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Section on Development and Affective Neuroscience (SDAN)

Join the Lab

The Section on Development and Affective Neuroscience (SDAN) in the National Institute of Mental Health’s (NIMH’s) Intramural Research Program (IRP) hires postbaccalaureate research assistants as a part of the NIH’s Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) Program . Please reach out to Dr. Janet Clark, Director of the NIMH Office of Fellowship Training, to inquire about Postbac IRTA opportunities in the NIMH IRP (

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Open to U.S. Citizens/permanent residents who are:

1. college graduates who received their bachelor's degrees less than THREE years prior to the date they begin the program.

2. individuals who are more than 4 years past the receipt of their bachelor's degree but received a master's degree less than SIX MONTHS before they begin the program.

SDAN is committed to working towards promoting diversity within the field of mental health. We encourage individuals with historically underrepresented identities to apply.

Application Timeline

August – December: Submit your application.

November – December: Reach out to Dr. Pine ( to express your interest in SDAN.

January: If your application advances, complete a 30 minute phone interview with EDB IRTA.

January – February: If your application advances, complete a full day interview with EDB.

January – March: Offer extended.


What is the relationship between being a Postbac IRTA in SDAN and being a part of the NIH Postbac IRTA Program?

All Postbac IRTAs in SDAN are a part of the NIH Postbac IRTA Program. This is not a separate program. Potential Postbac IRTAs apply centrally to the NIH Postbac IRTA Program, then reach out directly via email to Dr. Pine to express specific interest in SDAN. The considerations outlined on this page are meant to clarify the timeline and criteria for how SDAN typically reviews applicants who have expressed interest in joining us through the NIH Postbac IRTA Program. For futher clarification of the general application process please consult the NIH Postbac IRTA Program  website or contact Janet Clark at

Do I need a specific GPA to be considered?

We take a holistic approach when reviewing applications and weight letters of recommendation and previous research experience in light of each applicants’ circumstances.

Do I need to interview in person?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been conducting all interviews virtually. In past application cycles, we have offered virtual or onsite interviews.

If I want to apply to work in SDAN, will I be considered for positions in SMDN/NNT?

The Emotion and Development Branch in the NIMH IRP, includes SDAN, the Section on Mood Dysregulation and Neuroscience (SMDN) and the Neuroscience and Novel Therapeutics Unit (NNT).The Emotion and Development Branch labs recruit Postbac IRTAs as a group, and therefore applicants will be considered for positions in all three groups. Please emphasize research areas that you are excited about in your application and throughout the interview process.

Is the application process rolling?

Yes. We typically consider applications starting in November and conduct interviews from December through early February. Applications are considered on a rolling basis, so we encourage you to apply early in the process.

I’m thinking of taking only one gap year. Should I still apply?

While we encourage all applications, SDAN typically prefers to hire Postbac IRTAs who are willing to make a two-year commitment. A two-year commitment allows our Postbac IRTAs to acclimate to the lab and gain experience with independent research before applying to graduate or medical school programs. Renewal for a second year is contingent on successful completion of the first Postbac year.


The NIH’s Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) provides a number of resources for prospective applicants to the NIH Postbac IRTA Program. A comprehensive list of these resources can be found on the Office of Intramural Training & Education page . In particular, we would like to highlight OITE’s Guide to Writing a Successful Application for NIH Intramural Research Training Programs .

The NIMH Office of Fellowship Training (OFT) also offers a number of resources for current trainees. Lists of these resources can be found at the following links: