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NIJ's Research Assistantship Program

The deadline for applications has passed. Thank you to everyone who applied.

The NIJ Research Assistantship Program (RAP) offers highly qualified doctoral students the opportunity to bring their expertise to NIJ to work across offices and program areas to obtain a practical and applied research experience. The RA program is a research focused professional development opportunity for doctoral students. We welcome students from all academic disciplines to apply who wish to connect their research to the criminal justice field. This unique assistantship is an opportunity to learn and contribute to the breadth and depth of science research in which NIJ engages. NIJ provides funds to participating universities to pay salaries and other costs associated with research assistants who work on NIJ research activities.

On this page you will find:

Overview of NIJ’s Research Assistantship Program

The RAP is based on relationships between NIJ and universities. Universities nominate enrolled students for research assistantships, and NIJ selects from the nominees based on their background and expertise.

Any questions should be directed to NIJ's RAP manager at [email protected].

Funding Details: NIJ and each participating university establish an agreement through which NIJ provides funds to pay research assistants’ salaries, health insurance and tuition remission (via a memorandum of understanding and inter-agency or cooperative agreement).

The provision and amount of these funds are determined by the university’s standard practice for similarly situated graduate research assistants whose work is performed at the university.

The cost of tuition remission is calculated based on the university’s standard tuition (such as in-state rates for public schools) per credit hour. There are maximum amounts for tuition remission:

  • Up to 20 credits per academic year for full-time graduate research assistants who work for NIJ during the academic year only.
  • Up to 24 credits per calendar year for full-time graduate research assistants who work for NIJ throughout the calendar year.

Please note that NIJ determines the number, type and length of research assistantships that it will support, if any, based partly on the availability of funds.

Research assistantship appointments last for one year, following the home university's academic calendar. There is the possibility of reappointment depending on mid-year reviews, funding availability, and agreements between NIJ and the research assistant’s university.

Hours and Location: Research assistants are “full-time graduate research assistants” nominated by their universities and approved by NIJ. They work 20 to 29 hours per week (based on university policy) under a 9.5- or 12-month appointment, as applicable. The number of hours worked each week will depend on university policy. If funding is available, research assistants may work full time up to 40 hours per week during university breaks in the fall, winter, spring and summer (with the NIJ RAP manager’s and the university’s prior approval).

Research assistants work primarily at the NIJ office, 810 Seventh St. N.W., Washington, D.C. Sometimes, work is conducted in the field, such as during data collection efforts, or at another approved location, such as at a university or research facility.

Research Assistantship Duties: Research assistants perform a range of research-related duties and must work effectively as part of a larger research team. Research assistants plan and schedule their work based on defined objectives, tasks and priorities with the review and approval of the RAP manager, relevant NIJ staff and the university’s Graduate Program Director (GPD). See below for more details on research assistant duties and responsibilities.

Applying for a NIJ Research Assistantship

Universities recommend doctoral students for selection to research assistant positions supported by NIJ. The university’s recommendation(s) must be submitted by the GPD to the NIJ RAP manager. The GDP may submit multiple student application packets to the following address: [email protected].

Before they can be nominated by their university, candidates must provide their GPD with:

  • Statement of interest (1,000 word maximum) that describes the applicant's background and qualifications, current educational program objectives, basis for interest in the assistantship — including issues of interest and skills to be acquired — and career goals, including how the assistantship would support those goals.
  • Criminal Justice Challenge Essay: Applicant should provide an essay describing what they consider to be the greatest challenge (or set of challenges) within criminal justice that can be addressed through advances in science (including social and behavioral), technology, engineering or mathematics within the next 20 years, and why. Applicant will need to explain why this challenge is important and what advances could be employed to address the challenge. (500 words).
  • A résumé/CV.
  • An unofficial copy of their transcript covering their doctoral graduate studies.
  • One Letter of Reference. Letter of recommendation must be from an individual who can comment on the student’s professional competence and other qualities and interests that make the applicant especially qualified to serve as a research assistant.

It is the responsibility of the GPD to submit these materials to NIJ’s RAP manager for review and consideration.

Upon consideration of all applications, the RAP manager and NIJ science staff may reach out to interview qualified candidates. NIJ chooses candidates on the basis of their background and experience. The selection process is highly competitive. Final selection will occur in spring 2019, for placements that begin in September 2019.

When considering applying, please keep in mind the following qualifications:

  • University enrollment. Candidates must be enrolled in a research-based doctoral-degree program at a public or private university. Universities should contact the RAP manager at [email protected] to determine if they qualify for program participation.
  • Degree program. Candidates must be working towards a doctoral degree throughout the research assistantship period of performance. Degree programs include Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Doctor of Public Administration (D.P.A.), Doctor of Public Health (D.P.H.) and Doctor of Social Work (D.S.W.). 
  • Reasoning ability. Research assistants must be able to work independently, accurately, and in a timely manner.
  • Communication skills. Candidates should have the ability to communicate orally and in writing to prepare comprehensive research reports, proposals, and evaluations, and to make recommendations to accomplish and enhance project objectives.
  • Certifications, licenses and registrations. Human Subjects Protection training is required. Accepted research assistants will take training on site at the Office of Justice Programs.
  • Background check. Successful completion and approval of all required U.S. Department of Justice profile and prescreening paperwork, security reviews, and background investigations (such as credit and criminal investigations) are required.
  • Citizenship. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or a permanent U.S. resident.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Research Assistantship Program

Does the graduate program director (GPD) need to be the University Graduate Program Director or the College’s GPD?
It is dependent on the university. The individual who has authorization to provide the recommendation (university, college, or department/program GPD, advisor, College Dean) should make the nomination. Typically, it is the department and college level.
Does an RA have to be able to work at NIJ in Washington, D.C.?
Yes, the RA works in Washington, D.C. as a key component of the assistance is working with NIJ staff, and that is hard — if not impossible — to do from a distance. The money can be used to pay yourself a salary or to cover the cost of living in Washington, D.C.
Do universities need to have an agreement in place before submitting a candidate’s materials to NIJ?
No. Agreements will be processed and executed after candidate selections have been made.
Can universities nominate multiple candidates for consideration?
Are moving expenses for the Research Assistantship Program covered?
No. Moving expenses incurred as part of relocating to the Washington, D.C., area are not reimbursable.
Who provides workspace and equipment for the Research Assistantship Program?
NIJ provides on-site workspace but does not provide equipment.
Are expenses for training, conferences or similar activities covered?
If NIJ specifically requests that a research assistant participate in trainings, conferences or similar activities that have associated costs, NIJ will, in its discretion, provide an amount for NIJ-approved costs of participation with university approval. This may include transportation (airfare, train, taxi or mileage), lodging, per diem for meals and incidentals, and registration fees, which will be in line with federal regulations.
How does performance evaluation of research assistants work?
NIJ will assist the university in evaluating the performance of research assistants. After an agreed upon work plan is established, research assistants will plan and schedule their work based on defined objectives, tasks and priorities. They do this with the review and approval of the NIJ RAP manager, assigned NIJ staff and the university’s Graduate Program Director.
Are research assistants federal employees?
Research assistants are not federal employees — they are employees of their respective universities. As such, they will not and cannot provide clerical support, be involved with grant processing or awards, grant management, or any other federal employee responsibility.

Detailed Research Assistantship Duties and Responsibilities

Duties of research assistants include, but are not limited to:

  • Compiling, summarizing or making use of complex, technical or specialized literature.
  • Assisting in research design strategies (such as developing and modifying research proposals, procedures or instruments).
  • Extracting and compiling a range of data from written sources, individuals (through questionnaires or interviews) or databases.
  • Interpreting and summarizing data analyses.
  • Conceptualizing and drafting publications (such as government reports, peer-reviewed journal articles, NIJ publications and trade magazine articles).
  • Assisting with outreach activities that include research dissemination (such as meeting presentations, press releases, talking points, articles and Web pages).
  • Drafting and giving presentations at conferences, where funding permits and as approved by the research assistant’s university.
  • Assisting with the coordination and collaboration of NIJ federal partners, and regional, state, local and tribal stakeholders.
  • Working effectively as part of a larger research team.

Research assistants will comply with the general workplace conditions applicable to other individuals who regularly work on site at NIJ, including security requirements, dress code and business hours.

Past and Present Research Assistants

Previous NIJ research assistants have gone on to accept positions as full-time faculty at universities, associates and directors of research centers, and analysts and agents at local and federal law enforcement agencies. The following table presents a list of NIJ research assistants from 1999 to present. Students have worked on a variety of research portfolios including, but not limited to, violence against women, school safety, trafficking, forensics, geospatial analysis, law enforcement, artificial intelligence, and corrections. 

Research Assistant’s Name Sponsoring University Appointment Tenure
Clay Hutchinson Howard University 1999-2000
Curt Davies University of Maryland 2000-2001
Esezele Iseghohi American University 2001-2003
Dawn Marie Campos University of Maryland 2001-2003
Jennifer Gibbs University of Maryland 2003-2005
Johanna Gladfelter Morariu George Mason University 2004-2005
Jocelyn Fontaine American University 2004-2006
Nicole Branch Howard University 2004-2006
Brian Jones George Mason University 2005-2006
Jaclyn Smith University of Maryland 2005-2010, 2012-2014
Devin Collins Howard University 2006-2007
George Fachner George Mason University 2007-2008
David McClure George Mason University 2007-2008
Summer Baugh University of Maryland 2007-2009
Michael Gossett University of Maryland 2008
Kelley Moult American University 2008-2010
Joshua Chanin American University 2008-2010
Deshonna Collier-Goubil Howard University 2008-2010
Joel Hunt American University 2008-2011
Alison Brooks American University 2008-2013
Erin Crites George Mason University 2009
Jane Palmer American University 2009-2013
Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco George Mason University 2010
Terri Hines George Mason University 2011
Patricia Joseph University of Maryland 2011-2012
Christopher Hild George Mason University 2012
Melissa Rorie University of Maryland 2012-2013
Jaspreet Chahal George Mason University 2013-2014
Margaret Pendzich-Hardy University of Maryland 2013-2014
Lisa Fedina University of Maryland, Baltimore 2014-2016
Jennifer Lynne Holmes Florida State University 2014-2017
Rebecca Stabile University of Maryland, College Park 2014-2015
Kristina Lugo American University 2014-2016
Steven Hafner President and Fellows of Harvard College 2015-2018
Megan Doughty American University 2015-2017
Jenny Afkinich University of Maryland, Baltimore 2015-2017
Justin Bernstein University of Maryland, College Park 2016-2017
Caroline Harmon-Darrow University of Maryland, Baltimore 2016-2017
Jacqueline Lee University of Maryland, College Park 2016-2017
Kenneth Leon American University 2016-2017
Alisa Matlin Rutgers University (Newark) 2016-2017
Lauren McGhee Howard University 2016-2017
Lizabeth Remrey University of Maryland, College Park 2016-2017
Carolyn Naoroz Virginia Commonwealth University 2017-2018
Shannon Magnuson George Mason University 2017-
Danielle Crimmins Purdue University 2018-
Heidi Putney Central Michigan University 2018-
Kristin Silver University of Akron 2018-
Date Created: July 17, 2019