Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology (PRFB)

Funding Agency:
National Science Foundation

The Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) awards Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology (PRFB) to recent recipients of the doctoral degree for research and training in selected areas supported by BIO and with special goals for human resource development in biology. For proposals under this solicitation, these areas are (1) Broadening Participation of Groups Underrepresented in Biology, (2) Integrative Research Investigating the Rules of Life Governing Interactions Between Genomes, Environment and Phenotypes, and (3) Plant Genome Postdoctoral Research Fellowships. 

The fellowships encourage independence at an early stage of the research career to permit Fellows to pursue their research and training goals in the most appropriate research locations in collaboration with sponsoring scientists. It is expected that the sponsoring scientists will actively mentor the Fellows and will greatly benefit from collaborating with these talented early-career scientists and incorporating them into their research groups. The research and training plan of each fellowship must address important scientific questions within the scope of BIO and the specific guidelines in this fellowship program solicitation. Because the fellowships are offered to postdoctoral scientists only early in their careers, NSF encourages doctoral students to discuss the availability of these postdoctoral fellowships with their doctoral mentors and potential postdoctoral sponsors early in their doctoral programs to take full advantage of this funding opportunity. Fellowships are awards to individuals, not institutions, and are administered by the Fellows. 

Full Proposal Deadline(s): November 29, 2023

Agency Website

Areas of Interest

Currently, BIO offers Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology in the following three areas:

Competitive Area 1. Broadening Participation of Groups Underrepresented in Biology

These fellowships have been offered since 1990, originally as the NSF Minority Postdoctoral Research Fellowships, to increase the participation of underrepresented groups in biology. Through this Competitive Area BIO seeks to increase the diversity of scientists explicitly at the postdoctoral level in biology. The program supports a wide range of biological research and training across the full range of BIO's research programs.

Competitive Area 2. Integrative Research Investigating the Rules of Life Governing Interactions Between Genomes, Environment and Phenotypes

Through this Competitive Area, BIO aims to stimulate creative integration of diverse subdisciplines of biology using combinations of observational, experimental, theoretical, and computational approaches to discover underlying principles operating across hierarchical levels of life, from biomolecules to organisms to ecosystems. Research activities under this Competitive Area should lead to new understanding of how higher-order structures and functions of biological systems result from the interactions of heterogeneous biological components, as shaped by the environment and evolutionary processes furthering predictive capability of how key properties and mechanisms of living systems emerge from the interactions of genomes, environments, and phenotypes.

Competitive Area 3. Plant Genome Postdoctoral Research Fellowships

This Competitive Area allows recipients to focus their studies on genome-scale research at the frontier of plant biology and of broad societal importance. The research and training plan of each fellowship must address important scientific questions within the scope of the goals of the Plant Genome Research Program - to provide tools and knowledge to solve intractable, challenging biological questions, revolutionize agriculture, address fundamental societal issues, advance the bioeconomy and build a scientifically engaged population. The program has a broad scope and supports studies of plants across the kingdom. Highly competitive proposals will describe interdisciplinary training and research on a genome-wide scale to provide new insights into plant processes.

Eligibility Requirements

Proposals may only be submitted by the following:

  • Proposals must be submitted by the individual and not the host institution.

    NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology proposals are submitted directly by the fellow to NSF and the award is made directly to the postdoctoral fellow. Each postdoctoral fellow must identify a sponsoring scientist(s) and must affiliate with an appropriate U.S. or international host institution(s) at the time of proposal submission e.g., U.S. Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs), private nonprofit institutes and museums, government agencies and laboratories, and, under special conditions and with prior approval from a Program Officer, for-profit organizations. Appropriate international institutions include institutions of higher education.

The PRFB awards are intended primarily for graduate students who are seeking independent support for their first postdoctoral position, or postdoctoral Fellows early in their careers. Proposers are not eligible for this award if they have worked in any position that requires the doctoral degree for a combined total of more than 15 full time months prior to the deadline.

An individual is eligible to submit a proposal to any Competitive Area if all of the following criteria are met:

  • Must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or U.S. permanent resident, i.e., have a "green card," at the time of submission ;
  • Must present a research plan that falls within the purview of BIO and the focus for each of the selected areas, as described in this solicitation;
  • Must earn the doctoral degree in an appropriate field prior to beginning the fellowship;
  • Must select sponsoring scientists, departments, and institutions that offer a significant opportunity to broaden your research focus and training; and
  • Must not have submitted the same research to another NSF postdoctoral fellowship program.

Proposals that fail to meet the above eligibility requirements will be returned without review.

Only individuals may submit proposals. There is no limit on the number of fellows that an institution may host.

Individuals may submit only one fellowship proposal to BIO per fiscal year and may submit no more than twice for all Postdoctoral Fellowships in Biology.

Amount Description

Estimated Number of Awards: 60

Fellowships per year; the number of awards in each Competitive Area is contingent upon availability of funds.

Anticipated Funding Amount: $15,000,000

Approximately $12 million for Competitive Areas 1 and 2; and up to $3 million for Competitive Area 3, from the Plant Genome Research Program in the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS). Funding is contingent upon availability of funds.

Funding Type



Post Doctoral Fellows


Environmental & Life Sciences

External Deadline

November 29, 2023