Eligibility Requirements

Goal of the program:

The goal of the program is to provide opportunities for accomplished investigators still early in their careers to study what happens at the points where human and microbial systems connect. The program supports research that sheds light on the fundamentals that affect the outcomes of this encounter: how colonization, infection, commensalism and other relationships play out at levels ranging from molecular interactions to systemic ones.

Studies supported by the program may have their roots in pathogen or host biology but the focus of the work should be on the interplay of host and microbe.

The program emphasizes research that opens up unexplored areas.  Research on under-studied infectious diseases, including pathogenic fungi, protozoan and metazoan diseases, and emerging infections is especially of interest. In addition, excellent animal models of human disease, including work done in veterinary research settings, are within the program’s scope. Interdisciplinary approaches are encouraged. This is a career development award for individual investigators and does not support collaborative teams.

The awards are intended to give recipients the freedom and flexibility to pursue high-risk projects and new avenues of inquiry. Work supported will have the potential to significantly advance the understanding of how microbes and the human system interact, especially in the context of infection. Biochemical, pharmacological, molecular, genetic, immunologic, and other approaches are all appropriate for support by the program. Areas of particular interest include:

  • Cell/Pathogen interactions—studies of host responses at the cell surface, cell signaling in response to infection, microbial persistence in host cells, and other work.
  • Host/Pathogen interactions—studies of how host genetics influences resistance and susceptibility to infection, innate and adaptive immune responses to microbes, pathogen modulation of the immune system, and other work.
  • Novel routes to disease causation—studies of the role of infectious agents in the etiology of chronic, autoimmune, and immunologic diseases, and other work.

Approaches that fit into these frameworks might include the study of host susceptibility to particular pathogens, host resistance to chronic or acute disease, or basic studies of infectious microbes—as long as the work is oriented toward understanding how the organism and host interact. Virulence factors, immune mechanisms, and genetic studies in microbes and the host all provide fertile ground for this kind of study. Nominating institutions should note that research on under-funded and under-studied organisms is especially of interest: proposed work in well-funded systems may be viewed as less relevant to the program’s goals.

Eligibility Requirements

Candidate eligibility and institutional nomination requirements are set out below.  It might also be helpful to understand the selection criteria as well as the terms of the grant to ensure all requirements can be met.  Additional questions may be answered through the FAQs for this program.

An eligibility quiz has been created to assist you in determining whether or not you are eligible to apply for this award. Successful completion of the quiz will take you to the next application step. You will be notified upon conclusion of the quiz if you are not eligible to continue. 

Applicants are always encouraged to contact the program officer directly about their planned proposal, their competitiveness for the award, or other questions.  The program officer, Victoria McGovern, Ph.D., can be reached by email or phone.

As a supplement to direct conversations with the program officer, BWF staff will hold three conference calls between August and October, 2014 for applicants relatively new to preparing faculty-level grants and for interested administrators.  These calls will both disseminate general information and reinforce the message that calling program staff individually with questions is a good thing to do.

The conference call time and dates are:

  • Dates:  TBD
  • Time: 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time
  • Dial in number for all calls:
  • Passcode for all calls:  

After reviewing the requirements, take the eligibility quiz to determine whether or not you are eligible to apply for this award.  If you meet the eligibility requirements, the system will allow you to begin an application. If you answer the quiz falsely to gain access to the application form, expect your application to be found ineligible after submission.


  • Candidates will generally have an M.D., D.V.M., or Ph.D. degree. (References to degrees include all types of medical and scientific doctoral level degrees.) BWF particularly encourages human health-relevant applications from veterinary scientists.
  • Candidates must have an established record of independent research and hold a tenure-track position as an assistant professor or equivalent at the time the application is submitted.  Researchers recently appointed to a faculty position may not have a demonstrated track record sufficient to compete successfully for this award.  Exceedingly few newly appointed assistant professors have sufficient independence. Most successful applicants are at or past their third complete year as an Assistant Professor.
  • Candidates must be nominated by accredited, degree-granting institutions in the United States or Canada.
  • Applications from non-tenure track investigators in tenure-offering, degree-granting departments or institutions will not be accepted.
  • Applications from institutions or departments that do not offer tenure may or may not be accepted. Please see “Institutional Nomination Guidelines" below.
  • Candidates must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States or Canada at the time of application. Documentation of permanent resident status must be provided with the application. Permanent residents of the United States must provide a copy of their Permanent Resident Card (green card) or a copy of a current passport with an I-551 stamp. Permanent residents of Canada must provide a copy of their Landed Immigrant Status form. Persons who have applied for permanent resident status but have not received their government documentation by the time of application are not eligible.
  • Candidates at the appropriate career stage who have held or are currently holding a Burroughs Wellcome Fund award must contact BWF in advance to determine eligibility for this program.

Institutional Nominations

  • A U.S. or Canadian institution— including its medical school, graduate schools, and all affiliated hospitals and research institutes—may nominate up to two candidates.
  • To encourage applications from veterinarians, institutions that nominate a researcher who holds the D.V.M. will be allowed three nominations.
  • Institutions may have a single additional nomination for each category if they nominate a researcher working in pathogenic helminths, mycology, or reproductive science.
  • BWF encourages institutions to nominate underrepresented minorities and women for this program.  Institutions may have an additional nomination if they nominate a member of an underrepresented minority group (i.e., African American, Hispanic or Native American).
  • Applications from institutions or departments that do not offer tenure must demonstrate an extremely strong institutional commitment, congruent to the level of investment and commitment that is traditionally dedicated to tenure-track hires.
  • The institution must submit a statement of nomination for each candidate. In this statement, BWF expects that the institution will tangibly demonstrate its commitment to support each candidate it nominates, including the protection of 75 percent of the grantee’s time for research.

Questions regarding candidate or institutional eligibility, or eligibility of specific projects, should be directed in advance through email to Dr. Victoria McGovern or by calling (919) 991-5112.