NINDS Competitive Postdoctoral Fellowship Award

Microscope image of a mouse cerebellum in pink and blue. Courtesy NIH flickr


Faith Harrow Plante, PhD
Director of The Office of Research, Training and Career Development

Carol Carnahan
Program Specialist

The NINDS Intramural Competitive Fellowship Award (NCFA) is the NINDS Intramural equivalent of the Postdoctoral NRSA Fellowship.  This funding opportunity is open to postdoctoral fellows within their first 12 months of starting a postdoctoral fellowship appointment under the mentorship of an NINDS intramural investigator.

Applicant Eligibility

  • You must be within your first 12 months of starting a postdoctoral fellowship appointment under the mentorship of an NINDS intramural investigator.  
  • You must have a Ph.D. or M.D. degree.
  • U.S. citizenship is not required.  
  • For each cycle, only one application per sponsoring Principal Investigator (PI) may be submitted. 

Approval and Application Process

To apply for this fellowship award, you need to complete a FOUR-STEP process:

STEP 1:   Request to write the application 

Before writing an application for the NINDS Intramural Competitive Fellowship Award (NCFA), you must first receive approval from the Scientific Director with endorsement from your principal investigator (PI). To request permission to write an application, please contact Carol Carnahan for instructions on how to access our online request system.

As part of the process, you will submit the following items:

  • Your Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  • An abstract of your proposal
  • Specific Aims page

Requests for intent to apply should be submitted a minimum of three to four months before the receipt deadline, if not sooner, to allow time for proper preparation and a pre-submission committee review. Currently there is a limit of five applications per cycle.  If you receive approval to write an application, we will provide further instructions concerning application requirements and the submission process.

STEP 2:   Attend training session on grant writing and pre-submission process for all approved applicants

This training session will be for all approved applicants, offered at least two months before the submission deadline. During this training, we will focus on grant writing skills for specific sections of an NIH extramural grant as well as key points applicants should know about the NCFA application process, including the pre-submission review process.

Our overall goal is to provide guidance and best practices on how to prepare a successful application for an F32 extramural review. This will also give fellows an opportunity to ask specific about the entire process, from writing their research proposal to what forms and documents are required for a completed application.

Attendance to this training session is a requirement for submission. 

STEP 3:   Applicant-established pre-submission committee and pre-submission review

If approved to write an NCFA application and the fellow attends the required training session, they will be required to form a pre-submission committee that will review the applicant’s Specific Aims page.  The pre-submission documents must be reviewed by the pre-submission committee at least one month prior to the official submission date.  The applicant, in conversation with the mentor, will need to select at least two individuals to serve on their pre-submission committee, and send their names to Dr. Faith Plante ( and cc to Carol Carnahan ( within three weeks of approval to apply. If the pre-submission committee members approve the application to be submitted, the fellow may revise the application taking into consideration the reviewers’ comments for the official receipt date.

STEP 4:  Official submission and reference letters

In advance of the official submission date, the fellow should request that three reference letters (limit of two pages per reference letter in pdf format) be sent directly to Carol Carnahan (the confidential letters may be sent by e-mail to The letters should be from individuals not directly involved in the application, but who are familiar with the applicant’s qualifications, training, and scientific interests. The sponsor/co-sponsor(s) of the applicant cannot be counted towards the three required references.

To submit the final application, the fellow will send the pdf application documents to Carol Carnahan in time for the official submission date.

The review process

The NINDS Competitive Fellowship Award (NCFA) is similar to the NINDS F32 grant and is unique to the NINDS Intramural Program.  The NCFA is written according to the current NINDS F32 Program Announcement, on F32 forms with a few modifications. The NCFA is reviewed by NINDS Training Study Section alongside extramural career development grants and are evaluated according to the F32 review criteria found in the program announcement (link above) and F32 application guidelines.  

Amount of Award 

NCFA awardees receive three years of support, regardless of how long they have been in the laboratory. For applications that result in an award, the operating budget of the mentor is supplemented by the NINDS Office of the Scientific Director, to cover the fellow’s stipend and $25,000 for research activities.

If the fellow awardee is being mentored by an adjunct/joint investigator, NINDS would only contribute 50% of the fellow’s stipend and $12,500 for research support. The other 50% of the award budget must be approved and funded by the partnering IC Scientific Director, not from the PI's operating lab budget.

NCFA Submission Deadlines 

Final Submission Deadline/Receipt Date

October 10, 2023 

February 9, 2024

June 10, 2024

The NCFA deadlines coincide with the deadlines posted for the NINDS F32. If a deadline falls on a weekend or holiday, the receipt date will be the next business day.  The NCFA is not submitted in  The NCFA is submitted to the Office of the Scientific Director via the Program Specialist in the Training Office, who will transmit the application to the Study Section.  For more information or questions regarding the NCFA, please contact Carol Carnahan.