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NIST Professional Research Experience Program (PREP)

About the Program

Created by NIST Boulder in 1991, the Professional Research Experience Program (PREP) is designed to provide valuable laboratory experience and financial assistance to undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, and faculty.  The program is intended to assure continued growth and progress of a highly skilled science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) workforce in the United States.

Funding Opportunity Description: The NIST PREP is seeking applications from eligible institutions of higher education in the U.S. and its territories that offer two- or four- year degrees in academic science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines to establish and manage a program to support collaborative research relationships in the NIST labs. Eligible applicants may apply to establish and manage a program at the relevant NIST campuses in Boulder, Colorado (CO) (PREP Boulder), Gaithersburg, Maryland (MD) (PREP Gaithersburg), and/or Charleston, South Carolina (SC) (PREP Gaithersburg).

Anticipated Amounts: In FY22, NIST anticipates funding up to nine (9) awards for approximately $200 million in total with a project performance period of up to five years. New awards are expected to range from approximately $250,000 to$20,000,000 annually at PREP Boulder and from $500,000 to $24,000,000annually at PREP Gaithersburg, with project performance periods of up to five (5) years, consistent with the multi-year funding policy described in Section II.2. of this NOFO. NIST may fund up to approximately $200 million for PREP awards operating across the NIST campuses in Boulder, CO, Gaithersburg, MD and Charleston, SC over five years. The specific number of awards will be determined during the selection process, based on the nature and quality of the proposals NIST receives and funding availability.

Eligibility: Eligible applicants include accredited institutions of higher education that offer two- or four-year degrees in the U.S. and its territories in academic disciplines relevant to the technical programs of the NIST laboratories and major programs. For the purposes of this NOFO, these disciplines include (but may not be limited to) artificial intelligence, biochemistry, biological sciences, chemistry, computer science, engineering, electronics, information technology, materials science, mathematics, nanoscale science, neutron science, physical sciences, physics, social sciences, scientific/technical writing, science and technology policy, and statistics. Although Federal entities are not eligible to receive funding under this NOFO, they may participate as unfunded collaborators.

Dates: Full Applications must be received at no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time, September 30, 2022. Applications received after this deadline will not be reviewed or considered. Please note that the due date has been extended from the original posting.

Anticipated Announcement and Award Date

Review of applications, selection of successful applicants, and award processing is expected to be completed by November 2022. The earliest start date for awards under this NOFO is expected to be December 2022.

Apply here

Read the Notice of Funding Opportunity here.

Participating NIST Laboratories and User Facilities

PREP researchers contribute to on-going research in the NIST laboratories at PREP Boulder (operating on the Boulder, Colorado site) or PREP Gaithersburg (operating at the Gaithersburg, Maryland and Charleston, South Carolina sites).  You are encouraged to visit the laboratory's webpages to learn about the multi-disciplinary nature of the NIST laboratories and laboratory facilities.

Participating PREP Universities

PREP operates  two distinct sub-programs. The following PREP universities were selected based on the criteria mentioned in the  Notice of Funding Opportunity 

PREP Boulder 

  • Brown University

  • Colorado School of Mines

  • University of Colorado Boulder

  • University of Colorado Denver

PREP Gaithersburg 

  • Brown University

  • Georgetown University

  • JUMBO Consortium (Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University, and State University of New York Binghamton)

  • Montgomery College

  • Towson University

  • University of the District of Columbia

  • University of Maryland College Park

PREP Researcher Appointments

PREP is a competitive program and driven by demand of the NIST laboratories. Generally, the request starts with NIST having an opportunity and funding for a researcher. NIST partners with the PREP Universities to advertise and recruit for the appointments.  

As required by the NOFO, PREP researchers are required to be affiliated with a participating university. PREP appointments occur by the following mechanisms:

  • Recruitment by a participating university for a NIST opportunity and posted on their websites.
  • Proposal of a research opportunity which aligns with the NIST mission and skillset to a NIST scientist directly.

Current PREP Research Opportunities

Interested applicants should visit the websites below to view available PREP openings. 

Gaithersburg Campus:

Boulder Campus

    Still have questions? See the FAQ's  or send an e-mail to prep [at] (subject: PREP%20Inquiry)

    NIST PREP Program

    Five of the PREP postdocs currently working in MML on the Gaithersburg campus (from left): Jasjeet Bhullar, Sarah Robinson, Caglar Emiroglu, Adam Hannon and Huong Giang Nguyen.

    Credit: Jason Stoughton/NIST


    Created May 30, 2017, Updated September 28, 2022