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NIJ's Research Assistantship Program

Successful applicants notified

Thank you to everyone who submitted an application for the 2024-2025 academic year. We have notified successful applicants.

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 RAP 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

In the fall of each year, NIJ announces on its website and through social media and other dissemination mechanisms, the availability of research assistantships. Universities nominate enrolled students for these 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 on the quality of applications, NIJ research priorities and 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 normally are full-time graduate research assistants nominated by their universities and approved by NIJ. They normally work 20 to 30 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.

Note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, research assistants may work remotely until onsite working at NIJ has resumed.

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. 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 Graduate Program Director to the NIJ RAP manager. The Graduate Program Director may submit multiple student application packets to [email protected].

Before they can be nominated by their university, candidates must provide their Graduate Program Director 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.
  • Public Safety Challenge Essay: Applicant should provide an essay describing what they consider to be the greatest public safety challenge (or set of challenges) 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. (No more than five (5) double-spaced pages).
  • A résumé/CV.
  • An unofficial copy (copies) of their transcript(s) covering their undergraduate and doctoral graduate studies.
  • One Letter of Recommendation. Letter of recommendation must be from an individual who can comment on the student’s academic achievements and abilities, and other qualities and interests that make the applicant especially qualified to serve as a research assistant.
  • Up to three contacts for reference checks.
  • Writing sample of a scientific paper. (Can be from a classroom assignment or a publication).

It is the responsibility of the Graduate Program Director to submit these materials to NIJ’s RAP manager for review and consideration. Note: All of the documents listed above must be submitted by the deadline indicated or the application will not be considered.

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. 

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

  • University enrollment. Candidates must be enrolled in a research-based doctoral-degree program at an accredited public or private U.S. 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 be provided the training through 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

No. NIJ will only pay for up to 20 credits for RAs who work for NIJ during the academic year only, and up to 24 credits for RAs who work for NIJ throughout the calendar year. So if students are required to take more than 20 or 24 credits in an academic or calendar year, respectively, the student will have to cover the difference.

It is dependent on the university. The individual who has authorization to provide the recommendation (university, college, or department/program Graduate Program Director, advisor, College Dean) should make the nomination. Typically, it is the department and college level.

Yes, the research assistant works in Washington, D.C. as a key component of the assistance is collaborating and networking with NIJ and other federal staff in the Capitol Region area. Research assistants may use the funds they receive from their educational institutions through the RAP to pay themselves a salary to cover the cost of living in Washington, D.C.

Note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, research assistants may work remotely until onsite working at NIJ has resumed.

No. Agreements will be processed and executed after candidate selections have been made.


No. Moving expenses incurred as part of relocating to the Washington, D.C., area are not reimbursable.

NIJ provides on-site workspace and necessary equipment to complete work-related tasks.

If NIJ specifically requests that a research assistant participate in trainings, conferences or similar activities that have associated costs, NIJ, in its discretion, will 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.

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.

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 of awards, grant management, or any other federal employee responsibility.

Eligibility for the program does not depend on time or progress in a doctoral program. Graduate students and their advisors should decide when to apply. Applicants are encouraged to consider their course load, ability to matriculate in their program while living in Washington DC, and NIJ work requirements before deciding when to apply.

Graduate Program Directors must submit applications on behalf of the nominated doctoral student. The Graduate Program Director is to send each student’s application materials to [email protected] by the application deadline. The Graduate Program Director’s email serves as the student’s nomination. The Graduate Program Director is not required to submit a separate nomination document. However, the nomination email may not serve as a letter of recommendation for the applicant.

Doctoral students accepted by NIJ work on a myriad of projects and research portfolios, and perform various tasks that require writing, data analyzing, collaboration, and presenting. Applicants are considered highly qualified based on skills that would facilitate a successful placement in the NIJ RAP, including strong writing skills, solid analytical, statistical, and methods knowledge, and specialized training in a topic area.

Submitted application materials provide insight into each candidate’s qualifications and fit with the program. NIJ evaluates applicants based on their research and practical experience, writing skills, academic record, and alignment of research interests with work in the criminal justice field.

Applications go through several review processes after submission. First, NIJ, science staff, management, and the RAP manager review and rank each application, based on the above- mentioned criteria. Second, NIJ selects top-ranked candidates for interviews with the scientific staff and the RAP manager to discuss applicants’ research interests and experience, academic progress, and alignment with the RAP. Lastly, the NIJ director makes the final decisions regarding selection of applicants to serve in the RAP. NIJ then extends assistantships to selected candidates, and upon acceptance, establishes an agreement with each student’s academic institution.

No. In order to be eligible, one must be enrolled in a research-based doctoral program at an accredited U.S. university.

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 NameSponsoring UniversityAppointment Tenure
Clay HutchinsonHoward University1999-2000
Curt DaviesUniversity of Maryland2000-2001
Esezele IseghohiAmerican University2001-2003
Dawn Marie CamposUniversity of Maryland2001-2003
Jennifer GibbsUniversity of Maryland2003-2005
Johanna Gladfelter MorariuGeorge Mason University2004-2005
Jocelyn FontaineAmerican University2004-2006
Nicole BranchHoward University2004-2006
Brian JonesGeorge Mason University2005-2006
Jaclyn SmithUniversity of Maryland2005-2010, 2012-2014
Devin CollinsHoward University2006-2007
George FachnerGeorge Mason University2007-2008
David McClureGeorge Mason University2007-2008
Summer BaughUniversity of Maryland2007-2009
Michael GossettUniversity of Maryland2008
Kelley MoultAmerican University2008-2010
Joshua ChaninAmerican University2008-2010
Deshonna Collier-GoubilHoward University2008-2010
Joel HuntAmerican University2008-2011
Alison BrooksAmerican University2008-2013
Erin CritesGeorge Mason University2009
Jane PalmerAmerican University2009-2013
Kimberly Mehlman-OrozcoGeorge Mason University2010
Terri HinesGeorge Mason University2011
Patricia JosephUniversity of Maryland2011-2012
Christopher HildGeorge Mason University2012
Melissa RorieUniversity of Maryland2012-2013
Jaspreet ChahalGeorge Mason University2013-2014
Margaret Pendzich-HardyUniversity of Maryland2013-2014
Lisa FedinaUniversity of Maryland, Baltimore2014-2016
Jennifer Lynne HolmesFlorida State University2014-2017
Rebecca StabileUniversity of Maryland, College Park2014-2015
Kristina LugoAmerican University2014-2016
Steven HafnerPresident and Fellows of Harvard College2015-2018
Megan DoughtyAmerican University2015-2017
Jenny AfkinichUniversity of Maryland, Baltimore2015-2017
Justin BernsteinUniversity of Maryland, College Park2016-2017
Caroline Harmon-DarrowUniversity of Maryland, Baltimore2016-2017
Jacqueline LeeUniversity of Maryland, College Park2016-2017
Kenneth LeonAmerican University2016-2017
Alisa MatlinRutgers University (Newark)2016-2017
Lauren McGheeHoward University2016-2017
Lizabeth RemreyUniversity of Maryland, College Park2016-2017
Carolyn NaorozVirginia Commonwealth University2017-2018
Shannon MagnusonGeorge Mason University2017-2019
Danielle CrimminsPurdue University2018-2020
Heidi PutneyCentral Michigan University2018-2019
Kristin SilverUniversity of Akron2018-2019
Jessica NortonAuburn University2019-2020
Kadee AtkinsonHoward University2019-2020
Daniel Michael ApplegarthUniversity of California, Los Angeles2020-2022
Lisa ThompsonUniversity of Massachusetts, Lowell2020-2022
Veronica WhiteUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison2020-2023
Iris CardenasRutgers, The State University, New Brunswick2021-2022
Raven LewisRutgers, The State University, Newark2021-2023
Rachael RiefUniversity of Nebraska at Omaha2021-2023
Lauren MorganUniversity of Missouri, St. Louis2022-
Sheena YoonUniversity of Utah, Salt Lake City2022-
Erin HoffmanDePaul University2022-2023
Rayna EnriquezUniversity of California, Davis2023-
Caralin C. BranscumUniversity of Nebraska, Omaha2023-
Date Published: December 20, 2023