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NIH NRSA F31 and F31 Diversity Proposal Preparation 


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) invests nearly $32.3 billion annually in medical research, making it the world's largest public funder of biomedical research.

The Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowship, is one of the many funding opportunities offered by NIH. This fellowship provides predoctoral students the opportunity to pursue individualized, mentored research training. 

F31 Parent and Diversity at a Glance

  • Students may apply for up to five years of funding
  • Award includes stipend ($23,844 a year) and institutional allowance
  • If awarded, NIH will pay for up to 60 percent of the requested institutional tuition and fees


US citizens, nationals, and permanent residents enrolled in a PhD program or equivalent research degree are eligible to apply. For more information, see Section III of the F31 program announcement.

Your sponsor must also meet UCSD’s Principal Investigator eligibility requirement. Work with your department staff to determine whether your sponsor holds one of the appropriate title codes.

Determining Which On-Campus Office To Apply Through

An application will be processed through Graduate Division if the applicant is a single-degree seeking student enrolled in a graduate program. However, students enrolled in a professional degree program (i.e. PharmD, PharmD/PhD, or MD/PhD program) will need to contact Health Sciences Sponsored Project Pre-Award Office (HSSPPO). 

If an applicant meets the above criteria and the submission requires an Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) to approve, sign, or submit an application on the applicant’s behalf, please route the application to gradadvisor@ucsd.edu

Preliminary Requirements

eRA Commons User ID

An eRA Commons User ID with the PD/PI role assigned is required for student applicants. Contact OCGA to request a user ID or verify that your account has the PD/PI role.

The sponsor must have an eRA Commons account with the Sponsor role assigned.

Submitting Conflict of Interest Forms

Federal policies mandate financial conflict of interest (COI) disclosure for all NIH Senior/Key Personnel. Prior to submitting the F31 application, each individual listed as Senior/Key Personnel must submit the Financial Interest Disclosure for PHS-Funded Research form to UCSD's COI office.

Please CC gradadvisor@ucsd.edu on all COI form submissions.

(Senior/Key Personnel at institutions other than UCSD may follow their institutions’ COI disclosure procedures. Senior/Key Personnel at other institutions without a PHS-approved COI disclosure procedure must follow UCSD's procedure and submit the appropriate forms to the UCSD COI office.)

Internal Submission Deadlines

Applications must be submitted to the Graduate Division no later than 12 calendar days before the NIH deadline. At that time, all application sheets must be filled in, the Specific Aims, Research Strategy, and Bibliography must be in good draft form, and all other attachments must be in final form.

The complete application, including the Specific Aims, Research Strategy, and Bibliography in final form, must be submitted to the Graduate Division no later than 5 business days before the NIH deadline.

The Graduate Division cannot guarantee on-time submission or thorough review of applications submitted after these deadlines.

Graduate Division Submission Deadlines for the April 2018 NIH F31 Application Cycle:

How to Apply

Please download this UCSD NIH F31 Application Guide to help fill out the application. Use this guide as a reference when filling out the SF424 portion of the application, as it contains UCSD institutional information. All attachments should follow the NIH Table of Page Limits.

  • Use the online application site ASSIST, set up a login, and follow the step by step instructions to submit.
    • If you have any questions about application, refer to the ASSIST Guide
  • On the days of the internal deadline please create a PDF of your application from ASSIST and email to gradadvisor@ucsd.edu. A reply will follow suggesting revisions and edits that can be made before the national deadline. 

If you have any questions concerning the application, refer to the Fellowship Application Guide.

Items To Be Submitted to Graduate Division

 Five items are required for submission to the Graduate Division:

  1. Cover Page
  2. Fellowship Assurance Form
  3. Checklist
  4. Budget Guide
  5. Application (PDF copy of ASSIST application)

The application form is downloaded from grants.gov. All application components except for letters of reference will be attached to this application form. Letters of recommendation should be sent via eRA Commons.

Email your completed application form or ASSIST identifier, budget workbook, application checklist, and fellowship cover sheet to the Graduate Fellowship Advisor by the internal deadline.

The Fellowship Assurance Form must be submitted in hard copy, either in person at the Graduate Division or via campus mail (MC 0003).

Once the application form, the budget workbook, the application checklist and the fellowship cover sheet have been received, the Graduate Division will review the application and notify you of changes that need to be made. When the application is in final form and the fellowship assurance form has been received, the Graduate Division will submit the application on your behalf.

Application Components

Please download this UCSD NIH F31 Guide to help you fill out your application.


I. Letters of Reference

Letters of Reference are submitted separately from the rest of the application. Referees submit their letters through eRA Commons.
The Graduate Division’s internal deadlines do not apply to letters of reference. Letters need only be submitted before the NIH’s final submission deadline.

II. PHS Cover Letter

Your cover letter should include the following:

  • Application Title
  • Funding Opportunity / Title of NIH initiative
  • List of individuals who should not review your application and why (if applicable)
  • Disciplines involved (if multidisciplinary)
  • Statement that you have attached any required approval documentation
  • List of referees with their names, degrees, and affiliations

III. PHS Fellowship Supplemental Form

  • Refer to this set of advice on how to do your specific aims and other application sections
  • In section C, the fellowship applicant’s expected degree completion date may not be earlier than the proposed project end date entered in Box 12 of the SF424 R & R form.
  • Your Goals for Fellowship Training and Career document should include a statement of your intention to create an Individual Development Plan (IDP).

IV. Research & Related Senior/Key Person Profile (Extended)

  • The student applicant should be listed first, followed by the sponsor, and then the co-sponsor (if applicable).
  • The student’s project role is PD/PI.
  • Each person’s eRA Commons login should be entered into the “Credential, e.g., agency login” box.

V. Research & Related Other Project Information

  • UCSD’s Human Subjects Assurance Number is 00004495.
  • UCSD’s Animal Welfare Assurance Number is A3033-01.
  • Refer to the Fellowship Application Guide pages I-80 through I-82 for instructions on sections 7-12 of this form.
  • All applicants must attach an Additional Educational Information document as part of section 12.

VI. Project / Performance Site Location(s)

  • UCSD's DUNS number can be found on the Sample SF424 R&R form. Note that SDSU has a different DUNS number.

VII. Budget

Budget information is requested in two places: Section 15 of the SF424 R & R form and section E of the PHS Fellowship Supplemental Form.

Start your budget by using the Budget Guide, which shows the correct information in for students applying for 5 years of funding. If you are applying for fewer years of funding, clear the appropriate columns and the formulae will recalculate your totals. (Contact the Graduate Fellowship Advisor at 858-822-2938 or gradadvisor@ucsd.edu for assistance if you are applying for a partial year of funding.)

Section E of PHS Fellowship Supplemental Form:

  • The lower section (for senior applicants only) will be left blank. In the top section, mark that funds are requested for Tuition and Fees.

NIH will only award 60 percent of the requested amount for tuition and fees; the remaining fee payment(s) will need to be made up by the department. Also, the NIH is not currently allowing increases in grant/fellowship budgets from year to year. You should still request the increase in tuition for each year as shown in the budget workbook, but be aware that the NIH may not actually increase the amount of tuition and fees offered from the first year.

---For F-31 Diversity Applicants ONLY, not for Parent F31 applicants---

VIII. Certification Letter for Predoctoral Fellowships to Promote Diversity (F31 Diversity only)

  • Diversity applicants will need to attach their Certification Letter for Predoctoral Fellowships to Promote Diversity as part of section 12.
  • This letter may not be written by your sponsor. Applications with diversity certifications written by the student’s sponsor may not be reviewed by the NIH. The letter may be written by your department chair as long as the chair does not directly supervise or mentor you. If your department chair supervises or mentors you and you need help finding someone who can write this letter, please contact the Graduate Fellowship Advisor.
  • The letter must clearly state why you are eligible for the diversity award. This can be established by
    1. referring to the groups that qualify under the NSF’s diversity requirement
    2. certifying that you have a disability
    3. showing you come from a disadvantaged background; the third option is easier to establish if you can show that you have received previous awards reserved for those with disadvantaged backgrounds.

Useful Links

After the Award: Activation Notice

Once a student is notified that s/he has been awarded a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award, the fellow must submit a Fellowship Activation Notice to begin the disbursement of funds process.

The student will work with their mentor, fund manager, and graduate coordinator to determine the activation date for the award. Note that fellowships may not be activated between October 1 and November 30.

Drop off the form in person at Graduate Division or mail form to MC 0003. The Dean of Graduate Division will then sign as the Institutional Business Official. Graduate Division will submit the activation notice to NIH and notify the fellow once the form has been submitted.

Please Note: The Graduate Division cannot assume responsibility for errors in the applicant's submission. We will do our best to review the format of your proposal; however final responsibility for format, content, and completeness rests with the applicant.