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 for postdoctoral fellows within their first year of a designated laboratory (Lab/Branch/Section or Unit) of the NINDS Intramural Program or within 12 months of starting an NINDS fellowship appointment within a designated lab.

Applicant Eligibility

  • You can be a first-, second-, or third-year postdoc, but you must not be beyond the first year of your appointment in your sponsoring NINDS laboratory.
  • 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 permission to write an 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 proposed work
  • Specific Aims page

Please send your request to apply a minimum of three months before the final application deadline, if not sooner, to allow time for proper preparation and a pre-submission review. Currently, we are limited to 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 a training session on grant writing

You are required to attend this training session before submitting your application.
This training session is for all approved applicants. We offer the session at least two months before the submission deadline. During this training, we focus on grant writing skills for specific sections of an NIH extramural grant and the key points you should know about the NCFA application process, including the pre-submission review.

Our goal is to provide you with guidance about how to prepare a successful application for an F32 extramural review. This training will give you an opportunity to ask specific questions about the entire process, from how to write a research proposal to questions about the required forms and documents in a completed application.

STEP 3:   Send us your application for pre-submission review

After receiving approval to write an application and attending the required training session, you must email us your application for pre-submission review one month prior to the final submission deadline.  Based on this review, the Scientific Director determines if your application moves forward for final submission. 

For the pre-submission review, please submit an electronic copy of the complete application to Carol Carnahan.

STEP 4:  Submit your final application  

If approved for final submission, you can submit the final electronic application to Carol Carnahan before midnight on the deadline date. 

The Review Process

An NINDS Training Study Section evaluates your application according to the F32 review criteria found in the program announcement and F32 application guidelines. They will evaluate the candidate, the proposed research plan, the training plan, and the suitability of the host laboratory (Lab/Branch/Section or Unit) for carrying out the proposed research and training. Preliminary data is strongly discouraged; application review is focused on the ideas, originality, creativity, rigorous research, and training plan.

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

June 8, 2023

October 10, 2023 

February 9, 2024

The NCFA deadlines coincide with the deadlines posted for the NINDS F32. If a deadline falls on a Saturday, the preceding Friday will apply; if a deadline falls on a Sunday, the following Monday will apply. For more information or questions regarding the NCFA, please contact Carol Carnahan.