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Stipends and Benefits

Fellowship stipends will be competitive with federal guidelines as set by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with annual increases as allowed by these guidelines. Health insurance will also be provided. If funds are available, additional support is provided for teaching activities, travel for conferences, support for mentoring an undergraduate student, workshops on workplace skills, and participation in annual SPIRE events. Each fellowship is three years, based on available funding.

SPIRE scholars are eligible for all other benefits provided to traditional UNC-Chapel Hill postdocs (Office of Postdoctoral Affairs) including sick leave and vacation. UNC Chapel Hill’s policy allows for maternity/paternity leave.


Applicants can be current graduate students who will be defending before September or early in their postdoctoral stage with no more than 2 years since the date of their doctoral degree. Applicants will need to have completed all degree requirements before beginning the program in September, not necessarily at the time of application (February). Candidates from groups underrepresented in the biological, biomedical, chemical, and related STEM fields in sciences are strongly urged to apply and we welcome applicants from diverse backgrounds.

According to the NIH regulations for postdoctoral training grant eligibility: Applicants must be US citizens or non-citizen nationals, or have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence and possess an Alien Registration Receipt Card or some other verification of legal status as a permanent resident. Non-citizen nationals, although not US citizens, owe permanent allegiance to the US. They are generally born in lands, which are not states but are under US sovereignty, jurisdiction, or administration. Individuals on temporary or student visas are not eligible for SPIRE fellowships.

Finding a Research Lab: SPIRE applicants identify potential research labs at UNC Chapel Hill based on their graduate training, research interests and specific career goals, much as traditional postdocs do. Applicants can contact potential research mentors for acceptance into a laboratory at any time during the application process. A research lab and mentor do not need to be identified prior to applying to the program but does make for a stronger application. Once accepted into the SPIRE program, the fellowship can not be activated until the scholar is ready to join a lab. Program administrators are available to assist to provide information and guidance for identifying potential research labs should applicants have questions pertaining to the specific research environments available for SPIRE scholars. Research projects need to be aligned with NIGMS research areas. Under NIH guidelines for this grant, the program is unable to support applicants’ visits campus. The SPIRE program is open to working with potential research mentors to meet current SPIRE scholars and staff if potential mentors are able to support applicants to visit campus to meet their labs.

Application Review

Applications are reviewed by the SPIRE Academic Program Committee comprised of faculty at UNC Chapel Hill and our partner institutions. Review criteria includes research productivity, commitment to teaching and diversity, research discipline and potential fit with faculty mentors at UNC Chapel Hill, understanding of the responsibilities and partnership associated with the SPIRE program, strong letters of recommendation, and a commitment to an academic career that includes research and teaching. Applications are reviewed in February. A subset of applicants will be invited to an online interview with members of the Academic Program Committee in March and offers are made thereafter for a September start. Since SPIRE is a cohort-based program, applications are not considered on a rolling basis.

Applications are now closed for 2024. Check back in Fall 2024 for updates.

Fellowships are offered subject to funding availability. We seek applicants with research interests in the biological and biomedical sciences aligned with the research areas supported by NIGMS.

A complete application package consists of:

  • Complete an online application
  • Cover Letter and current CV online
  • Cover letter should state how the SPIRE Program will help you achieve your career goals, a brief description of your research interests and how your postdoctoral research will align with the research goals and research areas of NIGMS, your commitment to an academic career in research and teaching, how you would integrate your research interests during your teaching experience at our partner institutions and experience and interest in broadening access and educational opportunities to students of all backgrounds. It is strongly encouraged to list research faculty mentors of interest that align with research goals. Please limit your letter to 2 pages, single-spaced.
  • Three letters of reference

Reference letters should originate from faculty with whom you’ve worked and have been mentored by in research and/or teaching capacities. All reference letters should be submitted electronically directly from recommenders to Dr. Brian Rybarczyk at Microsoft Word or PDF are the accepted formats. Electronic versions of reference letters need to include letterhead and signature.

Please direct questions to Dr. Rybarczyk at