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UCL-NIMH Joint Doctoral Training Program in Neuroscience

Frequently Asked Questions

Am I eligible for the UCL-NIMH Program?
Applicants to the program must be U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents and hold or be on track to receive a Bachelor's degree by matriculation date. While the program will consider applications from candidates without research experience outside of their undergraduate degree, the majority of applicants will have a Master’s degree and/or be able to demonstrate a strong research background resulting from a Post baccalaureate or Research Assistant research experience. To meet the academic requirements for entry to the UCL Doctoral School, students must normally have an undergraduate or master’s degree with GPA 3.3 or above with a major in a subject relevant to their proposed studies. Any questions about these requirements should be directed to the program directors.

I understand that I will need to identify mentors from NIH and UCL. Where can I find a list of potential mentors at NIH? Can I contact them directly?
NIH has a large number of postdoctoral trainees but a relatively small number of graduate students. For this reason, scientists at NIH are eager to hear from potential graduate students, and almost all are happy to provide advice and guidance. Feel free to contact them, probably initially by email. Before you contact them, review their lab web sites and some recent publications. About 20% of the NIH faculty have identified themselves as neuroscientists and provide a brief description of their research at Neuroscience @ NIH.

Please email or call them with information about yourself, your interests, and whether they may be interested in being a mentor to you in this UCL-NIMH program. If they do not currently have space in their lab for a graduate student, ask them to recommend other mentors. Please refer them to this web page for further description of the program. Finally, if the faculty member clearly has interest in the program, s/he must be aware of their obligations as a mentor. (NIH Mentoring FAQ). Please have faculty contact Janet Clark for information regarding the NIH mentor’s financial responsibilities for a student in the UCL-NIMH Program.

See “A Guide to Training and Mentoring in the Intramural Program at NIH.”

How can I identify a co-mentor from UCL?
As a rule, it’s best to first identify a mentor at NIH. Then, work with your NIH mentor to review potential co-mentors at UCL. However, this program is quite flexible and it may, at times, work well in reverse order. For a listing of current mentor pairings, visit the Faculty page; beyond that feel free to visit the UCL Neuroscience page to review a more expansive faculty list.

How long is the PhD Program?
The PhD should be completed in four years from the date when the student is admitted as a PhD-student at UCL.

How much time should I spend at each institution?
As a general goal, the student should spend approximately half their time at each institute, however, a minimum of 18 months should be spent at each institute. To maintain funding from NIH throughout the four to five years of training, at least 51% of the student’s time must be at the NIH. This time could certainly include large blocks (e.g., 1-2 years to complete a major component of the work), as well as shorter visits to complete smaller experimental components at one institution.

How can I keep my mentor and co-mentor coordinated for the successful completion of my PhD dissertation?
The NIH mentor and UCL co-mentor will agree to serve in this capacity after a specific research plan is proposed and both endorse the merit and utility of such a project as a joint collaboration between labs. The research plan should outline what components of the project will be performed at each institution with a proposed timeline of effort. To enhance communication, regular telephone conference calls, skype meetings and/or routine emails (with copy to mentor, co-mentor, and student) should be established. Reciprocal visits should also be promoted.

Is a stipend provided?
A stipend is provided for the UCL-NIMH Program. The designated NIH institute will pay the stipend and health benefits for the student during their graduate training. A stipend paid by a Pre-doctoral Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) is provided to students while at the NIH. The first year stipend for graduate students at the NIH is currently $30,350 for the 2017 - 2018 academic year. Small increments are scheduled for subsequent years. The NIH mentor is responsible for the stipend, medical insurance via FAES (currently $5319 for individual and $11,535 for family as of calendar year 2017), and travel benefits are provided at the discretion of the PI or NIH Institute. NIH mentors can ask their Scientific Director for their Institute-specific policy.

NIMH oversees the administrative management of this joint PhD program. NIMH charges no overhead for these administrative services; however, the mentor’s institute must provide stipend, tuition, insurance, and travel.

For current NIH Pre-doctoral IRTA stipend levels, please see: Pre-doctoral IRTA Stipend Levels

Are funds provided to support travel?
The provision of travel funds is strictly dependent on the specific NIH institute and their established regulations on travel benefits. Some institutes in addition to stipend, provide up to $4,000 per annum for travel between the two institutions but again this is an important factor to discuss with your selected NIH mentor.

Travel arrangements between NIH and UCL are arranged for students by the NIH Administrative Officers (AOs) of their respective mentor within the designated institute. All travel done while on a Pre-Doc IRTA fellowship at the NIH must receive pre-approval and clearance prior to the student beginning their travel to UCL or back to the NIH. No personal funds should be committed at any point for travel accommodations (flights, hotel, conference registration fees, etc.) without approval since that is considered an illegal purchase and will not be reimbursed.

Does UCL charge tuition or laboratory fees to students or their mentors?
Yes, UCL charges tuition fees for graduate students over the course of the 4 year program. All tuition fees are covered by the mentor or NIH institute in which you will pursue your graduate research.

How can I arrange housing in Bethesda and London?
The Graduate Partnerships Program’s office is available to help you find housing in the Bethesda area. In London, there are a number of options for accommodation for graduate students. Many students live in halls of residence, at least for the first year. There are a number of halls of residence specifically for graduate students at the London universities, though the nearest to UCL are Goodenough College and the International Hall. In addition, the UCL accommodation service is able to find accommodation in UCL halls of residence for up to one year, as well as information regarding living expenses. University of London Housing Services can provide information regarding private lets.

Students frequently find housing on referrals from fellow students or via internet sites such as More information regarding housing during the visit at UCL can be found on the UCL Accommodation webpage.

The NIH Office of Intramural Training & Education (OITE) has assembled a helpful resource to students who are new to the DC area. Visit the OITE Planning your Move webpage for more information.

Does the NIH have a graduate student activities office?
The graduate students at NIH (about 500 and growing) use the numerous workshops and activities sponsored by the Graduate Partnerships Program and also have a Graduate Student Council to represent their academic interests and to foster social interactions. For example, the Graduate Partnerships Program sponsors an annual graduate student retreat, and all students are highly encouraged to attend. The Graduate Student Council plans social and professional development events, such as teaching classes through the Foundation of Advanced Education for the Sciences, planning and participating in community service events, organizing the annual Graduate Student Symposium, giving seminars to the NIH community, and visiting various historical sites and museums in Washington DC.

The NIH Graduate Partnerships Program has more information on activities and resources for graduate students at the NIH.

Many of the NIH Institutes have Training Offices which also provide numerous career and professional development workshops and seminars as well as career guidance. See Intramural Institute Training Contacts for more information.

Students accepted into the UCL-NIMH Program will be invited and are welcome to attend Career and Professional Development Seminars and Workshops that are offered by the NIMH IRP Office of Fellowship Training.