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NIDCR Dentist Scientist Career Transition Award for Intramural Investigators

Research Training and Career Development Branch
Division of Extramural Activities


The objective of the NIDCR Dentist Scientist Career Transition Award for Intramural Investigators is to provide highly qualified dentists in NIH Intramural postdoctoral fellowship positions with an opportunity to receive further mentored research experience in the NIH Intramural program, and then to provide them with independent funding to facilitate the transition of their research programs as new investigators at extramural institutions.


A major component of the NIDCR’s mission is to improve oral, dental and craniofacial health through research training, a shared responsibility of both the intramural and extramural programs. The NIH Clinical Center and its unique patient population provide an outstanding training environment for dentist scientists.  The Intramural training environment is further strengthened because of the availability of research mentors within the intramural programs across the NIH.  

Despite this rich environment, and despite the potential pipeline of dentist scientists being supported by NIDCR extramural training grants, fellowships and career development awards, NIDCR has had difficulty in recruiting new dentist scientists to postdoctoral clinical research fellowship positions in the Intramural Research Program.  Within the NIDCR Division of Intramural Research (DIR), there currently are no dentist scientist Clinical Research Fellows and only two dentist scientist Assistant Clinical Investigators (pre-tenure track).  One reason for the lack of success in recruiting dentist scientists is the perception that while NIH intramural clinical research training programs provide a very good postdoctoral research experience, there is little opportunity for career development and progression to independent positions.  Indeed, there are few intramural tenure-track positions available for junior investigators, and there is little opportunity for Intramural fellows to write grants that would make possible transition to extramural tenure-track positions. 

Both the NIDCR and the broader NIH Intramural programs have recognized this deficiency, and are committed to improving the career development aspects of Intramural fellowships.  The NIDCR is launching a broad effort to improve research training and career development opportunities for postdoctoral clinical research fellows in the Intramural Program.  This enhanced program will include courses and activities designed to improve skills and understanding in grant writing, clinical trials methodology, research design and management, statistical analysis, bioethics and other clinical research topics. 

One component of the clinical research fellowship program that is being examined is the availability of career development and transition award programs for Intramural fellows.  The NIH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award and the NIDCR K99/R00 Dentist Scientist Pathway to Independence Award are available to intramural investigators.  However, eligibility for these awards is limited to those candidates with no more than five years of postdoctoral research training.  While these awards are appropriate and sufficient for many of the fellows, there are some individuals – such as clinician scientists who have spent much of their postdoctoral research time in basic research before deciding to move into clinical research – who are beyond the five-year eligibility window by the time they gain the necessary clinical research expertise and a sufficient body of work to be competitive for research awards.  In the extramural community, such individuals are eligible to apply for the mentored K08 or K23 Career Development Awards.  However, Intramural investigators are not eligible to apply for these awards, so this subset of fellows has no prospect of transition funding.


To fill this gap in the Intramural career development program, NIDCR is proposing a new NIDCR Dentist Scientist Career Transition Award for Intramural Investigators.  The intent of this award is to support outstanding dentist scientists who are working in NIH Intramural clinical research programs, but who do not meet the eligibility requirements for the K99/R00.  The Award will help these individuals to complete mentored research training and career development in the NIH DIR, and to facilitate successful transition to extramural independent tenure-track positions, with adequate resources, protected time and laboratory support.  Like the K99/R00, the proposed program will support two phases of research – one to two years of mentored research training in an NIH intramural laboratory, followed by three years of support for an independent research project in an extramural institution. 

Eligibility for this proposed program will be limited to individuals holding a dental degree (DDS, DMD or equivalent).  

The career development plan during the mentored phase will be tailored to the needs of the individual candidate, and toward the ultimate goal of achieving independence as a researcher.  Transition to the independent phase would not be automatic, but is activated only after the awardee receives and accepts a formal offer for an independent tenure-track (or equivalent) position at an extramural institution.  That institution must demonstrate a commitment to the individual by providing at least 75% protected research time, as well as space, equipment and facilities needed to conduct the proposed research. 

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This page last updated: February 26, 2014