Cancer Research Training Award Fellow Sought for Biomedical and Heath Informatics for Cancer Surveillance


The NCI Surveillance Research Program (SRP) directs the collection and analysis of cancer surveillance data to answer key questions about cancer. As part of its mission, SRP manages the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program, an integrated, comprehensive population-based cancer reporting system. Currently, the SEER Program collects data on approximately 550,000 new cancer cases annually from 16 state and regional cancer registries that represent 34% of the US population and over 360 laboratories. Approximately 80% of those cancer cases include at least one unstructured electronic pathology report. SEER-funded cancer registries utilize SEER Data Management System (SEER*DMS) for data abstraction, edits and reporting to the SEER Program. SRP is currently piloting acquisition and linkage of new sources for detailed diagnostic and treatment data, including pharmacy, claims, genomic, radiation oncology and other information from electronic health records. In addition to the high data volume and variety of clinical data collected for cancer surveillance, the SEER Program is investing in enhancements to SEER*DMS as preparation for new linkages and tools while maintaining high standards for data quality, system security, and protection of confidential data.

Traditionally, cancer surveillance data have been interpreted, extracted and manually entered into data systems by trained and Certified Tumor Registrars. With extensive manual data processing, it may take up to two years from the time a cancer case is diagnosed until information about that case is available for research in public use data files.

With the increasing complexity of cancer diagnosis and treatment, across hospitals and outpatient facilities, the ability of tumor registrars to access, identify and extract all the data manually is no longer feasible. Therefore, SRP is working to develop and apply new methods and systems (e.g., natural language processing and deep learning) to automate manual information processing, to maximize the value of free text documents such as electronic pathology reports and radiologic dictations, and to support near real-time case ascertainment.

To strategically integrate these novel tools and systems with SEER*DMS, SEER is performing an extensive usability evaluation which will drive system enhancements and improve user experience.

Position Description

The Cancer Research Training Award (CRTA) fellow will function as an integral member of the Surveillance Informatics Branch (SIB) in SRP. He/she will work with other staff and contractors to support projects related to the mission of SRP and SIB, especially planning, project management and contributing subject matter expertise to one or more of the following areas

  • Development and scaling of tools and pipelines for natural language processing (NLP) and deep learning for extraction and coding of information from pathology reports and other text documents (a collaboration with the Department of Energy national laboratories)
  • Development and validation models and simulations from patient to population level (e.g., in silico clinical trials, predictive modeling, synthetic data generation)
  • Enhancing the usability of complex registry data processing workflow systems
  • Improving and expanding current SEER*DMS infrastructure to accommodate new tools and processes
  • Community and stakeholder engagement and governance around SEER*DMS and other complex systems used by the SEER Program
  • Development and validation of de-identification tools and methods
  • Advancing the use of semantic web and semantic infrastructure (e.g., ontologies, terminologies, metadata repositories) for high performance computing (e.g., NLP, deep learning, data mining, simulation), data integration, and development of human- and machine-friendly population science data commons for the research community
  • Applications of artificial intelligence and big data tools and methods to cancer surveillance and population sciences

Day-to-day activities of this full-time position include, but are not limited to:

  • Project management tasks such as organizing, leading and documenting meetings, teleconferences and in-person workshops
  • Planning, implementing and supporting biomedical and health informatics projects
  • Writing reports and presenting findings
  • Working with project leads to develop and track management processes and project lifecycles
  • Working effectively with a variety of stakeholders internal and external to SRP and the SEER Program, including registry staff, government staff and fellows, and contractors
  • Performing literature searches, conducting systematic reviews of databases and web sources
  • Leading or assisting with collaborative research projects related to informatics areas above, and
  • Participating in staff meetings and attending lectures or other training opportunities sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

CRTA Fellows may have the opportunity to travel for the National Cancer Institute to national conferences. This fellowship provides an excellent opportunity for a recent graduate potentially interested in pursuing further education leading to a medical informatics or research career.


  • Bachelor’s degree, Master's degree or PhD in biomedical informatics, medical informatics, public health informatics, computer science, or related field
  • A strong interest in applying the tools, methods and expertise in biomedical and health informatics and project management to advance cancer surveillance at the national level
  • Experience reviewing, analyzing, and summarizing scientific literature
  • Excellent attention to detail and interpersonal, organizational, writing, and project management skills
  • The ability to work independently and as a team member

Application Requirements

To be considered for this position, please submit your resume/CV and cover letter to Trish Murphy by the application deadline. In the cover letter, provide an explanation of your interest in the fellowship program, explain your professional development goals and research interests, and describe your experience and interest in biomedical informatics, population science and public health.

Once selected for the fellowship, you will need to submit the following additional materials:

  • Two letters of recommendation.
  • Proof of U.S. Citizenship or resident alien status (e.g. photocopy of birth certificate or passport).
  • Official Transcripts and/or Proof of Academic Good Standing - Send transcript of highest degree conferred. If currently enrolled in school, Proof of Academic Good Standing must be sent on official letterhead and signed by graduate program director, advisor, or equivalent.

Note: In order to qualify for the position, the candidate must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien. A candidate with an I-551 stamp in their passport can also qualify since this is temporary verification of permanent residency status pending issuance of the green card. Individuals with "Employment Authorization" documents (EADs) do not meet eligibility criteria.

Application materials may be submitted via email to Trish Murphy. Paper copies and official Transcripts and/or Proof of Academic Good Standing may be sent to:

Trish Murphy
Surveillance Research Program
9609 Medical Center Drive MSC 9765 Room 4E516
Bethesda, MD 20892 (U.S. Mail)
Rockville, MD 20850 (Courier Service)
Tel. 240-276-6903
Fax: 240-276-7908

The National Cancer Institute is an Equal Opportunity Employer.


The Fellowship Mentor for this position will be:

Steve Friedman, MHSA
Senior Advisor for Operations, Office of the Associate Director
Surveillance Research Program, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences
National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health
9609 Medical Center Drive MSC 9765
Bethesda, MD 20892 (U.S. Mail)
Rockville, MD 20850 (Courier Service)

Approximate Start Date

As soon as possible.

Stipend and Benefits

The stipends for CRTA Fellows are adjusted yearly, and are commensurate with academic achievement and relevant experience. More information is available online at:

Benefits include health insurance at no cost and a wide range of career development and social activities. The office is located in commuter-friendly Rockville, Maryland, close to the bustling metropolis of Bethesda, and near downtown DC.