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OITE-PEP FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

GENERAL INFORMATION

ELIGIBILITY

APPLICATION PROCESS

 

GENERAL INFORMATION:


What is the purpose of this program?

The purpose of the OITE-sponsored Postbaccalaureate Enrichment Program (OITE-PEP) is to provide competitive funding to students at the postbaccalaureate level to spend one to two years conducting biomedical research at the NIH. Applicants must also be committed to pursuing a career in biomedical science and be planning to attend graduate and/or professional (medical/dental/pharmacy/nursing, etc.) school. In addition, OITE-PEP fellows participate in a curriculum focused on leadership, professional development and wellness, and preparation for applying to graduate and/or professional school.

What is the difference between participating in the OITE-PEP and the general NIH Postbac Program?

The OITE-PEP is a cohort-based experience. Applicants are selected by a program committee and join the postbac community as a cohort.  The OITE-PEP staff facilitates the mentor matching process to place participants in research groups based on their interests. OITE-PEP scholars also follow a program-specific curriculum where they participate in workshops focused on topics including, but not limited to, diversity and inclusion, wellness, and resilience; getting into graduate and/or professional school; and individualized mentoring.

What does participation in the program look like? 
OITE-PEP participate in the following activities:

  • In-depth program-specific orientation: Scholars familiarize themselves with NIH organization and research culture, learn about resources and activities available to enrich the training experience, and build community as a cohort.
  • Leadership and professional development program: Scholars participate in various workshops and activities focused on self-exploration, building resilience and wellness, understanding conflict, finding mentors, and understanding emotional intelligence.
  • Individualized Mentoring: Scholars receive one-on-one mentoring to ensure a successful research training experience that focuses on the fellow’s research and career/professional goals.
  • Individualized Development Plan: Scholars establish an individualized development plan to take advantage of the many workshops and activities offered for NIH postbacs. These include lectures such as, "Getting to Graduate School" and "Getting to Medical School", communication skills workshops, and the NIH Graduate & Professional School Fair.
  • Postbac Poster Day: Scholars will engage with the broader NIH community by presenting their research at NIH Postbac Poster Day.
  • NIH Academy: Scholars will have the option to participate in the NIH Academy, which offers current NIH postbacs the opportunity to learn about health disparities and what is being done to address them.

What are the start and end dates for the program?
OITE-PEP participants are required to start their postbaccalaureate year on July 10th, 2023. They will be funded by OITE for a year, until July 9th, 2024.

What benefits does OITE-PEP provide?
OITE-PEP provides financial support including stipend and health insurance to participants during their first year in the program. If the scholar wishes to stay for a second year, the research group and/or IC must provide the funding and support. OITE-PEP doesn’t guarantee funding support for a second year. If requested, support will be contingent upon funding availability and program performance.

Where are these training opportunities located?
These traineeships are available only on the main NIH campus in Bethesda, MD.

Is housing provided for OITE-PEP by the NIH?
The NIH is unable to provide housing for trainees. We can offer some information that may help you in finding a place to live. However, any information we provide is just that; it does not constitute advice, nor are we endorsing or approving any companies or services.

  • The Moving Guide prepared by the NIH Office of Intramural Training & Education provides housing suggestions along with information on virtually everything you will need to know about moving to Bethesda, Baltimore, or Frederick, MD.
  • Club-PCR Google group is for young scientists in the Bethesda area. You can use this listserv to find housing, sell items, arrange carpooling, or gather information. This listserv is not associated with the NIH, and you should use an email address other than your NIH email address to subscribe.  Please state your name and reason for joining the group when you request membership.

It might help you to know as well that the NIH is on the Red Line of the D.C. Metro  at the Medical Center  stop. Getting around via Metro is generally a good choice.

Can this award be used for research training outside of the NIH?
No, this award is intended to provide support for training in the Intramural Research Program at the NIH. It cannot be used for any other purpose.

Is health insurance provided?

OITE-PEP covers one year of stipend and health insurance, if requested. Health insurance is required for all Postbac IRTA/CRTA trainees. The NIH will pay for low-option individual or family coverage available through the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences (FAES). If you wish to subscribe to an FAES policy with more extensive coverage than that provided by the NIH, you will be required to pay the difference in cost. If you are already insured on another policy, you will be allowed to remain on that policy if you provide evidence of coverage. NIH will reimburse you for the cost incurred up to the amount the NIH would have paid for FAES coverage. Read more about the FAES insurance program.

Will I get any help covering the cost of public transportation?
Yes. OITE-PEP scholars are eligible to apply for Transhare. This program provides a subsidy to cover the cost of commuting via public transportation for those who agree not to drive a car to work.

ELIGIBILITY:

Can I apply if I am not a citizen or permanent resident of the United States?
No. Only citizens and permanent residents of the U.S. are eligible to apply to this program.

Are there any eligibility criteria in addition to citizenship? 
The OITE-PEP is designed to encourage candidates from diverse backgrounds and experiences to perform biomedical research at the NIH while developing their scientific, leadership, and professional skills in preparation for careers in health care and biomedical research. NIH encourages applications from students in all science disciplines.

Individuals from racial and ethnic groups that have been underrepresented in health-related sciences; Students with disabilities; students who are Pell Grant-eligible; students who are enrolled in Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, or Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs); students who identify as LGBTQ; and individuals disadvantaged by circumstances that have negatively impacted their educational opportunities, including recent natural disasters, are encouraged to apply.

In addition, OITE-PEP fellows must meet all the eligibility criteria for the NIH Postbac Program (determine whether you are eligible). They must:

  1. Be U.S. citizens or permanent residents, and
  2. Meet one of the following criteria
  • Be college graduates who received their bachelor's degrees less than THREE years prior to the date they begin the program (regardless of whether they subsequently completed a master's degree), OR
  • Be individuals who are more than 3 years past the receipt of their bachelor's degree but received a master's degree less than SIX MONTHS before they begin the program, OR
  • Be individuals who meet criterion (1) and/or (2) who have been accepted into graduate, other doctoral, or medical school programs and who have written permission from their school to delay entrance for up to one year to pursue a biomedical research project at the NIH.
  1. Pass a Federal Background Check:
    To be approved for logical and physical access to NIH facilities and systems, candidates must be able to pass a Federal background check, using Standard Form-85 (read SF-85). NOTE: Section 14 of the form asks, “In the last year, have you used, possessed, supplied, or manufactured illegal drugs?” The question pertains to the illegal use of drugs or controlled substances in accordance with Federal laws, even though permissible under state laws.

Can I apply if I am a current NIH postbac?
No. Current NIH postbacs nor applicants who have already secured a postbac position are eligible to apply to the OITE-PEP.

APPLICATION PROCESS:

How do I apply to OITE-PEP?
Applicants must complete both the standard NIH Postbac IRTA application AND the OITE-Postbac Enrichment Program application (opening on September 28th, 2022). The OITE-PEP application includes a letter of interest discussing your reasons for applying specifically to the OITE-PEP, your research and career goals, and how participating in this program will enrich your training and educational experience at NIH.

Is there a deadline for submission of applications?
Yes, the OITE-PEP follows a firm deadline (different from the general NIH Postbac Application). The application deadline is December 9th, 2022 at 11:59 pm (ET). All materials including the standard NIH Postbac IRTA Application, the OITE-PEP specific application AND letters of recommendations must be received by 11:59 pm (ET) on this date.

When should I apply?
Applications will be open from September 28th, 2022 to December 9th, 2022. Applicants may apply anytime during this period. However, we recommend that you apply early- to avoid last minute issues with the application site and/or internet connections. There will not be any exceptions for late applications.

How many letters of recommendation are required?
The program requires three letters of recommendation. References included in the NIH Postbac IRTA application are sufficient; applicants do not need to submit separate references for the OITE-PEP. All letters of recommendation must be submitted by the December 9th, 2022 deadline.

Who should write my letters of recommendation?
You should select references who can explain why you would be a good addition to a research group. Anyone who could comment on your skills in the laboratory, creativity, problem solving abilities, motivation, resilience, ability to handle complex scientific literature and concepts, etc. would be a good choice. Recommendations from individuals with a science research background are likely to carry more weight than recommendations from those with less understanding of biomedical research. Recommendations from family members are never appropriate.

Note that letters from "services" and letters assembled for medical/dental school applicants by the pre-professional offices of their colleges and universities should NOT be submitted. Those letters are too general to be effective in helping you to find a research position.

It is a good idea to provide your references information about the program, your resume, and a description of why you are interested in participating in the OITE-PEP. We suggest you also ask individuals whether they will write you a STRONG letter of recommendation BEFORE you submit their names.

What should I do if my references have not received a request for a letter of recommendation on my behalf? 

The system-generated email request for a letter of recommendation may have failed to reach your reference for any one of several reasons:

  • You may have provided an incorrect email address.
  • The message may have been blocked from reaching your reference by a Spam filter.
  • Our email server or your reference's may have malfunctioned at the time the message was being sent.
  • Your reference may have enabled auto-forwarding on the email address.
  • The message was undeliverable due to other circumstances beyond our control (e.g., your reference's mailbox being full).

If your reference did not receive the original message, you should:

  • Check the email address that you provided for your reference and correct it if necessary, then resend the request for a letter via the Modify Application tool.
  • Ask your reference to check the folder to which his/her Spam filter diverts suspicious messages. This folder might be called "Junk mail," "Bulk mail," or "Spam."

If your reference still cannot find the message and you suspect there is a technical problem on our end, please contact us, and we will investigate.

Who ensures that letters of reference are received?
You are responsible for making certain that we receive your letters of reference. You should check to make sure your references have received our email requesting a letter. After two weeks you should log in to our system and check your application using the Modify Application tool to make certain that the letters have arrived. If not, you can either resend the request or contact your reference directly to encourage her/him to submit the letter. Please follow up with your references to ensure the letters are submitted on time. 

Do you have any advice on writing my resume/CV?
Check out our Guide to Resumes & Curricula Vitae.

To whom should I address my cover letter?

Since your cover letter can be read by any investigator in the NIH intramural program, you may wish to use the salutation "Dear Sir/Madam:" or "To Whom It May Concern:". Or perhaps even better, use “Dear NIH Investigator,”.

How are applications reviewed?
Applications will be reviewed by the OITE-PEP committee. Semifinalists will be invited to a  virtual interview during the week of February 6-10th, 2023. They will be notified of their status by February 20th, 2023.

How will I be notified if I am selected?
The Program Director will send out notifications to all applicants by January 27th, 2023. After the interview process, semi-finalists will be notified of final decision by February 20th, 2023. 

Should I contact investigators with whom I would like to work?
No. Applicants should not contact investigators during the application and selection process. OITE-PEP scholars will be matched by program director to principal investigators in the NIH Intramural Research Program (IRP).

Would I be able to select the research group with whom I would like to work?
Yes. Program staff will facilitate the mentor-match process and prepare the students for interviews with potential PI’s approved by the program director.  Participants will be match with a research group that fits the participants’ research interests.

If I am not selected for OITE-PEP, am I still eligible to participate in the general NIH Postbac IRTA Program?
Yes, your application will still be part of the standard NIH Postbac IRTA Program application pool. NIH investigators will be able to see it and, if you are not selected for OITE-PEP, you can modify your application, if you wish, and begin to contact investigators directly to ask that they consider your for positions in their research groups.