University of Southern California


NSF-19-522: National Science Foundation Research Traineeship Program (NRT)

Slots:                                                     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. Please indicate in your one-page proposal which category you plan to apply under. Organizations participating solely as evaluators on projects are excluded from this limitation. Proposals that exceed the organizational eligibility limit (beyond the first two submissions based on timestamp) will be returned without review regardless of the organization’s role (lead organization, non-lead collaborative, or subawardee) in the returned proposal. Only US IHEs are eligible to submit as a lead or non-lead organization.

Internal Deadline:                           Contact the Office of Research if interested.

LOI:                                                        November 25, 2019 – December 6, 2019

External Deadline:                          February 6, 2020 5pm PT;

Award Information:                        Type: Grant

Estimated Number of Awards: 14-15

Anticipated Amount: Total budget of $3,000,000 per award for up to five years.

Submission Process:                     PIs must submit their application as a Limited Submission through the Office of Research Application Portal:

Materials to submit:

Link to Award:                        

Who May Serve as PI:                    The PI must be on the faculty of the submitting institution.


  1. Focus and Goals

The NRT Program is dedicated to supporting highly effective training of STEM graduate students in high priority interdisciplinary or convergent 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:

Creation of sustainable programmatic capacity at institutions is an expected outcome. Proposals should describe mechanisms to institutionalize effective training elements after award expiration.

  1. 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. Proposals, accordingly, should focus on and demonstrate strong commitment to technical and professional training of STEM graduate students that emphasizes research training and extends well beyond it. In addition to research training, NRT projects are expected to develop trainees’ technical skills broadly, including facility and/or familiarity with the techniques, languages, and cultures of fields integral to the interdisciplinary or convergent research theme; foster the development of transferable professional skills; and provide trainees with mentoring and vocational counseling from professionals who have the backgrounds, experience, and skills to advise trainees on how to prepare for a variety of STEM career pathways.

NRT is intended to benefit a population of STEM graduate students larger than those who receive an NRT stipend. An NRT trainee is thus defined as a STEM graduate student, irrespective of funding source, who is accepted into an institution’s NRT program and completes the required NRT elements (e.g., courses, workshops, projects, and other training activities specific to the NRT experience) set by the program. To further maximize the number of students benefiting from NRT activities, proposers are expected to make available (within the capacity and budget limitations of the award) NRT program elements to other STEM graduate students who are not NRT trainees.

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 NRT proposal from an institution 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. NRT stipends and support for customary costs of education (tuition and required fees) are limited to U.S. citizens, nationals and permanent residents. However, international students can participate as non-stipend-supported NRT trainees or as non-trainees.


  1. Key Features of NRT Projects

NRT projects utilize comprehensive approaches to graduate training and are expected to address several key features central to the NRT Program.

  1. Priority Research Areas

The NRT Program requests proposals in any interdisciplinary or convergent research theme of national priority, while highlighting specific priority research areas that change periodically. For FY2019 and FY2020, the high priority research areas are the six research areas in NSF’s 10 Big Ideas. The NSF research Big Ideas are Harnessing the Data Revolution (HDR), The Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier (FW-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 (URoL).

An interdisciplinary or convergent research theme in an area other than the six research areas in NSF’s 10 Big Ideas should align with NSF or other national STEM research priority areas and have high potential for development of novel, innovative practices in graduate education. Proposers should describe the importance of the NRT project’s thematic focus to the nation and the particular need to train students for a variety of careers in that thematic area, whether within or outside academia.

Regardless of the research area, proposals must clearly describe an overarching interdisciplinary or convergent research focus and outline how the research theme will foster high-return, interdisciplinary synergies. Proposals should also describe how the training and research elements will be integrated and justify the need for bold and innovative approaches to train graduate students in the thematic area. In keeping with the broader goals of the NRT program, proposals should demonstrate significant impact on the design and testing of new curricula and career-focused training approaches specific to the priority research area. Proposals should also discuss the project’s potential to have impact beyond the institution, including the possible broad adoption of approaches, curricula, and instructional material within the relevant disciplines.

Visit our Institutionally Limited Submission webpage for updates and other announcements.