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Frequently Asked Questions


What is the NIH?

The NIH, or the National Institutes of Health, is the world's largest biomedical research institution. NIH seeks to improve health by conducting research in its own laboratories and by funding the research of other scientists throughout the United States and around the world.

The NIH, headquartered in a suburb of Washington, D.C., is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an agency of the Federal Government.


If selected, will i receive the full $20,000?

Your exact scholarship amount will be determined based on your educational expenses and your other sources of financial aid. Your scholarship award cannot exceed your unmet college expenses. You should also contact your financial aid office to determine how an outside scholarship will affect your financial aid package.


How many scholarships do you award?

The NIH awards approximately 15 scholarships each year. It is a highly competitive program.


In addition to the minimum requirements, what do you look for in applicants?

Strong applicants are able to demonstrate their commitment to a research career. Applicants are most able to demonstrate this commitment if they have already participated in laboratory research, been involved in extracurricular science activities, or have taken advanced courses relevant to their field.


If I am a transfer student from community college or another university, where do I send the EFN form?

All applicants should send the EFN form to the financial aid office where you will be enrolled the following fall. For most students this means you will send it to your current university. However, if you are a community college student transferring to a 4-year university, send it to the institution you will enroll in for the following fall. If you are transferring from one 4-year university to another, you should also send it to the institution you plan to be enrolled in next fall.


What is considered a "disadvantaged background"?

Disadvantaged background means that your financial aid office has certified you as having "exceptional financial need" (EFN), as defined by the Federal Government.


The payback is the yearlong service obligation required by the UGSP in exchange for the scholarship award. UGSP also refers to trainees completing this obligation as paybacks.


The UGSP does not have specific major requirements, however, one's area of study must be applicable to an aspect of research being conducted within the NIH intramural program and related to STEM and health. While biology, chemistry, and psychology are the most common majors, we've also had many public health, social science, physics, and mathematics majors in the program.


UGSP scholars can defer their post-graduation service obligation while completing a graduate or medical program leading to a doctoral degree. Deferments cannot be granted for training conducted by any entity that imposes a service obligation, such as a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.


If you do not receive a renewal of your scholarship and remain a full-time undergraduate student, you must submit annual verification of your continued enrollment.


What if I don't meet this definition of "disadvantaged background"?

Federal regulations prevent us from considering applicants who do not meet the above definition of disadvantaged background; however, NIH offers other training programs that do not require students to be disadvantaged. For information on all of NIH's training programs, visit


May International Students Apply?

UGSP recipients are Federal employees during their training at the NIH and must be eligible for Federal employment. In general, only U.S. citizens and nationals are eligible for Federal employment.


If I am selected this fall, when am I required to complete my 10-week summer laboratory experience?
All scholars must complete a summer experience following the spring of their scholarship award.


Is there a list of investigators who are taking UGSP scholars?
The NIH does not keep a list of investigators who exclusively serve as mentors for UGSP scholars/paybacks. You can, however, go to previous UGSP newsletters to find out which NIH investigators had UGSP scholars in previous summers. A comprehensive explanation of how to search for a mentor can be found at FAQ "How do UGSP scholars find their mentors?"


Are UGSP scholars assigned mentors for their research experiences?
Unlike some OITE programs, UGSP scholars are not assigned research mentors; instead they choose mentors, with the approval and help of the UGSP staff. Once awarded, UGSP scholars will search for NIH investigators they'd like to work with during the following summer, and with approval of UGSP staff, will meet with potential mentors during our annual Mentor Match event held every January.


How do UGSP scholars find their mentors?
Scholars utilize a variety of resources to find mentors and also receive guidance from UGSP staff once accepted into the program. There are two main ways to learn about NIH intramural research programs and they are described in depth with this tutorial, How to Find an NIH Mentor on our OITE YouTube Channel:
1) You can visit the NIH Annual Reports and conduct text searches on the subjects that interest you.
2) Alternatively, the Intramural Research Program Web page presents investigators sorted by research topic.