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Limited Submission Funding Opportunity National Science Foundation Research Traineeship Program (NRT)

The NRT Program is dedicated to supporting highly effective training of STEM graduate students in high priority interdisciplinary research areas through the use of comprehensive traineeship models that are innovative, evidence-based, and aligned with changing workforce and research needs.

Goals of the program are to:

  • Catalyze and advance cutting-edge interdisciplinary research in high priority areas,
  • Increase the capacity of U.S. graduate programs to produce diverse cohorts of interdisciplinary STEM professionals with technical and transferable professional skills for a range of research and research-related careers within and outside academia, and
  • Develop innovative approaches and knowledge that will promote transformative improvements in graduate education.
NRT Traineeship and Trainees

An NRT traineeship is dedicated to the comprehensive development of graduate students as versatile STEM professionals for a range of research and research-related careers within and outside academia. NRT trainees must be master’s and/or doctoral STEM students in a research-based degree program that requires a thesis or dissertation. If an institution’s NRT program includes both master’s and doctoral students, the proposal should identify any differences in NRT program requirements, as well as mechanisms to foster the development of a collective NRT graduate student community. 

Priority Research Areas

For FY2019, the NRT Program requests proposals in any interdisciplinary research theme of national priority, with special emphasis on the six NSF Research Big Ideas.  The NSF Research Big Ideas are Harnessing the Data Revolution (HDR), The Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier (HTF), Navigating the New Arctic (NNA), Windows on the Universe: The Era of Multi-Messenger Astrophysics (WOU), The Quantum Leap: Leading the Next Quantum Revolution (QL), and Understanding the Rules of Life: Predicting Phenotype (ROL).

Award Information

NRT Awards (10-12 anticipated) are expected to be up to five (5) years in duration with a total budget up to $3,000,000.

Limit on Number of Proposals Per Organizaton

An eligible organization may participate in two proposals per competition. Participation includes serving as a lead organization, non-lead organization, or subawardee on any proposal. Organizations participating solely as evaluators on projects are excluded from this limitation.

Key Dates
  • Internal Letter of Intent Due (Required): November 6, 2018 (by midnight)
  • Internal Proposal Due (Required): November 19, 2018 (by midnight)                 
  • Notification by: November 30, 2018
  • Sponsor Letter of Intent Due (Required): December 06, 2018
  • Sponsor Proposal Due: February 06, 2019

Note: All investigators who submit a letter of intent by the deadline above are eligible to submit an internal proposal.  An invitation to submit an internal proposal will not be sent.

Submitting a Mandatory Letter of Intent

Faculty members interested in applying with Northwestern as the lead or as a subaward are required to submit a letter of intent (LOI) by the deadline specified above. If interest exceeds the number of submissions the university is allowed, an internal competition will be held.

  1. Click here to access the LOI form.
  2. Name the LOI as follows: “LastName-FirstInitial-NSF-NRT-2019”, replacing “LastName” with your last name and “First Initial” with your first initial.
  3. Submit your LOI by completing this web form.  Note: Supplemental documents are not accepted.
  4. To receive a confirmation email and copy of your submission, check the box (“Send me a copy of my responses”) and enter your email address.
  5. Click “Submit”.
Internal Proposal Guidelines

Proposals should be prepared with at least 1/2 inch margins, all around, 11 point font size and type and are required to contain the following components:

  1. Cover page (1 page limit) with descriptive title, your name and departmental affiliation(s), NU key personnel, and external partners. Proposals that align with one of the NSF Research Big Ideas should contain a title to reflect that alignment, as described in the program solicitation (e.g. NRT-HDR: title or NRT-QL: title).
  2. Introduction (0.5 page limit) ONLY if you previously submitted an NRT internal/external proposal. Summarize how your current proposal differs from the previous one. If you submitted a proposal to the NSF, include the review statements and explain your plans to address them.
  3. Project Description (2 page limit) that includes the following components:
    1. Theme, vision, and goals: Describe the overarching theme, vision, and goals of the proposed NRT with a focus on implementing new approaches to training STEM graduate students in the targeted high priority interdisciplinary or convergent research area, through a comprehensive traineeship.  Describe how the proposed NRT complements and builds on other ongoing or prior institutional efforts to improve STEM graduate education. 
    2. Education and Training: Describe the adopted traineeship model and its components, including the justification and rationale for their inclusion, and how they are integrated with NRT research activities.  Describe the STEM graduate population that will be served, and specify whether the program will serve master’s students, doctoral students, or both. Include the expected number of NRT trainees who will receive an NRT stipend, the number of additional NRT trainees who will not receive an NRT stipend, and the grand total.
    3. Major Research Efforts: Describe the novel, potentially transformative research that the NRT will catalyze through interdisciplinary synergies emerging from currently funded activities at the institution(s) and/or via separate NRT-funded interdisciplinary initiatives. 
    4. Recent Student Training Experiences: Describe the experience of the PI and Co-PIs with leading or participating in STEM education and training over the past five years. Describe any overlap and/or complimentarily between the training and the proposed NRT program.

In addition to NSF Merit Review Criteria, the following Additional Solicitation Specific Review Criteria will be used in reviewing the Internal Proposal:

  • Integration of Research and Education: Does the proposal address training needs that are not currently available at the institution(s) and/or in disciplines, and are there clear and compelling connections between the training elements and the interdisciplinary research theme?
  • Interdisciplinarity: What is the degree of interdisciplinarity and the potential for high impact synergies among the disciplines?
  • Professional Development: What is the breadth and quality of the plan to provide NRT trainees with professional development training for a range of research and research-related career pathways, both within and outside academia?
Uploading the Internal Proposal
  1. Submit your internal proposal by completing this web form.
  2. To receive a confirmation email and copy of your submission, check the box (“send me a copy of my responses”) and enter your email address.
  3. Click “Submit”.
Assistance with Proposal Preparation

The Training Grant Support Office assists faculty in the preparation of institutional training grant applications, including: Data table production involving institution-wide and Training Grant Support Office-tracked data; Proposal development aids; Advice, sharing of best practices, tips and traps; Coordination of special funding/ commitment requests made to The Graduate School in support of the training grant;  and Special training grant-related projects.  Please contact Please contact Rebecca Lamarre, Training Grant Support Office Manager, Graduate School Administration (

Collaboration Opportunities

The Office of Research Development offers assistance in identifying and facilitating collaborations, putting together interdisciplinary teams, programmatic and administrative development of large, cross-school proposals, and leveraging institutional resources for outreach and education. Contact Nicole Moore (, Director, for more information.

Contact and Additional Information

Karen Cielo, Senior Associate Director, 847-467-0043,
Limited Submissions web site:

Categories: STEM, Other, Opportunities for Trainees