KL2 Scholars Program

The UCSF Clinical and Translational Science Institute Career Development Program (CTSI KL2) is supported by the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, CTSI and by the four UCSF schools.Each year two to four scholars at the faculty level will be selected for a career development award to begin June 1. We anticipate having at least two openings for 2020-2021. Scholars receive three years of salary support up to $85,000 per year for 75 percent effort to pursue multidisciplinary clinical research with training and mentoring. Note that our current KL2 program grant ends May 31, 202. Our renewal grant was well-scored so we anticipate KL2 grant funding beyond May 2021, but this is contigent upon the NIH funding the KL2 grant.

Clinical research is defined broadly as research involving humans, and the program emphasizes multidisciplinary T1 translational research (basic science of humans to clinical application studies) and T2 translational research (clinical application to improve health in the population). The program includes formal training in clinical research for those who do not have such training, a supportive environment, funding of at least $25,000 per year (for research, tuition and travel), weekly works-in-progress and methodology seminars, and access to core faculty who provide expertise and guidance in research design, measurement and questionnaire design, qualitative methods, study coordination, data management, biostatistical analysis, publishing and presenting research, and manuscript and grant writing. Prior formal training, such as the Advanced Training in Clinical Research Certificate or Master’s in Clinical Research degree increases competitiveness for receipt of a KL2 grant. See section on Didactic Training in Clinical and Translational Research below. It is important for the research training in your career development plans to enhance your planned research activities. If you do not believe additional formal research training is important to move your career forward, then the KL2 Program may not be the best fit.

The goal of this program is to increase the number and quality of outstanding clinical investigators skilled at leading multidisciplinary research teams. The overarching goal is to promote clinical and translational investigation that will have an important impact on the health of the public.


Candidates for CTSI KL2 awards must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident; individuals on temporary or student visas are not eligible
  • Have a primary full-time paid appointment as a junior faculty member at UCSF in any series above the clinical instructor level (as of July 1, 2021)
  • Commit 75 percent of professional effort to the program (surgeons and some other specialists with large clinical burdens may request a lower level of effort, but in no case lower than 50 percent) 
  • Not be or have been a principal investigator on an NIH R01, or project leader on a subproject of a Program Project (P01), Center (P50, P60, U54), mentored career development grant (K12, K23, K08, K01, etc.), or equivalent non-PHS peer-reviewed research grant that is over $100,000 in direct costs per year. May have had support on a NRSA grant (F or T) or have been PI of an NIH small grant (R03 or R21).
  • Not be a current or past recipient of a UCSF K12 award.
  • Not be a current or past participant in the CTSI K Scholars Program (with your own Career Development Award) .
  • Have not submitted an NIH K individual (K23/K08/K01/K99/etc.) application in the current January through March cycle (Cycle 1). If you have submitted an NIH K award during another cycle and are offered a KL2 position you will need to withdraw any other pending NIH K applications.
  • The KL2 is not approved for activity defined as a foreign component in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.  Exceptions would be if the scholar is working directly under an NIH parent grant that has an established research infrastructure. Prior approval from the NCATS program officer must be obtained before the KL2 can be officially awarded to the scholar.

Note that UCSF K12 recipients and NIH K awardees are encouraged to participate in the CTSI K Scholars Program via a separate application process.

Program Requirements

All KL2 recipients will become part of the CTSI K Scholars Program. The specific requirements of the KL2 award, as well as the general requirements of the K Scholars Program, are detailed below:

  1. Duration and Transferability of the Award
    CTSI KL2 Scholars will receive three years of salary support of up to $85,000 per year. Each year of funding is contingent on satisfactory participation in the CTSI KL2 activities and progress toward the scholar's individual career goals, and continued support from the scholar's mentors and department.

    This is an institutional career development award granted to UCSF, and it is non-transferable; scholars who leave UCSF will not be able to continue receiving KL2 funding from UCSF.
  2. Professional Effort Devoted to the Program and Source of Funding
    Generally 75 percent of a scholar's full-time professional effort must be devoted to the KL2 award for the training and clinical research activities. The 75 percent effort is based on the entire amount of time worked in a typical week and should include proportionate amounts of normal weekday time. The remaining 25 percent effort can be divided among other research, clinical, administrative and teaching activities that are consistent with the proposed goals of the KL2 award.

    Sources of support for the 75 percent KL2 effort include the CTSI KL2 grant for amounts up to $85,000 per year (plus accompanying benefits), and the department of the KL2 scholar for any remaining gap between $85,000 and 75 percent of the salary of the scholar (i.e., the salary gap). Note that the "salary gap" or salary supplementation to cover 75 percent of the scholar salary may not come from federal fund sources. Scholars who acquire non-federal sources of funds that are appropriate for this use, such as foundation career development grants, may reasonably be expected by their department to allocate part of the award to help cover their salary gaps. The remaining 25 percent of the scholar's effort may be covered by a variety of sources, including federal grants that comply with NIH policy.

    Surgeons and some other specialists with large clinical burdens may request a level of effort that is lower than 75 percent (but in no case lower than 50 percent), the level of CTSI KL2 salary support being reduced proportionately. However, devoting less than 75 percent to career development is rarely desirable and must be discussed in advance with the KL2 award director.

    The NIH also has a specific policy on receiving concurrent support as a PI of an NIH R01 and a K Career Development Award in the last two years of a K, which can be reviewed here.
  3. Didactic Training in Clinical and Translational Research
    Formal training in a rigorous and comprehensive clinical research program is imperative for establishing independence as a clinical investigator and a secondary degree in a clinical research-related field is an important attribute.

    Productive participation in the Program requires a solid didactic foundation in research methodology and statistical analytics. The training requirement will normally be met by prior completion of or concurrent enrollment in the one-year ATCR Certificate Program. Concurrent enrollment in the two-year Master's Degree in Clinical Research is probably not feasible during a 3-year career development award. Scholars who already have formal advanced training in clinical research (e.g., MPH, MAS, PhD) may take individual courses to complete gaps in or update previous training and should be described in the KL2 application. KL2 scholars will be required to take Responsible Conduct of Research (EPI 201) during their KL2 award period, ideally upon starting the program in July if they’ve not taken the UCSF course in the past two years. Those who have not taken our cornerstone Designing Clinical Research course (EPI 202) will find it an excellent and relevant review.

    In addition to taking TICR courses as noted above, we recommend that all scholars enroll in other courses and workshops in disciplines relevant to their career development plans at UCSF and at other institutions; these should be planned in discussions with mentors and KL2 advisors. Tuition may be paid for from the KL2 scholar's "research" funds.

    Individuals who are selected as CTSI KL2 Scholars and who will obtain a master's degree as part of their training plan must complete a separate application for a Master's Degree in Clinical Research
  4. Mentors
    Developing a successful clinical research career requires strong relationships with mentors and a research team. Each scholar must have a lead mentor and at least one other mentor from a different discipline. Mentors should have sufficient independent research support to cover the costs of the proposed research project that exceed the scholar research funds provided by the KL2.

    Lead mentors will have overall responsibility for helping scholars develop creative and independent careers in research. In addition to being an expert in the scientific area the scholar has chosen to pursue, a lead mentor must be familiar with faculty, resources and databases at UCSF, and have resources and research staff that can support the scholar's research. Lead mentors will provide guidance to assure that projects are moving satisfactorily on the path to presentations, publications and grant applications, and they will provide advice about career directions, national networking and academic promotion. They will also help to assure that 75 percent of the scholar's total work week is protected from clinical and administrative duties and fully available for training and research. Co-mentors will be responsible for working with the lead mentor on these responsibilities and will provide guidance in one or more complementary areas of expertise.

    Scholars will meet frequently with the lead mentor, both individually and in conjunction with other members of the research team. Scholars will also meet regularly with their co-mentors, and at least twice a year with all their mentors as a group. Mentors are encouraged to work with the scholar on a Career Development Plan (CDP) that is updated every six months. Mentors are also required to meet with the KL2 program advisor of the scholar, who serves as an ongoing career mentor and will also review the CDP. Each scholar is also expected to meet periodically with her or his division head or department chair who will oversee the scholar's departmental interactions and academic advancement.

    KL2 Selection Committee members may also serve as mentors, but during the selection of the candidate, these individuals will be excused from the discussion and vote.
  5. Clinical Research Facility
    All CTSI K Program activities will be at Mission Hall on the Mission Bay Campus when we are permitted to return to campus. During the COVID-19 pandemic, all CTST K Program activities are virtual. Upon return to campus, there will be “hotel” space for KL2 Scholars in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics on the second floor of Mission Hall. Many scholars choose to work here on Friday afternoons after the K seminars and WIPs. Having functional space and dedicated personnel for the scholars embedded in a much larger set of clinical research activities and support technologies is an important strength of the CTSI KL2 award, one that will optimize the scholars' acquisition of skills in research methodology and ability to build and lead interdisciplinary teams. It is expected that scholars will also have an office, computer and administrative support in their primary department.

    Many of the core K program faculty occupy space at Mission Hall in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. This includes core faculty (Sara Ackerman, Elaine Allen, John Boscardin, Steve Cummings, Ralph Gonzales, Richard Grant, Judy Hahn, Vanessa Jacoby, Amy Markowitz, Tom Mitchell, John Neuhaus, Mark Pletcher, Urmimala Sarkar, Steve Shiboski) as well as the KL2 director (Doug Bauer), interim director (Louise Walter), associate director (Chuck McCulloch), the KL2 program manager (Madeline Mann), KL2 program coordinator (Christian Leiva), finance analyst (Shirley Yuen) and TICR program director (Jeff Martin).

    We consider the time spent in physical proximity to each other and to clinical research expertise to be extremely important for forming a support group during a scholar's first year or two in the program and hope we can be together again soon. Scholars will be required to spend at least one morning per week on Fridays virtually with the K Scholars Program and in residence when we are allowed to gather back on campus. Core faculty will also be in residence on Fridays to make it easy for scholars to discuss issues regarding their research with faculty or arrange meetings if desired.
  6. Key Program Elements

    Weekly Methodology Seminars: Fridays 9-10 a.m. These seminars, on a wide variety of topics relevant to research methods and career development, are given by faculty and advanced scholars of the CTSI KL2 award, as well as invited speakers from UCSF and other universities.

    Weekly Works-in-Progress Seminar: Fridays 10-11:45 a.m. This serves as the core conference attended by the K-scholars, in groups of about 10, with at least two experienced clinical research faculty, including a clinical researcher and a biostatistician. Scholars present and discuss their research works-in-progress each week in a supportive and constructive environment, considering study and grant ideas and designs, implementation issues, analytical quandaries, research results, and drafts of grant applications and manuscripts. The work of two scholars is reviewed each week in the first year, with each scholar presenting about every five to six weeks. The frequency of works-in-progress meetings declines in subsequent years.

    Networking Lunch with Faculty and Scholars: This provides an informal forum for meeting and networking with other KL2 scholars and faculty at least twice a month.

    Expert Advice and Guidance: Each CTSI K scholar will be assigned a K faculty advisor and a K faculty biostatistician. The K faculty advisor is an important source of career guidance outside your home department. The K faculty biostatistician provides biostatistical advice on your research, a service that most scholars find invaluable. In addition, scholars have the opportunity to work one-on-one with our manuscript writing coach, Amy Markowitz, and our grant writing experts, Judy Hahn and Tom Mitchell, on preparing manuscripts and grants.

    In July or August, there will be a retreat to kick off the program and provide the opportunity for current and new scholars to get to know the program faculty and staff, and each other.
  7. Supporting CTSI Programs
    Scholars are expected to contribute to the goals of the CTSI teaching clinical and translational science methods to others in the K Program and in their home departments. As part of this, scholars are expected to participate at least once during their tenure in the CTSI K Program as an instructor in a CTSI or TICR-sponsored course (typically leading a small group section in Designing Clinical Research).

    This expectation is in addition to the teaching required by the Master's Degree in Clinical Research, and is designed in part to enable the program to respond to the growing need for what we teach and in part to add a relevant element to the career development of scholars. There is no better way to enhance expertise in the methods of clinical and translational science than to teach them.
  8. Scholar career development plans, progress reports, and performance feedback

    Scholar milestones: Since our shared goal is for scholars to become independently funded by the end of their K award period (or earlier), we set out these general guidelines for scholars to consider:

    By the end of the second year:
  • KL2 Scholars are strongly encouraged to submit an individual K award application (K23, etc.) that will replace the KL2, extending K funding and offering the advantages of being a PI on a grant from the NIH institute of choice.
  • Three peer-reviewed publications submitted, two of these as first or last author and two representing original research.

By the end of the third year:

  • Six peer-reviewed publications
  • Develop Specific Aims for an R01 grant (or equivalent)

Scholar Performance Reviews

October of the first year:

  • Scholars, in consultation with their mentors, create a "career development plan" for review by their "K Advisor."

Six months later and then annually:

  • Scholars update their career development plan for review with their mentors and with their K Advisor, and these assessments are reviewed at a KL2 faculty meeting. The meetings are the main opportunity to identify actions the scholar needs to take to assure continuation in the program the following July.

Each year in February:

  • Scholars complete an annual NIH progress report.


    We recommend that individuals interested in learning how to write successful research or career development award applications review the course Grant Writing for Mentored Career Development Awards, a self-paced online course prepared by Tom Mitchell, our resident expert. You may also want to review the library of successful K grant proposals.


    Application Form is found below the following instructions and lists of documents.

    Before submission, candidates should check with their department chairs to ensure that the department will provide salary supplementation in excess of $85,000 per year that is needed to cover their 75 percent protected time for training and research. According to the provisions in our CTSI grant, each of the four UCSF schools is required to share in the cost of providing training and infrastructure to KL2 scholars by providing $25,000 per scholar per year to the CTSI. The School of Medicine has committed to this, and candidates from the other schools are advised to check with their Dean's Office prior to submitting an application.

    The UCSF KL2 Award has an electronic submission process that requires direct data entry by the applicant, as well as uploading PDF formatted documents. The KL2 application requires many of the same elements as the NIH K 23 Award in addition to a few KL2-specific requirements (see table below).

    Applicants must use the NIH instructions and format for the K23 elements, following the instructions here. Questions about these instructions should be referred to the official in charge of K awards at an NIH institute appropriate to the candidate's specialty. For questions about the KL2 electronic submission process and KL2 specific elements contact Madeline Mann.

    Note on resubmissions: If this is a resubmission, please address the reviewer comments and highlight your accomplishments and development since the previous application (e.g., enhanced training, mentors, tangible resources, track record, changes in research plan).

    Note on clinical trials: KL2 scholars may not conduct clinical trials beyond the end of phase IIA. A phase IIA clinical trial is a pilot study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of an intervention in patients with the disease or condition to be treated, diagnosed or prevented. These studies may focus on participant population characteristics, dose response, dose frequency or other characteristics related to safety or efficacy. Phase IIA trials are not considered pivotal trials of efficacy.

    Required Elements for KL2 Application

    Notice of Intent to Deadline: Monday, January 11, 2021 [send email to Christian Leiva indicating intent to apply and include full name, degrees held, school, department, division, and if you are resubmitting (this is not binding but helps us plan)]

    Application Deadline: Monday, February 8, 2021, 6 pm

    Please have the documents listed below ready to upload to the Application Form. Convert any Word documents to PDF.

    KL2-Specific Information Type of Entry
    KL2 Applicant Contact Information Direct entry
    KL2 Applicant Demographics Direct entry
    KL2 Mentor(s) Contact Information Direct entry
    KL2 Candidate Statement (2 pgs., 2.5 pgs if resubmission) KL2 form (Word doc)
    KL2 Lead Mentor Statement (1 pg.) KL2 form (Word doc)
    KL2 Co-Mentor Statement (1 pg.) KL2 form (Word doc)
    KL2 Department Chair Statement (1 pg.) KL2 form (Word doc)
    NIH K23 Application Elements Type of Entry
    Project Summary/Abstract PDF attachment
    Candidate's NIH Biosketch PDF attachment
    Lead Mentor's Biosketch PDF attachment
    Candidate Information* PDF attachment
    Specific Aims (1 pg.) PDF attachment
    Research Strategy* PDF attachment
    References (Bibliographic) PDF attachment
    Protection of Human Subjects PDF attachment

    * KL23 Candidate Information and K23 Research Strategy should not exceed 12 pages.

    Application Form

    Receipt, Review, Award Schedule

    Call for applications/application format available Nov 2020
    Notice of intent due Jan 11, 2021
    KL2 applications due Feb 8, 2021
    Interviews of selected applicants Feb 16-Mar 19, 2021
    Initial notification of awards Week of Apr 5, 2021
    Appointment start date Jun 1, 2021


    Interim Program Director: Louise Walter, MD

    Clinical and Translational Science Training (CTST) Director: Alka Kanaya, MD

    Associate Director: Chuck McCulloch, PhD

    Program Manager: Madeline Mann 
    Program Coordinator: Christian Leiva
    Finance Coordinator: Shirley Yuen, MPH