NRT Program

CASBBI’s NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) Interdisciplinary Program in Disability-related Research trains a versatile, community-engaged STEM workforce with the skills necessary to harness the data revolution and create fundamental, convergent research and translational innovations aimed at challenges related to disability.

CASBBI trainees and faculty at the CASBBI Annual Retreat. Photo by Katie Maney/Institute for Biohealth Innovation/George Mason University

The NRT program involves an individualized interdisciplinary curriculum, scaffolded by laboratory rotations and hands-on workshops, a year-long community-engaged design project, and training in entrepreneurship, communication skills and team science. Individualized curriculums are tailored to trainees to comply with the requirements of their home graduate degree programs. A limited number of NSF-sponsored one-year fellowships are available for eligible trainees. Learn more about fellowship opportunities here.

As part of the program, trainees will design data-driven solutions for disabilities associated with sensorimotor, psychosocial or cognitive impairment.  For example, students will utilize their training in data analytics, wearable sensors and imaging to:

    • design new technology-assisted methods for personalized service delivery,
    • develop new machine learning algorithms to support the next generation of brain computer interfaces and improved prosthetic control systems;
    • advance research on virtual reality-based multi-sensory training.

Meet our first cohort of NRT trainees here and learn more about their community-engaged design projects here.

NRT Traineeship Timeline:


For more information about the program,  contact Program Director Siddhartha Sikdar at or see our Frequently Asked Questions.

How to Apply

Applying to join the NRT program is a three-step process:

1) If you are not currently a Mason graduate student, apply to one of the graduate programs. Participating programs include, but are not limited to:

2) Submit an application for the traineeship. The application to join the Summer 2021 cohort will open this Fall. Please check back here for the link. 

3) Select applicants will be invited for a 30-minute videocall with the NRT team.


Frequently Asked Questions

Application-related questions

Do I need to submit a letter of recommendation with my traineeship application?
No, you do not need to submit a letter of recommendation with your application. On the application we request the contact information for one professional reference. For select applicants, we will solicit a letter of recommendation separately.

Are the laboratories and/or mentors that I select on the application binding?
No, the laboratories and/or mentors that you select on the traineeship application are not binding.

Program-related questions

Who is eligible to participate in the training program?
NRT trainees are George Mason University graduate students. Trainees may apply as prospective Mason graduate students or during their early graduate career. The training program lasts the length of a trainee’s graduate career. U.S. citizens, nationals, permanent residents, and international students may fully participate in the program. One year National Science Foundation (NSF) NRT fellowships are available for eligible students in their second or third year of graduate study.

Is there funding available for trainees?
Trainees who are U.S. citizens, nationals, and permanent residents are eligible for a one year NSF-funded fellowship. NSF-funded trainees must be a Mason master’ or doctoral-level student enrolled in a research-based STEM degree program that requires a thesis or dissertation. The fellowship includes a $34,000 stipend and covers tuition, fees, and health insurance. The application for funding is the same as the application to join the training program.

Trainees who are not eligible for the NSF-funded fellowships are typically funded by research and/or teaching assistantships through faculty mentors or home graduate programs. We encourage trainees to contact CASBBI faculty to learn more about funding opportunities they may have available.

What will I get out of the traineeship program?
Trainees will benefit from an individualized interdisciplinary curriculum, scaffolded by laboratory rotations and hands-on workshops; a year-long community-engaged design project; and training in entrepreneurship, communication skills and team science. By the end of your graduate program, we anticipate that you will have Convergence Learning skills in i) Knowledge integration, ii) Procedural learning; iii) Transfer of learning; iv) Communication; and v) Team science.

    1. Knowledge integration: Applies knowledge based on a disciplinary foundation and integrates knowledge from different disciplines; can define a problem using multiple perspectives based on disciplinary knowledge, lived experience and community knowledge.
    2. Procedural learning: Knows how, when, and why to apply different methodological approaches to problems and questions.
    3. Transfer of learning: Independently adapts and applies skills, abilities, theories, or methodologies gained in one situation to new situations to explore complex issues in original ways.
    4. Communication: Demonstrates teamwork, critical and reflective thinking, and intercultural knowledge and competence to communicate effectively with community stakeholders
    5. Team science attitude: Values the diversity of the multiple disciplines, perspectives, and experiences that support convergence and team science.

What is the summer laboratory rotation?
As part of the interdisciplinary training experience, trainees have the opportunity to complete a summer rotation in a laboratory outside of their home discipline. Projects will be developed with input from the trainee, their primary mentor (home department) and co-mentor (rotation laboratory). Summer rotation projects may inform a trainee’s Master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation. Trainees are asked to identify a potential summer rotation laboratory during the application process. Trainees may rotate in a CASBBI-affiliated laboratory or another laboratory, with permission.