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Rheumatology T32 Training Grant

Our Mission

There is a critical need to train highly competent MD and PhD investigators to conduct patient-oriented research leading to improved care for patients with arthritis and related conditions. The shortage of clinical research trainees has reached crisis proportions in academic medicine and this urgent situation is especially pertinent for Rheumatology research trainees. The long-term, overriding, goal of the Northwestern University Rheumatology Research Training Program is to nurture motivated, bright, enthusiastic, well-trained, academically-oriented MDs and PhDs in their pursuit of careers in Rheumatology investigation, training them to become the next generation of leaders in research. 

The specific objectives of this training grant are:

  •  Develop basic, translational, and clinical postdoctoral scientists, who are capable of independently performing hypothesis-driven research that addresses the needs of patients with arthritis, musculoskeletal disorders, and autoimmune disorders
  • Provide basic, translational, and clinical science trainees a rigorous base of classroom study in the disciplines necessary for successfully conducting research relevant to disease etiology, genomics, pathogenesis, outcomes, and for the provision of innovative care to adult and pediatric patients with rheumatic disease
  • Sustain and improve an administrative structure that enhances the training environment
  • Continue and improve an ongoing evaluation process, modifying the program when appropriate to meet its goals and objectives
  • Provide comprehensive resources and support that assist in work-life integration, financial stability, relationship communication, and future planning
  • Provide stipend support including child/adult day care and support for data management and analysis
  • Support a diverse and inclusive environment 



Program Directors and Administration

Perlman.jpeg Harris R Perlman: Program Director

Dr. Perlman is the Chief of the Division of Rheumatology and Director of the Rheumatology T32. At Northwestern, he has mentored over 8 postdoctoral fellows, 3 rheumatology clinical fellows, and multiple research and clinical faculty. He was awarded Mentor of the Year in 2022 by the Feinberg School of Medicine.

lee-headshot.jpg Yvonne LeeAssociate Director

Dr. Lee is Associate Director of the Rheumatology T32. She is also Associate Director of the Rheumatology Core Center for Clinical Research (P30) and Director of the Clinical Coordinator Pool for the Division of Rheumatology. She was awarded an NIH K24 award in 2023 in recognition of her dedication to mentoring.

Charon Gladfelter
Division Administrator

 Program Eligibility and Application Process

Program Eligibility

The Rheumatology T32 has training slots available each year for two postdoctoral trainees (MD or PhD) who support the research mission of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Trainees must possess an MD, PhD, or equivalent doctoral degree from an accredited domestic or foreign institution, may work in the laboratory of one of the T32 mentors and must meet NRSA citizenship and support requirements:

  • Citizenship: Any individual to be trained must be a citizen or noncitizen national of the United States or have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence at the time of appointment. 
  • NRSA Support: No individual trainee may receive more than five years of aggregate Kirschstein-NRSA support at the predoctoral level and three years of aggregate Kirschstein-NRSA support at the postdoctoral level, including any combination of support from Kirschstein-NRSA institutional research training grants and individual fellowships.

For more information on NRSA eligibility requirements, see the NIH Grants Policy Statement on Kirschstein NRSAs.

Postdoctoral Appointments

Postdoctoral appointments will begin after committee review. T32 funding is for U.S. citizens or permanent residents (in accordance with NIH policy). Individuals from underrepresented groups and individuals with disabilities are strongly encouraged to apply.

Application Process and Deadlines

Application materials should include a CV, a two-page research proposal, a support letter from one potential mentor at Northwestern, and an additional letter of support. The potential mentor’s support letter should describe the training plan for the applicant, including an overview of funding and other students working in the lab. Please complete our online application to be considered for a slot.slide6.jpg

 Participating Mentors

View a list of current primary and secondary mentors who participate in the Rheumatology T32.


 T32 Executive Committee

Meet the members of the Rheumatology T32 Executive Committee.

 Current Trainees

Meet the current and past trainees and learn more about their research projects.


Burcu Aydemir, PhD 

PhD: University of Illinois at Chicago


Christopher Peter Costin, MD: Academic Pediatric Rheumatology


Jean Lin, MD PhD: Rheumatology Fellow

 Program Expectations and Frequently Asked Questions

See a list of expectations and get answers to frequently asked questions.

How do I know what funds I have available to spend?

Each trainee receives some funds for travel and research supplies. Full details are outlined in the trainee’s appointment letter. Trainees will receive regular updates regarding the status of travel and supply funds.

How may I spend my supply and travel budget?

As a general guide, allowable expenses include lab supplies (e.g. pipettes, test tubes), other research-related expenses (e.g. research subject costs), specific project-related software (e.g. statistical analysis software), annual memberships and license fees and domestic travel to research conferences. Unallowable expenses include general office supplies (paper, pens), large equipment and computers (e.g. autoclave, laptop), general software (e.g. Microsoft programs, Adobe Acrobat), memberships and license fees > 1 year and international travel.

May I travel to more than one conference a year?

Yes, you may travel to more than one conference or training workshop at the discretion of your mentor and providing you have sufficient funds to cover the cost. Trainees are encouraged to pursue outside travel grants to help defray the cost of attending conferences.

What is a Payback Obligation and how do I know if I incur one?

Any NRSA postdoctoral trainees or fellow incurs a payback obligation during their first year of support.  Pre-doctoral NRSA trainees do not incur a payback obligation. Payback means that you will perform qualified research or teaching activities for a length of time equal to the period of NRSA support you received. Receiving 12 months of postdoctoral training support obligates you to perform 12 months of qualified research or teaching activities as payback. Only the first year of training incurs a payback obligation; the second year of training pays back the first year, with each month of qualifying payback activity paying back one month of NRSA support. If you receive two full years of NRSA training, you will have completed your payback obligation. In general, payback activity must involve at least 20 hours per week and be conducted over 12 consecutive months. Special exceptions to these requirements may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Additional resources on Payback Obligations can be found on the NIH website:

What is expected of me as a trainee?


1st Year of Appointment

2nd Year of Appointment

Before Accepting Appointment

  • Create Individual Development Plan (IDP) with your mentor and update every 6 months


Responsible Conduct of Research

  • Successful completion of “Taking Responsibility for Responsible Conduct of Research” offered by NUCATS. A certificate of completion is required

Education & Career Development Activities (e.g. grant writing, lab management, presentation skills)

  • Regular attendance at Rheumatology Grand Rounds, and/or Research in Motion
  • Regular participation in career development activities offered through Northwestern University, NUCATS, and the Bioprofessionals Career Development Program (e.g. NUCATS Grant Writing Workshops and Third Monday “Evolving the Translational Research Career” series for junior faculty)

Independent Support

  • Submission of a grant application for ongoing independent support from NIH or another major funding organization in your field by the end of the first year of support. (F award or K award).

Progress Updates & Program Evaluation

  • Meet with the Career Development & Retention Committee (CDRC) 2 times per year to review your progress
  • Submit an annual report for submission to NIH
  • Meet with Director annually to review progress
  • Submit copies of all abstracts, manuscripts, and submitted grants; IRB or IACUC approval for T32-supported research project; and (for Scholars engaged in human subjects research) documentation of successful completion of education on the protection of human subjects (i.e. CITI training)
  • Participation in anonymous program feedback and review
  • After the conclusion of T32 support, scholars will be expected to inform the NU T32 program of their positions and funding for 10 years

National Meeting

  • Attendance at ACR or similar conference

Presentations & Publications

  • Present at T32 Research Day
  • One presentation in a seminar series in your field at Northwestern University or affiliate during each year of support & present annually to your mentorship and executive committee
  • Submission of an abstract for presentation at the annual ACR or other national meeting during each year of support
  • One or more original manuscripts in press by the end of the second year of support


  • All scholarly publications related to research supported by this grant must contain the following statement: “ [SCHOLAR NAME] is supported in part by Grant Number T32 AR007611-13 from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.” It is each Scholar’s responsibility to ensure that the T32 grant is properly acknowledged in press and PubMed.
  • Request a PMCID for each publication

 Trainee Resources

See a list of resources dedicated to T32 trainees.  

All trainees are encouraged to visit the NIK T32 Kiosk.

 Diversity and Inclusion

View a list of on-campus resources dedicated to diversity and inclusion.

The Department of Medicine at Northwestern University seeks to attract inquisitive, motivated residents and fellows and is committed to providing them with every opportunity for success. The greatest challenges facing the medical field are complex, and addressing them will require a diverse body of physicians and researchers who can work collaboratively. Northwestern offers unparalleled training and research opportunities and encourages fellowship applications from those who seek to become future leaders in the subspecialties of medicine.  We are committed to and inspired by a diverse and inclusive work environment that allows each trainee to achieve their personal goals.

For more information on Northwestern’s commitment to diversity please see the following resources: