SOAR Program

We encourage submitting applications by February 15, 2024, as priority consideration will be given to those received by this date. However, we will continue to welcome and review applications submitted after this deadline.

The University of Washington’s Substantial Opportunities in Addiction Research (UW-SOAR) Doctoral Readiness Program offers several research fellowships each year. 

The goal of this program is to provide a two-year research opportunity for recently graduated people from diverse backgrounds that were at an undergraduate institute with limited research opportunities. This includes people of historically marginalized groups, including ethnic minorities, people from economically disadvantaged groups and people with disabilities. This program provides students with a research experience in a laboratory at the UW NAPE (Neurobiology of Addiction, Pain and Emotion) Center under the direct mentorship of world-class scientists. Additionally, students will receive supplemental training in scientific writing, literature evaluation, professional development, and interaction with our diverse scientific community. Ultimately, the programs seek to facilitate the subsequent enrollment into neuroscience-related graduate programs.

SOAR is funded by the National Institute of Health via a R25 grant and is administered by the University of Washington Co-Principal Investigators listed below.

  • Susan Ferguson, UW-SOAR Program Co-Director, Professor, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Director, Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute (University of Washington)
  • Dr. Paul Phillips, UW-SOAR Program Co-Director, Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, and Pharmacology


Exposure to strong research programs is crucial to attracting talented, diverse trainees into the field of neuroscience. The UW-SOAR program believes that the historic underrepresentation of marginalized groups in neuroscience stems, in part, from lack of research opportunities in these groups during their undergraduate education. Thus, the UW SOAR Program, supported by the National Institute of Health, is committed to closing the gap of training diverse populations by providing laboratory and didactic training to a group of students who have recently graduated from B.S./B.A. granting programs and who wish to optimize their preparation for and successful completion of Neuroscience-related Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D program.


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Financial Support

The UW SOAR Program supports students, for up to two years, with a $40,000/year salary, plus benefits, educational allowance, and per diem/travel to one national conference.

Program Components

• Participant-lab matching
Upon acceptance into the UW-SOAR program, each participant will be matched with an appropriate laboratory based on the trainee’s background/interests.

• Research Experience
Trainees will be placed with a mentor, a post-doc or graduate student in the lab, who can direct different aspects of a cohesive, often interdisciplinary, research project. As the trainee gains independence, they will be responsible for all aspects of their own research project by collecting, analyzing, and reporting data.

• Seminars and research presentations:
Program participants will have multiple opportunities to present their research project and develop their written and oral communication skills. Participants will present their research at weekly lab meetings, NAPE seminars, the Undergraduate Research Symposium, and at conferences.

• Grant Writing Workshop:
Trainees will participate in an interactive grant writing workshop during the Spring/Summer of their second year in the program where they will develop and submit a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Application. This workshop aims to build critical skill for effective writing as well as help to demystify the grant-writing process.

• Scientific Development:
Trainees will participate in weekly lab meetings of faculty mentors, monthly journal club, weekly NAPE seminars, and other relevant seminars from affiliated programs (e.g., Neuroscience, MCB, Bioengineering).

• Program Team Building:
Participants will participate in activities requiring collaboration, teamwork, and group discussion such as the professional developments series and unstructured social activities.

• UW Community Building
Participants will meet with students from the UW Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation and the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity to discuss academic plans and challenges for URM STEM trainees. This networking opportunity allows for trainees to connect with URM at the UW who can help them build relationships within our community, outside of their laboratories.

• Career Development:
Trainees will be invited to meet with other post-bacs, undergraduates, and research technicians in NAPE labs to discuss professional development topics. Topics include time management, mentoring students, writing grant proposals, networking, writing a cover letter, and building a successful CV/portfolio.

• Industry Partnership Building:
Trainees will be exposed to industry connection by arranging field trips to local companies such as the Microsoft Corporation, the Allen Institute for Brain Science, The Fred Hutch Cancer Center, and The Seattle Children’s Research Institute. Trainees will also be invited to join panel discussions with successful scientists in industry positions. This effort provides students with insights into real world jobs that require advanced degrees in this discipline, and exciting discoveries and solutions that are made in the private sector.

• Neuroscience Bootcamp:
UW-SOAR program will partner with the UW-ENDURE undergraduate research program and the UW Graduate Program in Neuroscience to offer an annual 2-week ‘neuroscience bootcamp’ in August. The goal of this program is to help train students on problem-solving, code-writing, and experimental design, and expose students to primary literature material.

• Coursework:
Program participants will have the option to audit courses or to take courses for credit as a graduate nonmatriculated/non-degree student. All participants will take the 3 course Addiction Neuroscience series: PHCOL 534, Molecular Basis of Addiction, NEURO 511: Neural Circuits of Motivated Behavior and Addiction and CONJ 556: Addiction: Mechanisms, Treatment, Prevention.

• Graduate School Workshop:
The UW-SOAR program will partner will the UW Graduate Program in Neuroscience to offer a workshop on graduate school. The goal of the workshop is to make participants aware of issues related to the undergraduate pathway towards graduate school, graduate school application and the interview process, graduate school transition and success navigating graduate school.

• Graduate School Application Course:
UW-SOAR post-bacs will participate in a month-long class which will meet weekly for 2 hours during the Fall of their second year in the program. The class will focus on 1) Choosing the right schools for you; 2) Choose your letter writers; 3) What belongs in a CV and what does not; 4) Writing a compelling statement/essay; and 5) Preparing for an interview. Participants will be provided with tips and strategies for a successful application process and will be provided with helpful resources. The goal of this class is to have the post-bacs complete their graduate school applications a few weeks before application are due at most graduate schools.
• Individual Development Plan (IDP):
All participants and their mentors will be actively engaged in the development of an individualized plan to establish her/his/their strengths and weaknesses and develop the most effective mentoring, counseling, and academic support needed to gain the core competencies for successful completion of doctorate.

Trainee Profile

UW-SOAR scholars will include individuals who are US citizens or hold permanent resident status, and are also members of groups underrepresented in biomedical and behavioral sciences, including those from Hispanic, African American, Native Hawaiians Pacific Islander, American Indians, and Alaska Natives groups, as well as those with disabilities and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The program is also aimed at undergraduates across other dimensions of diversity, including those that were first-generation college students, members of the LGBTQIA community and women.

Participating Faculty

Please copy and paste the link below into your browser to see a complete list of participating faculty for the UW-SOAR Program