Skip to Content

Mentor FAQs

How do I become a GPP mentor?
Only tenured and tenure-track investigators in the NIH IRP may be appointed as the primary mentor for NIH GPP trainees.  All GPP trainee mentors must be approved by their IC Scientific Director.


What are my responsibilities as a GPP mentor?
Tenured or tenure-track investigators within the NIH Intramural Research Program (IRP) will have sufficient funding to support some of all of the following items:

  • Pre-doctoral stipend
  • Health insurance
  • University tuition (varies depending on student, contact GPP for details)
  • Travel to conferences and workshops and to university for required events
  • Support students' completion of university graduation requirements
  • Participate in annual graduate student events, like the Symposium

The primary responsibility for scientific mentoring and training rests with the GPP trainee's dissertation research mentor. The training experience should be closely coordinated with the appropriate university authorities and any required dissertation committee to insure that GPP trainees meet the requirements of the degree-granting institution. GPP trainees should also be directed to seek mentorship from other sources, such as IC Lab/Branch Chiefs, the IC Scientific Director, IC Training Office staff, OITE and GPP staff, and the GPP partnership directors for students in institutional GPP programs.  In addition, many investigators also participate in the admission process for the institutional partnerships, create mini-courses on specific topics, etc.


How do I find graduate students once I become a GPP mentor?

  • Attend OITE and GPP events announced on the listserv
  • Contact NIH Institutional Partnership Directors to share your scientific interests with students seeking rotations 
  • Give laboratory tours and meet with individual students to discuss science during the GPP Interview Days in February
  • Host a graduate student for a rotation in your lab
  • Build collaborations with faculty at universities who may have students interested in working in your lab
  • Talk with the Training Director in your IC to find out about Institute-specific programs to attract graduate students
  • Join an Inter-Institute Scientific Interest Group
  • Promote GPP during university visits and presentations; GPP can provide a few slides for your presentation
  • Develop training opportunities for graduate students - workshops, equipment training, journal clubs


What are the different types of graduate students at NIH?
Graduate students come to the NIH through one of two pathways: Institutional or Individual Partnerships. Both pathways require utilize a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to ensure all parties involved in the training of the graduate student understand the obligations and expectations to train a graduate student at the NIH. The main difference between these two pathways are itemized below:

Institutional Partnerships

  • MOU is an agreement between NIH and host university
  • Applicants must be USA citizens or USA permanent residents
  • Applicants complete the GPP and university applications, unless otherwise directed
  • Applicants are usually finishing their undergraduate education or post-baccalaureate research experience
  • Joint admission process between the NIH and host university admission committees
  • Most matriculates perform three to four laboratory rotations, unless otherwise directed
  • Financial support includes a stipend, health benefits, and tuition support as defined in the MOU
  • Training duration is usually 4-5 years

Individual Partnerships

  • MOU is an agreement between the NIH investigator and the university department to which the student is enrolled
  • Applicants may be USA citizens, USA permanent residents, or non-USA citizens
  • Applicants complete the GPP registration form for the individual partnership
  • Applicants are often in their second or third year of graduate education at the start of the individual partnership
  • Admission is governed by receiving an offer to train by an NIH investigator
  • No laboratory rotations at the NIH
  • Financial support may include a stipend, health benefits, and tuition (if eligible)
  • Training duration is usually 3-4 years at the NIH


What is a laboratory rotation?
Laboratory rotations are designed to expose a first-year graduate student to a new research area or laboratory technique and identification of a laboratory in which to perform his or her dissertation research. Most USA universities require incoming graduate students to perform 3-4 laboratory rotations. Laboratory rotations should only be performed with investigators that would be able to accept the student for dissertation research starting in the second year of graduate education. Rotations must be approved by the NIH and university Partnership Directors as well as the NIH investigator's Scientific Director through the GPP.

Depending on the semester, laboratory rotations will last between 4-6 weeks to 1-2 months.

  • Summer Semester before classes begin: 40 hours/week for 4-6 weeks = 160+ hours in the laboratory
  • Fall Semester: 10-12 hours/week for 10 weeks = 120 hours in the laboratory
  • Spring Semester: 10-12 hours/week for 10 weeks = 120 hours in the laboratory
  • Summer Semester after Year 1: 40 hours/week for 3-4 weeks = 120 hours in the laboratory

The NIH Investigator from which the laboratory rotation is performed provides the financial support for the research supplies.


What is the Dissertation Advisory Committee (DAC)?
The role of the Dissertation Advisory Committee (DAC) is to monitor the progress of the graduate student toward the PhD degree. This is done by reviewing the student's coursework, laboratory rotations, seminar presentation, dissertation proposal, and completing the proposed dissertation research. The composition of a DAC is dependent on the university and PhD program. Generally, the DAC is comprised of 4-5 faculty members of the PhD program, but NIH investigators replace some of the university faculty for partnership students. Some universities require one of the DAC members to be an External Reader from the greater scientific community to review the dissertation and be present at the defense. The role of an NIH mentor and other investigators in the DAC will vary from partnership to partnership, many requiring adjunct faculty status for full participation.


What are the benchmarks to transition a graduate student to colleague?
Graduate students have a series of degree criteria that need to be completed during specified periods of their training, including: core coursework, elective coursework, seminars, qualifying examinations, dissertation proposal, publications, dissertation committee meetings, and dissertation defense. To enhance the graduate training at NIH, the GPP has developed a series of workshops and activities to replicate many of the training activities sponsored at the graduate universities. It is essential that you help your student meet all of the required university deadlines and milestones. Otherwise, their status as a student in good standing could be jeopardized. Also encourage your graduate student to participate in the training opportunities provided by the GPP and OITE as they will help create a successful scientist.


What workshops / training events are sponsored by the GPP and OITE?
The GPP organizes many workshops and training events that reflect the activities sponsored by graduate universities.

  • Orientation to NIH and Graduate School
  • Graduate Student Retreat (Summer) - Posters, Presentations, Career Development, Town Hall Student Issues
    • Workshops - linked to specific needs by years in training
    • Dissertation Proposal Writing
    • Dissertation Writing
    • Grant Writing
    • CV / Resume Development and Interviewing
    • Finding the Right Post-Doc Position
  • Career Options & Pathways
  • Teaching - BIO262 Laboratory Techniques (GSC)
  • Graduate Student Research Symposium (Fall)
  • Graduate Student Award Ceremony (Spring)
  • Advising - Coursework, Rotations, Personal Issues, etc...
  • Graduate Student Council (GSC)
    • Monthly Meetings
    • Welcome for New students (Fall)
    • Community Building Activities (Fall, Spring, Summer)
    • FelCom Representative