NIJ's Research Assistantship Program

Please check back in September 2017 for the updated RA program and 2018-2019 placements.​

The NIJ Research Assistantship Program (RAP) is designed to support criminal justice research and to provide highly qualified doctoral students with practical and applied research experience. 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.

Universities interested in being considered for participation should contact NIJ’s RAP manager at NIJ_RAP@usdoj.gov.

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, with 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., unless the RAP manager approves an alternate work location. 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, assigned NIJ staff and the university’s Gradua​te 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: NIJ_RAP@usdoj.gov.​

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. This statement should also include the placement or placements for which they wish to be considered.
  • 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 all of their 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.

If the GPD wishes to nominate the student, he or she forwards the materials to NIJ’s RAP manager for review and consideration.

The RAP manager and NIJ science staff interview qualified candidates and contact references. NIJ chooses candidates on the basis of their background and experience. The selection process is highly competitive.

Please refer to each placement for desired qualifications. However, NIJ has set basic qualifications in specific areas for candidates. These include:

  • 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 NIJ_RAP@usdoj.gov 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.). Note that universities sponsoring doctoral students in policy and health sciences or in an education field are eligible to participate only if the doctoral program is in an NIJ-supported discipline; i.e., social and behavioral sciences, operations technology, information and sensors research and development, or investigative and forensic sciences.
  • 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.

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.
If I am interested in multiple placements, does my Criminal Justice Challenge Essay need to discuss all relevant topical issues?
No. The Criminal Justice Challenge Essay should be on a topic you are interested in or most interested in, but does not need to cover all topics of placement of interest.​
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?
Can candidates apply for multiple placements?
Yes. Candidates should indicate their placement requests in their “Statement of Interest”. Only one application is needed per student.
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.
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.
How does performance evaluation of research assistants work?
NIJ will assist the university in evaluating the performance of research assistants. Agreed-upon project plans are established prior to assistantship appointments. Research assistants then 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).
  • Participating in data collection activities.
  • Extracting and compiling a range of data from written sources, individuals (through questionnaires or interviews) or databases.
  • Formatting, storing and managing complex data sets.
  • Conducting statistical analyses.
  • 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 carry out their day-to-day work in a professional manner, whether the work is performed on site at the NIJ office, in the field (such as during research site visits or data collection efforts) or at another approved location (such as at home, a university or other research facility).

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.

Research Assistant’s Name Sponsoring University Appointment Tenure NIJ Research Projects
Clay HutchinsonHoward University1999-2000Use of Force
Curt DaviesUniversity of Maryland2000-2001Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program and Elder Abuse Victims
Esezele IseghohiAmerican University2001-2003GAO Audit of NIJ National Evaluations
Dawn Marie CamposUniversity of Maryland2001-2003Mapping Violence
Jennifer GibbsUniversity of Maryland2003-2005Violence Against Women
Johanna Gladfelter MorariuGeorge Mason University2004-2005International Smuggling
Jocelyn FontaineAmerican University2004-2006Violence Against Women
Nicole BranchHoward University2004-2006School Violence
Brian JonesGeorge Mason University2005-2006International Trafficking
Jaclyn SmithUniversity of Maryland2005-2010, 2012-2014American Indian and Alaska Native Research, Violence Against Women, Teen Dating Violence
Devin CollinsHoward University2006-2007Policing Research Agenda
George FachnerGeorge Mason University​2007-2008International Research
David McClureGeorge Mason University2007-2008Forensic Policy
Summer BaughUniversity of Maryland2007-2009International Research, American Indian and Alaska Native Research
Michael GossettUniversity of Maryland2008Terrorism
Kelley MoultAmerican University2008-2010American Indian and Alaska Native Research
Joshua ChaninAmerican University2008-2010Police Misconduct
Deshonna Collier-GoubilHoward University2008-2010Geospatial Analysis
Joel HuntAmerican University2008-2011Forensics, Geospatial Analysis
Alison BrooksAmerican University2008-2013American Indian and Alaska Native Research, Wrongful Convictions, Sexual Assault Kit Backlogs, DNA in Cases of Motor Vehicle Theft
Erin CritesGeorge Mason University2009Sentencing
Jane PalmerAmerican University2009-2013American Indian and Alaska Native Research
Kimberly Mehlman-OrozcoGeorge Mason University2010American Indian and Alaska Native Research
Terri HinesGeorge Mason University2011Geospatial Analysis
Patricia JosephUniversity of Maryland2011-2012Indigent Defense, Wrongful Convictions, California Realignment
Christopher HildGeorge Mason University2012Wrongful Convictions, Indigent Defense, California Realignment
Melissa RorieUniversity of Maryland2012-2013Violence Against Women
Jaspreet ChahalGeorge Mason University2013-2014Violence Against Women, Elder Mistreatment, Translational Research
Margaret Pendzich-HardyUniversity of Maryland2013-2014Violence Against Women, Technology Operational Evaluation, Sexual Assault Kit Action Research Project, Social Science Research on Forensic Science
Lisa FedinaUniversity of Maryland, Baltimore2014-2016Violence Against Women
Jennifer Lynne Holmes
Learn more about Ms. Holmes in a Ph.D. Profile posted by Florida State University Exit Notice
Florida State University2014-Violence Against Women
Rebecca StabileUniversity of Maryland, College Park2014-2015School Safety
Kristina LugoAmerican University2014-2016​Transnational Research
​Steven HafnerPresident and Fellows of Harvard College2015-American Indian and Alaska Native Research
Megan DoughtyAmerican University2015-American Indian and Alaska Native Research
Jenny AfkinichUniversity of Maryland, Baltimore2015-Children Exposed to Violence, Teen Dating Violence
Justin BernsteinUniversity of Maryland, College Park2016-White Collar Crime, Public Corruption​​
Caroline Harmon-DarrowUniversity of Maryland, Baltimore2016-Violence and Victimization​​
Jacqueline LeeUniversity of Maryland, College Park2016-Violence Against Women
Kenneth LeonAmerican University2016-Transnational Organized Crime​​
Alisa MatlinRutgers University (Newark)2016-Digital Forensics and Multimedia Analysis​​
Lauren McGheeHoward University2016-Outreach & Engagement
Lizabeth RemreyUniversity of Maryland, College Park2016-Justice Systems​​​​

Date Modified: July 25, 2017​