NRT Program

Click to download the 2020-2021 CASBBI NRT Program Flyer

The application window for admission to the 2023-2024 cohort is now open until February 19, 2023. Please click here to apply!

CASBBI’s NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) Program is training the next generation of leaders to take on some of the most challenging problems faced by society today.

CASBBI NRT trainees are tackling the opioid use epidemic, mental and behavioral health disorders and enabling individuals with disabilities to participate fully in needed and desired life roles and activities.

These complex problems cannot be addressed by one individual or even one discipline. The next generation of leaders charged with addressing these challenges must work together across traditional academic disciplinary boundaries to integrate engineering, data science and social science knowledge, while meaningfully engaging with stakeholder communities in a mutually beneficial manner.

The CASBBI NRT program is designed to cross-train graduate students from engineering, data science, and social science disciplines to:

  1. Define a problem from multiple perspectives based on disciplinary knowledge, lived experiences, and community knowledge
  2. Utilize design thinking principles to break down open-ended problems
  3. Develop creative solutions by adapting and applying theories and methodologies from different disciplines
  4. Communicate effectively with stakeholders and broad audiences
  5. Work productively on diverse multidisciplinary teams
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.

A core element of the CASBBI NRT experience is participation in a year-long community-engaged design project. Multidisciplinary teams of NRT trainees are immersed in community settings, challenging the traditional hierarchies between researchers and participants by engaging community stakeholders as full participants in the research process. The NRT trainees work with community stakeholders to identify challenges and needs within a community, formulate a research question, and engage in participatory design to develop and test ecologically valid solutions. Trainees complete this project as part of a two-course sequence: Community-Engaged Interdisciplinary Design I and II (PROV801/802). Click here to learn more about partnering with the NRT program.

As part of the program, trainees have an opportunity to 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 the NRT trainees here and learn more about their community-engaged design projects here. The next trainee cohort starts in Summer 2022!

For more information about the program, contact Program Director Siddhartha Sikdar at or see our Frequently Asked Questions. You are also welcome to join us at a CASBBI NRT event. Click here for a calendar of events.

Disclaimer: Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.