Apply for BioGEM

Does BioGEM sound like the right fit for your future? Review the eligibility requirements provided below, feel free to reach out with any inquiries, and when you're prepared to take the next step, proceed with your application on the NSF ETAP website.

Apply for 2025!

We are no longer accepting applications for 2024. Please consider applying for 2025. The application portal will open again in November! 

Navigating the Application Process

Applying for opportunities can be challenging. If you have concerns, need clarification, or have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us! Take the time to thoroughly read this page, acquainting yourself with eligibility requirements, deadlines, BioGEM project descriptions, and the necessary application materials. If you decide to apply, your next step is to visit the NSF ETAP portal, where you'll create an account, register, select the BioGEM opportunity, upload your materials, and even send requests to your letter writers. 

Attend a Virtual Information Session

The director and program coordinator will give a short introduction to BioGEM and discuss, in detail, aspects of the application process. The session is informal and you have the opportunity to engage with staff and to ask questions. Click on the "Stay Connected" button below to be the first to know when sessions are scheduled or simply frequent this page for updates.

Eligibility Requirements

  • must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or permanent resident of the United States
  • must have a baccalaureate college degree in biology or related field
  • must apply to the program before or within four years of graduation, with extensions allowed for family, medical leave, or military service 
  • individuals currently enrolled or accepted into a graduate program are not eligible
  • be interested in pursuing a career in research in the fields of ecology, evolution and/or biodiversity science

Applicants from groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM are especially encouraged to apply!


The application portal, for BioGEM 2024-25, is now closed. There is no fee to apply. Priority consideration is given to completed applications received by March 1st. The application portal closes on May 1st or when all 10 slots have been filled. 

Application Review Process

After the priority status deadline of 3/1, all applicants will recieve information regarding the status of their application from the program coordinator. Eligible applicants will be asked to sign up for a virtual 15-minute interview with the selection committee. The first round of interviews will take place the week of March 24th for those applicants who submit between 3/1 and 3/15. The first round of offer letters will be sent out the first week of April. Subsequent applications will be reviewed similarly. No applications will be reviewed after May 1st. Applicants with questions regarding the review process should contact the coordinator, Katrina McClure, at


All submission materials are to be submitted on the NSF ETAP website. You will need to create an account and register to apply for any opportunities listed on the site. The site requires that the resume and transcript be uploaded as PDF documents.

Application Materials

The NSF ETAP application portal requires all applicants to complete a registration process with ETAP. To get started, you must create an account. You have the flexibility to fill out the registration form either before or after selecting the opportunities you intend to apply for. The great thing is that if you decide to apply to multiple opportunities through the ETAP portal, you only need to register once. Your application to BioGEM will not process if you have not completed the registration process. Please visit ETAP's FAQ page for more information. 

On the NSF ETAP website, submit a PDF of your most recent transcript which should include your final semester of graduation.

When using the ETAP portal, navigate to the BioGEM opportunity and click to select it. The site will prompt you to input your statement into a designated window. For a smoother experience, we strongly recommend that you compose and refine your statement in a document stored on your computer. Once your statement is edited and polished, log in to your ETAP account and simply copy/paste your statement into the provided window. 

Personal Statement Instructions

The ETAP personal statement window limits you to 5,000 characters so be concise.

Please address the following prompts in your statement, following the order presented here. In planning to write your statement, allot only 1-2 paragraphs for each prompt. The last prompt is optional. 

  1. What motivates you to devote a year to a postbaccalaureate program and ideally what would you like to be doing the year following your participation in a program such as BioGEM?
  2. Tell us about a time when you felt particularly excited about science. What was the occasion, what happened that sparked your interest, and what was your reaction?
  3. Discuss a BioGEM project that interests you. Alternatively, identify one or more faculty member(s) at KU whose research aligns with your interests*.
  4. Describe an obstacle or challenge you have had to overcome (academic or personal) and what you learned from it.
  5. Optional: If there is an aspect of your application that you would like to expand on or contextualize, or anything else you would like to tell us about yourself,  you may do so here.

*To address the 3rd prompt please review the "Potential BioGEM Projects" description below. You may refer to a project by simply using the project number in your statement.

BioGEM requires two letters of recommendation. Follow the prompts on the NSF ETAP website to send a request to your letter writers. Typically, it is appropriate to reach out to a letter writer personally before going through an automated system. By reaching out personally, you can obtain their consent and confirmation that they are willing to write a letter on your behalf. Once your prospective letter writer has agreed to serve as a reference, you can inform them that the ETAP system will send them an email containing a link to submit their recommendation. Additionally, the ETAP system offers the option to send reminder emails to letter writers if needed. For further details, please visit NSF ETAP and click on FAQ on the upper right side of the page for additional information.

Potential BioGEM Projects

BioGEM was designed to provide participating scholars with a dynamic interdisciplinary experience with a network of mentors. In your application, you are asked to describe a type of project that would be of interest to you. Some examples are listed below.  Alternatively, if you would like to work on another project, not listed here, please describe the project and list any EEB KU faculty or other faculty from KU and/or our partnering institutions that would be appropriate. If you have questions, contact the program coordinator.

Team 1: Mechanisms of Germ Cell Specification in Early Diverging Animals

Join Cartwright (KU) and Gibson (Stowers) as a BioGEM scholar to investigate how two distant cnidarian species, the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis and the colonial hydrozoan Hydractinia symbiolongicarpus, specify their germline (eggs and sperm). In Nematostella, germ cells are produced early in development and stored in special clusters. On the other hand, Hydractinia has a unique system that keeps a special group of cells (i-cells) throughout its life that can specify germ cells as needed.  As a BioGEM scholar, you'll get to use advanced genomic tools such as transcriptomics and CRISPR, to explore the shared and distinct mechanisms of germ cell specification between these two animals.

Team 2: Plasticity in Plants

Join Atkinson, Matsunaga, Hileman, and Kelly (all KU) will mentor scholars to investigate patterns and processes of intraspecific trait variation in plants. Plant morphology varies within species owing to both genetic differences and environmental responses (plasticity) that determine developmental trajectories. Understanding how phenotypic and genotypic variation responds to the environment is key to predicting climate change responses. This team will mentor BioGEM scholars in dissecting patterns and causes of variation from the fossil record to the genome. This unique combination of neo- and paleobotanical research will provide BioGEM scholars the opportunity to synthesize concepts at the intersection of micro- and macroevolution.

Team 3: Measuring Change Through Time via Shifts in Mammalian Distributions, Diversity, and Symbiont Interactions

Join Colella and Jensen, both from KU, as a BioGEM scholar to explore the fascinating world of parasites and their interaction with mammals. Revisiting sites in the Great Plains where mammals were previously surveyed. The goal is to understand how species distributions, the makeup of mammal communities, and genetic diversity within mammals have changed over time. This project offers a unique opportunity for hands-on fieldwork, where you'll collect both the hosts and their parasites. Parasites will include internal (primarily nematodes, cestodes, and other non-arthropod parasites) and external (fleas, ticks, and bot flies) parasitic faunas. The BioGEM scholar will actively participate in data collection, analysis, and interpretation, all within an evolutionary framework.

Team 4: Mechanisms of Synaptonemal Complex Formation Across 60 Million Years of Divergence

Join Blumenstiel from KU and Hawley from Stowers as a BioGEM scholar to explore the intricate world of the synaptonemal complex (SC). The SC has been around since the early days of eukaryotes and plays a vital role in meiosis, the process whereby chromosomes need to pair up and align correctly. The SC is an essential structure, conserved from jellyfish to mammals. However, the components of the SC, known as SC proteins, do not seem to be conserved themselves. Specific characteristics, even if they have other roles, are continuously recruited to the SC. The BioGEM scholar will conduct genetic and cytological analyses of potential SC proteins in Drosophila virilis, a species diverged from the well-studied Drosophila melanogaster for 60 million years. Through a comparison of SC complex protein sequences and function, this project will determine if SC is evolving so rapidly we are unable to recognize their homology or if SC proteins evolve convergently.

Team 5: Paddlefish and Their Parasites 

Join Smith and Jensen from KU and Cielocha from Rockhurst University as a BioGEM scholar to dive into the fascinating world of paddlefish and their tapeworm parasites.  The BioGEM scholar will investigate whether parasite diversity and prevalence correlate with factors like paddlefish size, age, sex, or genetic haplotype. Genomic techniques will be used to determine paddlefish genetic diversity and morphological approaches will be used to characterize the parasite fauna within the paddlefish spiral intestine.

Team 6: The Invasive Freshwater Jellyfish as a Model System for Education and Outreach

Join Cartwright from KU, along with Bowes and Mayes from ESU, as a BioGEM scholar to dive into the world of the freshwater jellyfish, Craspedacusta sowerbii. We use C. sowerbii as a model system for education and outreach. Craspedacusta sowerbii is an invasive species found worldwide. Although records of Craspedacusta in Kansas have been limited, it likely exists in various freshwater ecosystems across the state but is undetected due to the small size of its dormant life cycle stage. Using eDNA approaches, the BioGEM scholar will survey for Craspedacusta in lakes and streams. In addition, laboratory experiments will be performed to determine optimal conditions for culturing the jellyfish state. BioGEM scholars learn how to use Craspedacusta as an educational tool to study invasive species and the effects of climate change.

Team 7. Biogeography in a Greenhouse World: Comparing and Contrasting the Macroevolution of Terrestrial and Marine Life during the Cretaceous Period

Join Atkinson and Lieberman from KU, along with Willis from HINU to embark on an exciting journey into the Cretaceous period and how the flora and fauna were shaped by Earth’s history. The Cretaceous period was a critical juncture when angiosperms (flowering plants) were beginning to radiate and the marine invertebrate fauna was undergoing diversification. The period occurred against a backdrop of "greenhouse" conditions, with exceptionally warm and stable climates on land and in the oceans, albeit with gradual cooling in the later Cretaceous. BioGEM scholars will work closely with mentors to conduct phylogenetic analyses and utilize Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to explore patterns of faunal exchange within North America and between North America and other regions. This will uncover whether there are consistent biogeographic patterns across different groups and determine commonalities and differences between Cretaceous marine and terrestrial ecosystems.


Apply for BioGEM

The application for BioGEM 2024-25 is now open. Apply through the National Science Foundation's Education & Training Application Portal. Priority consideration will be given to students who complete their application by March 1. The BioGEM application closes May 1, 2024.

Need Help?

If you have questions about the program or the application process, please contact the BioGEM program director. Click on 'Stay Connected' to be updated on everything BioGEM!
Two new KU students smile while receiving instructions from a KU student ambassador holding up a folder during KU orientation.