NIH Postdoc Training

Postdoctoral NIH Training Program

A number of postdoctoral positions are available every year in diverse areas including synthetic chemistry, cell biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, biomedical engineering, and imaging. These positions are part of an NIH sponsored training program and are restricted to US citizens and/or permanent residents.

Description of training program

The purpose of the training program is to provide an opportunity for outstanding postdoctoral students to begin their career in a multidisciplinary molecular imaging environment at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. The program is designed to encourage well-educated and qualified students to begin their research under close tutelage of a senior mentor. The two-year Program will assure that fellows receive outstanding training prior to commencing their independent career path. Our program emphasizes the education of basic (PhD) and clinical (MD or MD/PhD) scientists in the principles and applications of molecular techniques to answer basic science questions through in vivo imaging. The development, validation, and application of such novel imaging techniques (e.g. receptor mapping, imaging of gene delivery and gene expression, imaging of cell trafficking in vivo, 3D imaging in developmental biology) should further enhance our understanding of disease mechanisms and go hand in hand with the development of molecular medicine. The program consists of didactic lectures, laboratory exercises and individual research projects.

Benefits of pursuing postdoctoral training in the CSB at MGH

MGH is one of the leading clinical facilities and research institutes in the eastern US, with the highest federal funding of any non-federal US research institute. The institution is part of the extensive Harvard Medical School affiliated medical research community in Boston, with members such as Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital and Dana Farber Cancer Institute, all world class research facilities in their own right. Postdoctoral training in the CSB at MGH provides a first class research environment, including state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, extensive multi-institution library facilities, exposure to a wide range of seminars and lectures given by premier scientists in their field and an unrivaled capability for collaborative study both within the department and across institutions. The CSB provides an interdisciplinary environment allowing for breadth of research, accommodation of different interests and scope for the development of novel avenues of investigation. All of this is possible under the umbrella of imaging research and tumor biology. Postdoctoral fellows are expertly supported by well-trained and experienced faculty, while at the bench day-to-day assistance can be found consistently from the junior faculty and additional support staff. The CSB provides an environment for both basic and clinical scientists to collaborate and explore their mutual interests with view to a better understanding of clinical disease processes. Training at the CSB provides a solid foundation in research and a stepping stone to a successful academic career.

Teaching sessions

There are a number of lecture series and standing conferences open to all fellows in the program. The mandatory teaching sessions include 1) lecture series in molecular and cell biology topics relevant to cancer treatment and imaging; 2) lecture series in tumor biology; 3) lectures on scientific design and data management; and 4) laboratory meetings. Fellows are encouraged to also attend other lectures open to Harvard and MGH employees.

Practical experience

It is expected that all trainees have a working knowledge in performing basic benchtop research for example PCR, sequencing, cell culture, chemical synthesis and/or imaging. During the first 3 months, trainees will spend one week periods in the following areas (1) chemistry core, (2) molecular biology core, (3) the cell culture core, and (4) the imaging core. In these cores, trainees will be given one-on-one instruction on the equipment, experimental design, data interpretation, and data troubleshooting.

Individual Research Projects

As trainees work in various laboratories during the first month, they will be exposed to various ongoing research projects. At the end of the first month period, trainees will have a formal meeting with the Program Director to define an area of research interest. This research area may involve ongoing or novel work. A trainee will then be assigned to an appropriate staff member for supervision. The trainee is expected to formally meet with his supervisor at least twice per week to discuss current projects. The trainee will periodically be assigned to present data at the weekly laboratory meeting. The progress of the trainee will be reported by the CSB staff supervisor in writing to the Program Director semi-annually.

Typically, a two year period of training is required. At the end of this time, trainees are expected to have an in-depth knowledge of molecular imaging techniques, completed a novel and significant research project, presented a paper at a national meeting and submitted at least one paper for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.


The primary teaching faculty consists of 32 MD/PhD and/or PhD scientists with extensive experience in basic research and in pre and postdoctoral education. The faculty has over 35 extramural research grants including over 20 ROI, 8 Program Project Grants, and 5 Center Grants. The faculty has successfully supervised over 300 pre and postdoctoral fellows in various aspects of basic and clinical research.

The scientific breadth of the faculty and their experience in teaching is one of the greatest strengths of the training program. Their expertise provides a multidisciplinary skills base from which trainees can draw to develop their own projects and ultimately their own research careers.

Application procedures

All applicants are required to submit curriculum vitae, three references letters and complete a standard MGH application form. Applications, including a CV and names of three references should be emailed to: Ralph Weissleder

Applicants are also required to state in a short narrative their future research goals and interests.

The current applicant pool roughly includes about 50 inquiries per year resulting in approximately 25-30 received applications per year. Pending current research funding we typically choose 10-15 of the applicants for interviews and choose the top 4-6 fellows per year from this pool.

Review and selection

Only eligible (as defined by the Program Guideline for Institutional Research Training Grants) and complete applications are evaluated by the Program Committee. The main criteria for further selection include the applicant’s eligibility (as determined by NIH guidelines) and whether or not the applicant’s interest and background fits reasonably within the scientific areas of interest of the CSB and the description of this Training Program. Applicants with the highest academic qualifications, especially those with prior productive research experience, are selected for personal interviews (usually the top 50% of the applicants). The review criteria include:

Selection is based on ranking academic and personal qualifications of the candidate using a priority scoring system. Successful applicants need to state their intent to fulfill the NRSA payback provision. All applicants are notified of the ranking results within 4 weeks of the final meeting.