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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Glossary of Acronyms and Terms

Academic-IRTA - An academic training position for U.S. Citizens or U.S. Legal Permanent Residents who have been accepted into a master’s degree program at U.S. institutions
ADRD - Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias
CARD - Center for Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias (NIA and NINDS are both part of CARD at the NIH)
FAES - Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences
FTE - Full-time Employee
GS - General Schedule, the predominant pay scale for Federal employees
IC - Separate "Institutes and Centers" at the NIH
IRTA - Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA is an NIH hiring mechanism for postdoctoral, pre-doctoral, post-baccalaureate, technical, and student IPDS [Intramural Professional Designations]). The IRTA Fellowship program is designed to provide advanced training and practical research experiences to investigators early in their professional research careers. IRTA Traineeships are established for the principal benefit of the participant and to provide opportunities for developmental training and practical research experience in a variety of disciplines related to biomedical research, medical library research, and related fields).
MPS - Masters of Professional Studies
NIA - National Institute on Aging (at the NIH)
NIH - National Institutes of Health
NINDS - National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (at the NIH)
OIR - Office of Intramural Research (at the NIH)
OITE - Office of Intramural Training and Education (at the NIH)
UMBC - University of Maryland, Baltimore County (different from UMB which is the University of Maryland Baltimore in Baltimore City)


How long is the fellowship program and how many application periods will be administered?

Three application cohorts will be administered over the course of 3 years. Each cohort will begin with the fall semester (Cohort I - Fall 2022, Cohort II - Fall 2023, Cohort III - Fall 2024) and each cohort will last for 2 years.

How long is the fellowship program?

Each of the 3 cohorts will last for 2 years.

How many applicants are typically accepted as fellows/trainees?

Up to 4 qualifying applicants will be selected for each of the 3 cohorts (up to 12 awards for the entire program).

Who pays for the fellowship costs?

CARD covers all costs of the fellowship (except for books). Selected trainees will also receive an Academic-IRTA stipend according to the Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) at levels found here:

Will the NIH cover the fellows’ health insurance?


Can the fellowship be completed while working?

This program is designed for trainees to work full time at CARD during the 2 years of study as the MPS will be the necessary training the student will receive to be able to conduct research in data analysis. Full time means at least 8 hours/day, Monday-Friday. Courses will be taken in a virtual manner enabling trainees to take them from the NIH. Selected trainees will receive an Academic-IRTA stipend according to the Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) levels found here:

What happens if extra time beyond 2 years is needed to complete the program?

The expectation is that trainees will be able to complete their coursework within their 2-year cohort.

What happens if a trainee drops out of the fellowship before completing the degree?

Consideration will be given on a case-by-case basis for trainees to take a brief break due to extenuating circumstances such as illness.

In what field(s) could one get opportunities by studying this program?

Data science, genetics, computer science, neuroscience.

What preliminary courses would you advise for someone with little background in data science/biology to prepare for this program?

Introductory courses to general coding skills, including python and R, machine learning, etc.

What would you recommend potential applicants work on to make themselves more competitive for the program?

Previous training or achievements in the data science field will be evaluated positively. It is important to show passion for data science and specific motivation for research in ADRD.

Would the MPS fellowship help me advance my career in nursing?

The MPS fellowship would help if an individual is a research nurse interested in applying data science as part of their research job.


Can a non-U.S. Citizen or non-U.S. Legal Permanent Resident apply for the fellowship?

No. Applicants must be a U.S. Citizen or U.S. Legal Permanent Resident. Refer to the below list of required identity and IRTA eligibility documents:

  • United States Passport (Current or Expired)
  • Certificate of United States Citizenship
  • Certificate of Naturalization
  • Lawful Permanent Resident Card (green card) with photograph
  • A State-issued driver’s license or I.D. card with a photograph, or information including name, sex, date of birth, height, weight (if on license), and color of eyes AND birth certificate
  • School ID card with photograph AND birth certificate
  • U.S. Military Card AND birth certificate
  • Other Officially issued identifying document that provides proof of U.S. citizenship or permanent residency status may be acceptable at the discretion of the IC designated program administrative official
Are there other ways interested international students or international fellows with a J1 or H1-B visa can also take advantage of this opportunity?

International students will not be able to take advantage of this particular opportunity due to Academic-IRTA restrictions at NIH. However, if you are interested in the work that we do, please reach out to us for additional information at

If a student does not have a green card but they are about to get one before the fall term begins could they apply to this program?

Potential candidates will need to have their green card at the time of applying for the fellowship program.

Can I apply for the fellowship if I have applied to UMBC but have not yet been accepted or have been accepted and not started classes?

If you have applied to UMBC and did not get accepted you are not eligible for the fellowship. If you have applied and you are waiting to hear from UMBC you are eligible for the fellowship. If you have been accepted by UMBC for this coming semester and the classes have not started yet you can still apply for the fellowship.

If I have started classes at FAES and/or UMBC would I still be eligible to apply to the program?

If you have taken classes at FAES you will be able to apply for the fellowship program but we will not pay retroactively the courses that have been taken nor will you be able to transfer them or apply previous FAES coursework toward the fellowship.

I will be transitioning into a position at the NIH. Am I eligible to participate in the program?

If you work at the NIH in an institute different from CARD, you are still eligible for the program but will need to resign your current position to work at CARD.

Am I eligible for the fellowship if I am an active NIH postbac?

Yes, but you would need to resign your current postbac position and join as an Academic-IRTA at CARD.

Am I eligible for the fellowship if I am an active NIH postdoc?

An active NIH postdoc cannot participate in this program as a postdoc, but an active NIH postdoc may resign their postdoc and transition to an Academic-IRTA and receive the Academic-IRTA stipend. However, once a person is an NIH postdoc for any period of time, they must be in accordance with the 5-year rule, and the clock never restarts for postdocs, even if transitioning to another IRTA appointment type. Therefore, a current NIH postdoc could only hypothetically switch to an Academic-IRTA and do this program if 2 years remain on their IRTA clock. 

Would a medical graduate qualify for this fellowship?

Yes, if the individual has a statistics or mathematical background. It is also recommended when applying to the fellowship to include a strong statement explaining why you want to become a data scientist.

What is the required level of education/training needed to apply for the fellowship?

MPS degree application requirements:

  • Bachelor's degree in any subject with a GPA of 3.0 or higher; preferably in computation or biomedical field
  • Applicants must have completed at least one college-level math, statistics, or programming course. This requirement can be substituted for equivalent professional experience or through online training academies.
Would applicants with a non-computer science/non-math-oriented background have a good chance of being accepted to the fellowship and do well?

Yes, if the applicant is passionate about data science and willing to learn.


What is the required coursework at FAES and UMBC?

Please visit the FAES fellowship portal at for a detailed list of courses by semester.

Can coursework completed under this program transfer to other graduate institutions?

No. The intention of this program is not to do so.

What is the minimum number of credits to take per semester?

There is no minimum number of credits to take per semester but the schedule outlined on the FAES fellowship portal should be followed (

Explain why 15 of the 16 FAES credits earned over the 2-year program (as posted on the fellowship application portal) will be granted by UMBC.

The MPS = 30 credits of which 15 will be from UMBC and 16 from FAES, since there are no 1 credit courses eligible for transfer to this program or 3 credit courses at FAES.

What are the requirements to get the MPS degree?

Students will need to graduate with a GPA = 3.0 or above.

How many times can you retake a course?

A course can be repeated only once.

What happens if I do not pass a course?

Trainees will have the chance to retake a failed course one time.

What happens if a trainee fails a course a second time?

According to UMBC Academic Policy, a course can only be repeated one time.

What happens if a course is incomplete (“I”) or switched to audit (“AU”)?

If you did not complete a course with a B grade or better, you will have to take it again the following semester.

What happens if the selected trainee has previously taken some of the FAES courses from the program?

Deviations from the established coursework will be discussed on a case-by-case basis.

Training at CARD and Career Outcomes 

Given that courses are offered in the Fall and Spring semesters, how many hours a week will trainees work at CARD during those semesters while taking classes?

Trainees will be working full time during the 2 years by applying acquired knowledge to research projects. Full time means at least 8 hours/day, Monday-Friday. All courses will be offered in a virtual manner enabling trainees to take them from the NIH.

Aside from pursuing the degree, would you also be able to do research under a lab? Is that the fellowship portion of this program?

Yes, this is a research-intensive program. Trainees will apply the acquired knowledge in data science to research projects in the ADRD space and on a daily basis. There is no “lab” work but computer related research.

Will trainees be able to finish the work started with their current labs?

No. Trainees will work as full-time employees at CARD.

Will the selected trainees work specifically with a research group or random trials through the program?

During year 1, trainees will have the chance to shadow different data scientists and explore ongoing research projects at CARD. Trainees will have flexibility to conduct research on the projects they might find more interesting and come up with new ideas.

How does the CARD mentorship work?

Selected trainees will have a data science mentor at CARD. Meetings with the assigned mentor will happen weekly. In addition, selected trainees will attend bi-weekly meetings to discuss science with the whole data science group and will join Basecamp to communicate with other trainees to solve data science issues on a daily basis.

What are CARD's expectations from research fellows who wish to pursue this MPS degree at UMBC?
  • Complete MPS course work and pass courses
  • Full-time research implementing acquired training at CARD
  • Bi-weekly meetings with your team
  • Weekly meetings with your mentor
  • Capstone research project relevant to CARD work in addition to other research responsibilities

Also refer to the response regarding the structure of trainee responsibilities.

How is the fellowship structured in terms of trainee responsibilities?
  • The selected trainee will take an average of ~7-8 credits per semester (it is doable, the classes are designed for beginners).
  • Then the trainee would be able to apply the acquired knowledge to the projects we conduct at CARD – it is assumed that the selected trainee will start from scratch.
  • The trainee would have a virtual mentor and would meet with him/her every week and the CARD team at biweekly meetings.
  • The trainee would be connected with the CARD team (and other trainees through BaseCamp).
Do you have available open resources for analysis of curated data at CARD?

Yes, as outlined below, there are many data sources and tools that are currently being used to do research at CARD but are subject to change. CARD is growing additional data in house to fill known knowledge gaps! Please check periodically on our website at

Large population / cohort scale data

-       UK Biobank

-       GP2

-       NIA epidemiological cohorts

-       Mexican biobank

-       Alzheimer’s disease data initiative


Deep molecular data

-       iNDI

-       FOUNDIN

-       CRISPRBrain

-       Accelerating Medicines Partnerships

Are trainees who finish the program hired into CARD as Data Scientists upon completion?

CARD aims to retain talent. However, CARD cannot ensure that selected trainees will be hired after finishing the MPS.

Is there a job opportunity after courses are completed?

One of CARD’s main goals is to train the next generation of scientists in the ADRD space and to retain talent. After the fellowship is completed, a job at CARD is not guaranteed. However, you will be able to build connections for potential future opportunities. You will have the opportunity to know CARD collaborators.

Are there research opportunities at CARD for current UMBC MPS students? Whom can we contact for further information?

Yes, there are additional opportunities to do research at CARD. Please reach out to for additional information.