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NIH program allows junior investigators to bypass traditional post-doc training

A program designed to accelerate the entry of outstanding junior investigators into independent researcher positions immediately following completion of their graduate research degree or clinical residency has announced its first recipients. The National Institutes of Health Director's Early Independence Awards (EIA) is part of an NIH-wide effort to empower the biomedical research workforce, particularly through the support of investigators early in their careers. The EIA program effectively allows awardees to leapfrog over the traditional post-doctoral training period, capitalizing on the creativity, confidence, and energy of young scientists. The first group of awardees includes 10 exceptional junior investigators. NIH plans to commit approximately $19.3 million to support their research projects over a five-year period.

The NIH Common Fund developed the EIA program in response to an increasing trend in the length of the traditional scientific training period with a corresponding increase in the age at which scientists establish independent research careers. Although pursuing post-doctoral training is likely to be appropriate for the large majority of newly graduated researchers, there is a pool of young scientists who have the intellect, scientific creativity, drive, and maturity to flourish independently without the need for such training.

"The Early Independence Award enables outstanding investigators to establish their independent research careers as soon as possible," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. "These Early Independence Award recipients have demonstrated exceptional scientific creativity and productivity."

Below are the 2011 recipients' names, institutions, and research project titles.

2011 NIH Director's Early Independence Award Recipients

  • Nicole E. Basta, (Ph.D. expected in December), University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle. Antibody persistence after conjugate meningococcal group A vaccination in Mali.
  • John Calarco, Ph.D., Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. Investigating the role of alternative splicing regulatory networks in nervous system development and function.
  • James S. Fraser, Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco. The impact of mutation on the conformations and recognition of ubiquitin.
  • Randal Halfmann, Ph.D., UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas. Contributions of protein aggregation to gene regulation and phenotypic diversity.
  • Jeffrey M. Kidd, Ph.D., Stanford University School of Medicine, Calif. Characterizing the global architecture of genomic diversity.
  • Christoph Lepper, Ph.D., Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C. Molecular mechanisms of muscle stem cells transitioning into quiescence.
  • Carissa Perez Olsen, Ph.D., Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle. Defining the impact of lipid synthesis and turnover on aging in C. elegans.
  • Rodney C. Samaco, Ph.D., Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children's Hospital, Houston. The genetic and neuroanatomical origin of social behavior.
  • Harris H. Wang, Ph.D., Wyss Institute/Harvard Medical School, Boston. Functional metagenomic reprogramming of the human microbiome through mobilome engineering.
  • Daniela Witten, Ph.D., University of Washington School of Public Health. High-dimensional unsupervised learning with applications to genomics.

More information on the Early Independence Award is available at


Contact: NIH Office of Communications
NIH/Office of the Director

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