University of Kentucky Research

NIH Supplement Program a Win-Win for UK Researchers and Underrepresented Scientists

Janice Ortega and Liya GuDid you know that NIH offers supplemental funding for Principal Investigators holding specific types of NIH research grants? Titled “Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research,” this funding for administrative supplements is aimed at improving the diversity of the research workforce by supporting and recruiting students, postdocs, and eligible investigators from groups that have been underrepresented. “Underrepresented” is defined as specific racial and ethnic groups, women, individuals with disabilities, people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and women and men who have interrupted their research careers to care for children or parents.

Several NIH-funded researchers at UK, who have taken advantage of this program, share how it has enriched their research endeavors.

Liya Gu, a UK professor of pathology, is enthusiastic about this program to promote diversity. “I was able to add Janice Ortega, a fourth year Ph.D. student in UK’s Graduate Center for Toxicology, to our research team,” says Gu, whose project focused on DNA repair deficiency and leukemia relapse. “This supplement covered her stipend, tuition and supplies, and also provided travel money for her to attend scientific conferences, present her data in meetings, and interact with other professionals and students in the field. I strongly suggest that PIs who have an active NIH grant and minority students or postdocs apply this supplement.”

“I joined Dr. Gu’s lab in February 2007 and have been reaping benefits from this program ever since,” adds Ortega, who earned her Ph.D. at the University of Puerto Rico. “I gained tremendously by being able to present my data at conferences and interact with other professionals and students in the meetings.”

Brett Spear, UK professor of microbiology, immunology & molecular genetics, continues with accolades for this program. “The situation with Dr. Lorri Morford is a bit different than most of these supplemental grants—the supplement to my R01 grant was a ‘reentry’ award,” Spear explains. “These reentry grants are targeted primarily towards female scientists who left science for family reasons. Lorri had earned her Ph.D. here, worked as a postdoc at UK for several years, and then took time off to raise her two children. Once her children were a bit older, she felt that she had the time to get back into research, and still had the motivation to develop a career as a scientist.” Spear adds that this grant was an effective way of getting Morford back into the rhythm of research. She was first author on a paper from her work in his lab—Spear’s NIH project was titled “Gene Cloning and Its Role in Liver Regulation”—and he adds, “it is likely that one or two more papers with Lorri as a co-author will come from her work.”

Candidates eligible for support under this supplement program include individuals at various career levels who come from groups that have been shown to be underrepresented in science. These supplements must support work within the scope of the original project. All NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs), the NIH Common Fund, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety (NIOSH, CDC) participate in this program.

Through promoting such diversity, the NIH hopes this program will lead to the recruitment of the most talented researchers from all groups; will improve the quality of the educational and training environment; will balance and broaden the perspective in setting research priorities; and will improve the ability to recruit subjects from diverse backgrounds into clinical research protocols.

For more information, see the NIH program announcement ( or contact Margot McCullers in UK’s Proposal Development Office (