Molecular Biophysics Training Program

How to Apply


  • An applicant’s proposed thesis research must involve molecular biophysics, which is defined as the use of quantitative approaches based on physical or physical chemical concepts to address questions involving biomolecules. Examples include but are not limited to, structural biology, computational studies, spectroscopy, and single molecule techniques.
  • Applicants should be in their first or second year at the time of application, and in good academic standing in a Ph.D. program in one of the nine participating departments (Biochemistry, Bioengineering, Biological Structure, Chemistry, Medicinal Chemistry, Microbiology, Pharmacology, Physics, and Physiology & Biophysics), or in the Molecular Engineering, BPSD or MCB programs.
  • An applicant’s primary faculty mentor should be a participating member of the MBTG or be willing to become a participating member.
  • An applicant must be a US Citizen, a non-citizen national, or possess the alien registration receipt card I-151 or I-551.

The normal tenure for a trainee on this training grant is two years, with a third year (or partial year) available in some circumstances, funds permitting. This training grant allows a maximum of 36 months of aggregate support from NRSA Institutional Training Programs not to exceed the maximum NIH allowance of five years of aggregate NRSA support in any combination of institutional training awards and individual fellowship awards. An applicant must be eligible for at least 9 months of support (the minimum appointment period).

Trainee Requirements

Program Requirements

  • A trainee must complete BIOC 530, or a suitable alternative, if he or she has not already done so.
  • A trainee must register for and attend BPSD 520, the student research seminar, for every quarter in which she/he is a Molecular Biophysics trainee.
  • All trainees are expected to attend the annual retreat, typically held during fall quarter.

NIH Requirements

  • A trainee must receive training in the principles of scientific integrity by:
    • Registering for, attending, and passing BIOC 533, a winter quarter seminar  on research ethics (meets for 6 one-hour sessions during winter quarter).
    • AND obtaining a minimum of two additional hours of research ethics training, for at total of at least 8 hours. This can be done by attending sessions of the summer Biomedical Research Integrity Lecture Series  or by participating in other seminars, lectures, formal discussions held either at UW or FHCRC that cover the required topics (see this NIH page for specific topics)
    • Any trainee who is not expecting to graduate within four years after the completion of their research ethics training is required to attend the Biomedical Research Integrity events again as refresher, for an additional 8 hours of training.
  • A trainee must create an Individual Development Plan (IDP), discuss it with his or her PI, and report these activities to MBTG.  NIH guidelines call for all NIH funded graduate students to have an IDP.  See our trainee resource page on IDPs for more information.
  • A trainee must participate in trainings on rigor, reproducibility, and transparency in research.

Requirements for the trainee’s primary faculty mentor

These requirements are also listed with the instructions for the mentor’s letter of recommendation.

  • The Molecular Biophysics Training Grant does not provide research funding. An applicant’s faculty mentor must have sufficient support to underwrite necessary supplies, equipment, and other expenses.
  • A trainee’s faculty mentor must agree to participate in BPSD 520 as a presentation reviewer at least once per quarter and attend the annual retreat.
  • A trainee’s faculty mentor must agree to serve on the MBTG Trainee Selection Committee up to two times in the five years following the appointment of the trainee.
  • The FY 2024 NIH predoctoral trainee stipend is $2,352 per month ($28,224 per year).  If it is the policy that students in your trainee’s graduate program receive a stipend that is higher than this you will need to cover the difference, either by supplementing the stipend using a non-federal source, or by assigning additional duties for additional compensation, which may be allowable on a federal grant.  See NIH Grants Policy Statement Part 11.3.10  regarding additional income for trainees.  Please note that per School of Medicine guidelines, all additional compensation to trainees must be reviewed and approved by the Training Program Director.
  • We anticipate that this year’s funding from NIH will not fully cover the benefits costs associated with the traineeship.  Based on current rate projections, and the School of Medicine guidelines on how trainees are appointed, the current estimated shortfall is $2,363 per trainee for the 2024-25 academic year.  The trainee’s faculty mentor or department must have an appropriate non-federal source of funding to cover the shortfall in the benefits costs.  This will apply to all trainees on the training grant, regardless of the school or college in which they are enrolled.

Application Overview

The new trainee application consists of:

  • The Applicant Information Form
  • Your Research Proposal
  • Supporting Documents: CV and Transcripts
  • Two Letters of Recommendation

Applicant Information Form

The Applicant Information Form is Part I of our online MBTG Application. To complete the form you will need:

  • Your personal contact information and department box number
  • Your mentor’s contact information including email and phone
  • Details on any prior NIH training grant or fellowship funding you have received
  • Prior degree information including overall GPA and GPA for science courses only.  You will likely have to calculate the latter of these yourself.
  • Information on any other degrees you have received, if applicable
  • The graduate courses you have taken, citations for any publications you have, and information about other academic activities like participation in conferences
  • The name and email of the individual who, in addition to your proposed mentor, will be providing a letter of recommendation
  • The title of your research proposal
  • OPTIONAL: NIH requires all training grants to report on the ethnic and racial background of its trainees, their disability status, and whether or not they come from a disadvantaged background.  However you are not required to provide this information if you do not want to.  Any information you do or don’t provide will not affect the review of your application.

Research Proposal


Research proposals must be written by the applicant (faculty mentors may provide general guidance). Because the MBTG is open to graduate students who might not yet have completed their first year, you are to propose a predoctoral research project that you would pursue if awarded a traineeship.  Explain what aspects of your proposed studies are molecular biophysical in nature. Because many new applicants will have only recently joined a lab, there is no expectation that an application will contain preliminary data obtained by the applicant.  If you include preliminary data in support of your proposal, state whether you or someone else collected it.


Research proposals should be no longer than four double-spaced pages of standard type (at least 12-point typeface) using 1″ margins. References, diagrams and illustrations are not included in the four-page limit. Proposals that do not conform to this format will be disqualified.

Proposal Sections

  • Title
  • Introduction (include a brief summary of background literature)
  • Project Specific Aims (what hypotheses will you test?)
  • Brief description of experimental and/or theoretical methods; highlight the aspects that make the project molecular biophysical
  • Feasibility (state how long it will take to complete the whole project and what you expect to accomplish in each year)

Submission Method

The proposal and all supporting documents can be uploaded in Part II of our online MBTG Application.  If you are able, please combine your proposal and supporting documents into a single pdf (see below).

Proposal Writing Tips

The following tips will help you write a competitive proposal for the Molecular Biophysics Training Grant, but they apply to any training grant application or postdoctoral fellowship application, and in large part to a research grant application.

The proposal should be “hypothesis-driven”

The aims of your proposal should clearly follow from your hypotheses. Begin writing with the hypotheses and let the experiments follow from that, rather than the other way round. If you propose a specific experiment or approach, what central idea will it test? How will the results you obtain allow you to test your hypothesis? One of the biggest mistakes people make is providing a list of experiments but not tying it to a specific hypothesis.

Consider alternatives

If the approach you propose as your central aim does not work or does not give the expected results, is your research project down the tubes? While no one can anticipate the outcome of every experiment, if there is a reasonable chance of your major aim not working be sure that you have thought of an alternate direction, even if you only briefly explain it.

Be sure your aims are realistic

A proposal that is too expansive will suggest to reviewers that you do not understand the practical limitations. Remember also that this is a 2-3 year training grant and that trainees are encouraged to complete their Ph.D. degrees by their fifth year in their graduate program. Projects that would take 3 people 4 years to complete are unrealistic, whereas a project that will be finished within a year shows that you have not considered the length of the grant.

Write for a general scientific audience

Your reviewers may know your field intimately, but more likely than not, they will know the area only superficially. It is your job to explain to the reviewer why the field is important and why the hypotheses you propose will provide important insight. It is a very good idea to give your proposal (and practice your presentation) to someone outside your field and ask them if there are areas that they find confusing.

Write clearly

When reviewers have to work through a lot of proposals, and often are rushed for time, they will be much less sympathetic to a poorly written or poorly organized proposal, no matter how brilliant the ideas.

Minimize jargon

While it might seem that you will impress a reviewer with your wonderful knowledge of a field by using technical terms, it is more likely to alienate a reviewer. If you have to use words specific to your field, then be sure that they are clearly explained. If you use acronyms, be sure they are explained and do not use more than are necessary. If you feel a list of abbreviations would be helpful, include one (this does not count toward the 4-page limit).

Make clear your contribution to any results and ideas

It is typical in scientific seminars that “we” is used since the results are usually the product of more than one person (a student and her/his faculty mentor, for example). But in a proposal, the reviewers want to know what you did and how much you contributed to the results and ideas that you present. Distinguish between what was done in the lab before you started and what have you done since or how what you propose to do is different than what has been done before (or is being done by others).

Supporting Documentation


  • Your CV, which should list scholarships, awards, publications, and research experience (previous full-time employment as well as lab rotations).
  • Copies of all college transcripts (including UW)

Submission Method

The proposal and all supporting documents can be uploaded in Part II of our online MBTG Application.  A single pdf is preferred, but if this is not feasible, you can upload multiple documents to a single submission, and use either Word or pdf format.

Please name the files with the last name of the applicant followed by a description of what the file contains (Example: “Jones_proposal_and_CV.pdf” or “Lee_all_documents.pdf”)

Transcripts may be submitted separately by the applicant’s Graduate Program Advisor or other representative of the applicant’s department or program.  Individuals submitting documents on behalf of the applicant can find instructions on our For Departments page.

Letters of Recommendation

Two letters of recommendation are required. To ensure consideration be sure that letters of recommendation are provided by the application deadline. Letter writers can find links to instructions and file upload on our For Faculty page.

Letter from the primary faculty mentor

Your proposed faculty mentor’s letter should:

  • Describe your academic progress and evaluate your research abilities
  • Confirm her/his willingness to take you as a PhD Student (if you are a first year student)
  • Confirm the availability of adequate funding to support your research
  • Confirm his/her willingness and ability to fulfill the requirements of an MBTG faculty member, if you are awarded a traineeship
  • Explain how much input they had in formulating your proposal

Second letter of recommendation

A second letter is required from an individual familiar with your research and/or academic record (e.g. previous lab rotation supervisor, undergraduate research supervisor, former employer).

Interview Instructions

Some applicants will be invited to interview with the Selection Committee. Invitations will be sent by email in early August, and interviews will be held in Mid August.   

  • Applicant will present a 10-minute oral presentation outlining their proposal.
    • Presentation medium: Interviews are in-person chalk talks with NO COMPUTERS allowed.
    • Presentation content: Be sure to highlight
      • the aspects of your proposed project that encompass molecular biophysics
      • why you are seeking a traineeship in molecular biophysics
  • Following the 10-minute oral presentation, members of the Selection Committee have 3 minutes to ask questions aimed at clarifying the application.


  • Application due date: Friday July 19, 2024
  • Interviews will be held: August 14, 2024
  • Decisions will be announced: Late August
  • Traineeship begins: September 16, 2024