General Information

The CTSI KL2 award is a career development award managed through the Penn State CTSI grant and is available to junior faculty on both Hershey and UP campuses (see Scholar Eligibility section).

KL2 awards are made for a 2-year period with the option to competitively renew (from among the current pool of scholars) for year 3 based on satisfactory performance in the program and a demonstrated need for additional research training. The KL2 grant application should be written for research and training to be conducted over a 2-year period. KL2 awards made in January 2018 will provide 2 years of funding through December 31, 2019.

2017 Deadlines: 
Letter of Intent – July 15, 2017
add Confirmation of Intent to Submit – August 15, 2017
Application – September 1, 2017

Can my research be considered “translational”?
The goal of the KL2 award is to provide additional research training needed to become an independent clinical and translational sciences investigator. Please refer to the definition of translational research found here.

Letter of Intent
The purpose of the letter of intent is to provide enough information to begin to identify potential reviewers for your grant.  Please provide your name, title, department and contact information.  The letter should include your project title, a short description of your research (a paragraph), and the name, title, department of your mentor(s). Letters of Intent should be sent to Karen Shields, Education Strategy and Planning Manager, 

How to prepare your application
Preparation of the CTSI KL2 application for the most part follows the guidance for preparation of a general NIH K grant) with a few exceptions. The advantage of this rigorous application is that it affords the applicant the opportunity to put structure around their plans for training and research in a format that is suited for an NIH grant submission. It also allows the best presentation of your information and plans in a format that provides a solid basis upon which your application will be reviewed by the Penn State CTSI Education and Training Review Committee. The disadvantage is that it is a lot of work, but doable for those who are motivated to enhance their training in clinical and translational research.

Be sure to read through these instructions carefully as well as the information on our CTSI website regarding scholar eligibility and the scholar selection process. Please follow the instructions below and refer to SF424 instructions Career Development Instructions for PHS and other agencies Forms Version D Series Date March 24, 2017, when directed (see details)Note: Please use this specified SF424.pdf file to avoid any confusion compared to other versions of the SF424 guide that could be found on the internet.

The cover page template can be found here.

Assembling your application
To craft your application, compile documents in the order indicated below- except the one page Specific Aims can go just in front of your Research Plan.  When you are finished, save everything in a single pdf file and email your application file to Karen Shields at

Follow the subheadings for “Candidate information” through Vertebrate Animals as listed in Section K.410 of the NIH Career Development Instructions for PHS and other agencies Forms Version D Series Date March 24, 2017 beginning on page 79.   NOTE THAT Information on the “Environment regarding research and career development” should be described not on an institutional level but as it relates to the applicant’s research team or supporting department(s). 

Compile all the information below into one .pdf file to complete your application.

Section Page Limit
CTSI KL2 Application cover pages Not included in page limits
Biosketches of Candidate, Mentor and up to 3 co-mentors

NOTE: Each mentor needs to attach a Training Table to the end of their 5 page Biosketch

Each biosketch not more than 5 pages; no limit to size of the mentor’s training tables
NOTE: REFER to Career Development Instructions for PHS and other agencies Forms Version D Series Date March 24, 2017 Section K.410 (page 79) for completion of the following sections below.  Specifically follow instructions within section K.410 for subsections #2,3,4,6,8,9,10-16 only:
Candidate Information, Goals for Career Development and Research Strategy       12 pages total  (insert the 1 page Specific Aims below just before your Research Strategy)
Specific Aims 1
Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research

Note: A description of some available Penn State resources for this section is found below this table in the section titled “Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR).”

Plans and Statement of Mentors and co-mentors. 6 total
Letters of Support from collaborators, contributors and consultants 6 total
Description of Departmental Commitment to Candidate’s Research Career Development

(Chair’s Nomination letter).


Note that the Chair’s Nomination Letter should include information on the departmental research environment

Human Subjects Section No page limits
Other Research Plan (Vertebrate Animal section only, complete only if your proposal uses animals) No page limits


KL2 application recommendations: Keep in mind that equal weight is placed on the Candidate/Training Plan and the Research Plan.  It is recommended that each section be as fully developed as possible with commensurate representation by the number of pages within the application, i.e. about half to candidate/mentor statement and ~half to research plan. Having specific aims for training and career development within the Candidate information is a good idea as well as a description of how each training aim will be addressed and the role that each mentor or member of the research team will play in supporting each aim of the training plan as well as any additional courses to be taken to meet the training aims.

Courses available to K applicants
Many K awardees engaged in clinical and translational research take advantage of courses available within the University. Some courses are offered at night and some are online. Some candidates might propose to obtain a master’s degree in Public Health Sciences or a Graduate Certificate in Translational Science or propose to take individualized courses based on their needs.

Examples of available courses within the Department of Public Health Sciences can be obtained here.

Information on the Translational Science Certificate can be obtained here.

Note that any courses offered at Penn State that are aimed at meeting the individualized needs of a candidate can be considered.

Biosketches and Training Tables
Biosketches are needed for the candidate, primary mentor, co-mentors. Please follow instructions here. NOTE: In addition to these biosketches our KL2 application requires submission of a Training Table by the Primary mentor and co- mentors.

The training table can be added to the end of the 5 page biosketch of the mentor, co-mentor and optionally added to the biosketches of other members of the mentoring team. An example of a training table will be provided to you upon request (see Resources below).

Instructions for Letters of Reference

  • Three (3) reference letters are required. These are in addition to the letters obtained from your mentor and co-mentors.
  • The letters should be from individuals not directly involved in the application, but who are familiar with the applicant’s qualifications, training, and interests.


Give these instructions to those writing letters for you:

The candidate is applying to the NIH for a Career Development Award. The purpose of this award is to develop the research capabilities and career of the candidate. These awards provide salary support and guarantee them the ability to devote at least nine person months (75% of their total professional effort) to research for the duration of the award. Many of these awards also provide funds for research and career development costs. The award is available to persons who have demonstrated considerable potential to become independent researchers, but who need additional supervised research experience in a productive scientific setting, as well as to newly independent researchers.

Please put the name of the candidate at the top of the letter. Also, be sure to include your name and title in the letter.

In two pages or less (PDF format), describe the qualities and potential of the candidate for the career development award program for which support is being requested. This should include your evaluation with special reference to:

  • potential to become an independent research scientist;
  • evidence of originality;
  • adequacy of scientific background;
  • quality of research endeavors or publications to date, if any;
  • commitment to health-oriented research; and
  • need for further research experience and training
  • any additional related comments that the referee may wish to provide

Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)
This is part of the Candidate information and is contained within the 12 page limit. Please refer to the following on p. I-144 of SF424.

“Include a description of plans for obtaining instruction in the responsible conduct of research. This section should document prior instruction or participation in RCR training during the applicant’s current career stage (including the date instruction was last completed) and propose plans to either receive instruction or participate as a course lecturer, etc., in order to meet the once every four-year requirement.”

The plan may include career stage-appropriate individualized instruction or independent scholarly activities that will enhance the applicant’s understanding of ethical issues related to their specific research activities and the societal impact of that research.

Individuals at the early career investigator level (including mentored K awardees and K12 scholars) must receive instruction in responsible conduct of research at least once during this career stage.

A proposal for RCR training should be based on the applicant’s needs.  Any applicant that has not had a formal course in the ethical conduct of research must propose to take a graduate ethics course such as PHS 500 Research Ethics for Clinical Investigators (College of Medicine scholars), BMS 591 Biomedical Research Ethics (College of Medicine scholars), NURS 587 Ethics in Nursing Research (College of Nursing), or MCIBS 591 Ethics in the Life Sciences (HUCK Institute of the Life Sciences).

If it has been greater than 4 years since a course has been taken, applicants can either propose to take one of the above courses or propose to complete the RCR training for Postdoctoral scholars that consists of attendance at 3 monthly sessions in their first year and 3 in their second year during which all 9 NIH topics are covered over the two years.  Please make an effort to address the informal aspects of RCR training and the role that your mentor will play in this process as outlined in the PHS supplemental instructions (refer to the hyperlink to the supplement Part 3 section 1.16 on p I-144 of SF424).

Preparing your Budget
Please prepare a budget for a 2- year period. The budget should be in the Penn State SIMS format (ask your budget administrator about this). The KL2 award will cover 75%

Resources Available

The following resources are available to help you in preparing your application upon email request to Karen Shields  at kpb2

  • Three examples of successful K grant applications
  • An additional example of a training plan
  • A sample Training Table for mentors and co-mentors to attach to their biosketch

The NIH SF424 instructions can be found here.

NIH Definition of Disabled & Disadvantaged: See FAQ section labeled “Diversity” here.

Drs. Diane Thiboutot, and Lorah Dorn,, the program co-directors are available to help answer questions as well as Karen Shields, our program administrator