Author: Alison Hall

Headshot of Allison Hall.

Before leaving NIGMS in July 2017, Alison was deputy director of the Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity. She has 30 years of experience in academia, including conducting research, overseeing graduate education at a medical school, serving on and chairing T32 study sections, and directing NIH-funded diversity programs.

Posts by Alison Hall

Educational Outcomes of the NIGMS Maximizing Access to Research Careers Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research (MARC U-STAR) Program


UPDATE: The MARC U-Star report includes an addendum on the demographics of the program’s alumni.

We recently analyzed the educational outcomes of trainees who participated in the NIGMS MARC U-STAR program. The goal of the program is to enhance the pool of students from underrepresented groups earning baccalaureate and Ph.D. degrees in biomedical research fields. MARC U-STAR is part of a larger effort at NIGMS to support the development of a highly skilled, creative and diverse biomedical research workforce [PDF]. This study was designed to identify the educational outcomes of over 9,000 MARC U-STAR alumni appointed at 114 institutions between 1986 and 2013.

MARC U-STAR grants are awarded to undergraduate institutions. Each grant supports a continuous 2-year program for the junior and senior (or final two) years of college that provides the trainees with academic enhancement, research training and professional skills development. In addition to these on-campus enhancements, MARC U-STAR institutions are expected to provide each trainee with a summer research experience at a research-intensive institution. The recently released Funding Opportunity Announcement describes the expectation that a majority of MARC U-STAR alumni nationwide will matriculate in a research doctorate program.

Continue reading “Educational Outcomes of the NIGMS Maximizing Access to Research Careers Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research (MARC U-STAR) Program”

Outcomes Analysis of the NIGMS Diversity Supplement Program

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We recently analyzed outcomes of the NIGMS Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (referred to here as the Diversity Supplement Program or DSP), which provides investigators holding active NIGMS research grants with supplemental funds to support scholars from groups underrepresented in biomedical science. Using a public search approach, we could track a large proportion of participants—but not all—through doctoral training and into various careers. We assessed the educational and career outcomes for undergraduate, graduate student and postdoctoral participants supported by supplements between 1989 and 2006, and we encourage you to explore the report.

Continue reading “Outcomes Analysis of the NIGMS Diversity Supplement Program”

Give Input on NIGMS Undergraduate Student Development Programs to Enhance Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce


As part of our longstanding commitment to fostering a highly trained and diverse biomedical research workforce, we have launched a review process to ensure that our programs contribute most effectively to this goal. An important part of this effort is to seek your input.

To this end, we just issued a request for information for feedback and novel ideas that might bolster the effectiveness of our undergraduate student development programs. Some of the things we’re particularly interested in are:

  • The advantages (or disadvantages) of supporting a single program per institution that begins after matriculation and provides student development experiences through graduation.
  • Approaches to leveraging successful institutional models for preparing baccalaureates for subsequent Ph.D. completion.
  • Strategies to build institutional capabilities and effective institutional networks that promote undergraduate student training programs that lead to successful Ph.D. completion.
  • If applicable, your specific experiences with any of our student development programs and their outcomes in preparing participants for biomedical research careers.

More broadly, we welcome your suggestions regarding the most important issues we can address in this arena.

I encourage you to share your views (no longer available) on these and associated topics by the response deadline of April 15, 2015.

Sample Individual Fellowship Applications Now Available


UPDATE: The sample applications are no longer available on the NIGMS website.

As described in an earlier post, NIGMS supports several kinds of individual predoctoral fellowships for advanced Ph.D. or M.D-Ph.D. students.

To assist trainees in developing their applications, several investigators have graciously agreed to let us share their successful predoctoral F31 applications on our Web site. Some parts of these applications have been redacted to protect personal and other private information.

Please note that the investigators provided these applications for nonprofit educational uses only. The applications may not be changed, and the investigator and grantee institution should be credited as the source of this material. As we fund additional fellowships, we may post more samples for educational use.

For additional information about our F30 and F31 programs, please refer to the NIGMS NRSA Individual Predoctoral Fellowships Web page or contact fellowship coordinator Peggy Schnoor.

I hope you find these sample fellowship applications useful, and I welcome your suggestions about other training tools or resources we can offer.

T32 Application Changes


NIH has issued a new parent announcement for the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Institutional Research Training Grant (T32) that incorporates many of the “mandatory special requirements” previously in an NIGMS T32 predoctoral grant application. As a result, eligible institutions applying for an NIGMS training grant with a due date on and after January 25, 2014, will no longer need to include this material as a separate section at the end of the background section but should instead address each of these requirements throughout the document.

Changes in the new T32 announcement are based on recommendations of the Biomedical Workforce Working Group of the Advisory Committee to the Director, NIH. As stated in a related NIH Guide notice, T32 programs are now encouraged to make available career development advising as well as learning opportunities so that trainees obtain a working knowledge of various potential career directions and of the steps required to transition successfully to their next career stage.

NIGMS-funded predoctoral training programs should provide support for trainees in their early years (e.g., years 1-3) to prepare them for subsequent, more differentiated research and for a variety of research careers. NIGMS predoctoral T32 programs are not intended to support students in the dissertation/independent phase of their doctoral research training.

Each NIGMS T32 application must clearly:

  • State the objectives of the proposed program and how they are distinct from or relate to other training programs at the same institution.
  • Identify the faculty involved, describe their roles and responsibilities, and indicate whether they participate in other training programs at the same institution.
  • Demonstrate access to a pool of highly promising scholars, including those who are underrepresented in the biomedical and behavioral sciences and individuals with disabilities.

In addition, NIGMS strongly encourages its programs to develop mathematical fluency among all trainees by integrating quantitative biology and/or advanced statistical approaches. NIGMS also expects funded training programs to evolve in response to changes in the field of science and to respond effectively to student needs and outcomes. The Institute is always interested in innovative approaches to training that will prepare a strong and diverse biomedical and behavioral research workforce for the 21st century.

For more details, see our predoctoral T32 training grant Web page, which includes a link to slides on NIGMS predoctoral training program guidelines for 2014 (no longer available), as well as our postdoctoral T32 information. Prospective applicants are welcome to contact me or one of my colleagues who manage training grants with questions, comments or suggestions.

Encouraging the Use of Individual Development Plans

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Strategic Plan for Biomedical and Behavioral Research TrainingMany of the themes in our strategic plan for research training have been echoed by the Biomedical Workforce Working Group of the Advisory Committee to the Director, NIH. Among these is the use of individual development plans (IDPs) to facilitate career development discussions and planning between mentees and mentors. I’m delighted to share some progress on this front.

A recent NIH Guide notice encourages institutions to:

  • Develop an institutional policy requiring an IDP for every graduate student and postdoctoral scientist supported by any NIH grant, and

For more details, read this blog post from NIH’s Sally Rockey.

The Blueprint for Implementation of our training strategic plan provides links to resources for developing IDPs, including AAAS’s myIDP Link to external web site Web site. Another source of useful tips is a presentation on “Facilitating Career Development through Individual Development Plans” given by Philip Clifford of the Medical College of Wisconsin at our recent Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity Program Directors’ meeting.

IDPs are a valuable tool to help graduate students and postdocs identify their career goals and what they need to accomplish to achieve those goals. They are one part of the changing conversations about preparing trainees for the broader landscape of exciting biomedical careers.

Give Input on NIH Biomedical Research Workforce Plans


The report of the Biomedical Research Workforce Working Group of the Advisory Committee to the Director, NIH, includes recommendations that could have a broad impact on NIGMS training programs.

NIH has just issued a request for information (RFI) on implementing the working group’s recommendations. As summarized in a blog post by NIH’s Sally Rockey, the RFI seeks your input on these topics:

  • Developing individual development plans (IDPs) for those in graduate and postdoctoral training supported by NIH funds from any source,
  • The length of time NIH should provide support for graduate students,
  • Providing more uniform benefits packages for postdocs,
  • Gathering information about individuals receiving NIH support for their training,
  • Reporting by institutions of aggregate career outcomes of graduate students and postdocs on a public Web site,
  • Considering multiple career outcomes as indicators of success when reviewing training grants, and
  • Launching a dialogue with the extramural biomedical research community to assess how NIH supports the biomedical community, including faculty salaries.

I strongly encourage you and your colleagues to submit comments by the April 22 deadline, because your input is key to developing policies that serve the scientific community and improve the training experience of graduate students and postdocs.

Aligning Training


As the new deputy director of the Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity, my main focus is on the Institute’s training activities. It is an exciting time to join the Institute and help implement its strategic plan for biomedical and behavioral research training.

One of my first tasks after coming to NIGMS was to work with Institute staff and leadership to address a key action item in the strategic plan to “examine and adjust the allocation of NIGMS training resources across and within scientific areas and institutions.” Since NIGMS supports about half of the predoctoral institutional training program (T32) positions funded by NIH, our policies have a broad impact.

The Institute has always looked at a number of issues in addition to priority scores to identify which training programs to support and works to allocate funds on a fair, equitable and well-justified basis. Following extensive analyses and discussions of the current distribution of training resources, which began well before my arrival, we intend to be more proactive in aligning our funding decisions with our priorities. Some of the additional factors we will consider are whether programs:

  • address training in new and emerging areas of science,
  • have been highly successful in enhancing diversity,
  • have effectively leveraged slots to impact the overall institutional program,
  • are at institutions that do not currently receive NIGMS T32 support, and/or
  • explore models for training that are fundamentally different from our existing programs.

The realignment process will take place over the next several years and, in some cases, may gradually impact the size of existing training grants. We anticipate that this more goal-driven approach to funding will make the overall impact of our training programs even stronger, and in this way, further enhance the quality of biomedical research training.

I welcome your comments on this blog or directly to me at