Cancer Research Training Award Fellow Sought for Public Health Informatics Projects and Project Management


The 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, multiple population-based cancer reporting system that collects data on approximately 500,000 cancer cases annually and represents approximately 35% of the US population. SRP is conducting three public health informatics-related projects: the Virtual Tissue Repository (VTR), the Pediatric Cancer Whole Slide Imaging Pilot, and the electronic-Pathology Histomorphology Unified dataBase (e-PathHUB) Project.

VTR: Population-based biospecimens are critical to modern cancer research including the development and testing of novel predictive biomarkers to direct therapeutic decision making and prognostic biomarkers for understanding outcome risks, identification of novel cancer subtypes, and testing of molecular-level hypotheses in population subgroups. Leveraging its cancer registries across the United States, the SEER Program is initiating a series of activities to assist investigators in locating and accessing biospecimens for research purposes on a population scale.

Whole Slide Imaging Pilot: Digital scanning of microscopic slides for cancer cases on a population scale will offer a valuable resource for automated image analysis research involving development of image analysis algorithms. SEER is conducting a pilot for capturing and testing the validity of deidentification and anonymization software for digital whole slide image (WSI) and associated metadata for cancer cases ascertained through the SEER cancer registry system.

e-PathHUB Project: SEER is partnering with standard setters for tumor histology, behavior, and site terminology and codes and cancer staging to develop an open source, integrated web-based interface with an underlying relational database.

Position Description

The Cancer Research Training Award (CRTA) fellow will function within the Data Quality, Analysis and Interpretation Branch (DQAIB) as an integral member of teams for the Virtual Tissue Repository (VTR), the Whole Slide Imaging Pilot, and the electronic-Pathology Histomorphology Unified dataBase (e-PathHUB). As part of these teams, he/she will work with staff on projects related to the mission of DQAIB, particularly as that mission relates to projects on genomics and biospecimens by maintaining and building and working with relational information databases; evaluating information from specimen tracking; integrating information from submitted clinicopathologic data and treatment information, automated digital image analysis obtained from whole slide images, and clinical outcomes; and being a key member of the analytical team. The fellow will also gain experience in project management within the federal government by supporting these three initiatives.

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

  • Organizing and collaborating on pilot studies of components of a national network for biospecimen acquisition with NCI, academic investigators, and contractors as well as regular interactions with SEER registry personnel;
  • Organizing meetings, workshops, and teleconferences related to the overall objective of developing and testing the validity of WSI and metadata deidentification and anonymization tools and conducting the Whole Slide Imaging Pilot;
  • Organizing meetings, workshops, and teleconferences related to the integration of histology, tumor behavior, and site terminology and coding and staging across standard setters as part of the electronic-Pathology Histomorphology Unified dataBase Project;
  • Being involved in the team developing a backend relational database that supports a graphical user interface for the electronic-Pathology Histomorphology Unified dataBase Project;
  • Participating in training opportunities related to informatics and gaining experience in project management;
  • Performing ongoing literature reviews and solicit information and recommendations from ethics experts within and external to the NCI to develop best practices for managing patient privacy issues;
  • Assisting in synthesizing the results from targeted pilots to develop a production level implementation plan for developing a large-scale virtual biorepository;
  • Gathering, analyzing, and synthesizing information through literature reviews, surveys, and interviews via written reports and oral presentations; and
  • Participating in staff meetings and attend 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 a research or medical career.


  • Doctorate or Master's-level degree in public health, epidemiology, bioinformatics, medical informatics or statistics.
  • A strong interest in medical informatics, electronic health data and/or cancer surveillance methodologies, biospecimen research, epidemiology, population-based research, and/or cancer control.
  • Skills and experience in data management with text files, SQL and/or NoSQL databases are preferred, but not required.
  • Skills and experience in programming and scripting languages (e.g. Python, Java) are preferred, but not required.
  • 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 or interest in quantitative/computational science and/or population science.

In addition to your resume/CV and cover letter, 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 all degree conferred. If currently enrolled in the last semester of your program, Proof of Academic Good Standing must be sent on official letterhead and signed by graduate program director, advisor, or equivalent.

Note: 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 must be mailed to:

Ms. 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

In order to be approved for logical and physical access to NIH facilities and systems, candidates must be able to pass a Federal background check, using Standard Form-85 (read SF-85). Your fellowship is contingent upon clearance of this background investigation.

The National Cancer Institute is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Approximate Start Date

September 2020 (subject to change due to coronavirus).

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 the Behavioral Research Program website. 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.

Last Updated: 29 Jul, 2020