarded recently to Vanderbilt grad students or postdocs by the institutes you’re targeting, reach out to them (nicely!) and ask if they would be willing to share their proposal with you as an example. Even better – ask to buy them a coffee and chat for 30 minutes about their experience applying for the award. You’ll undoubtedly glean good advice about your proposal AND you’ll develop a new professional connection.