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Mary Switzer Research Fellowships

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Per the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), now the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), has been transferred to the Administration for Community Living (ACL) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For more information on ACL, please visit More information on NIDILRR’s new Web site will be posted soon. In the meantime, you may continue to find information regarding NIDILRR on


Program Office: National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR)

CFDA Number: 84.133F

Program Type: Fellowships

Also Known As: Research Fellowships


Program Description

The Switzer Research Fellowships Program was established to build rehabilitation capacity by providing support to qualified individuals to engage in scientific research relating to the rehabilitation of individuals with disabilities. The fellowships are available on an annual competitive basis on two levels:

Distinguished Fellowships

Distinguished Fellowships ($75,000) are awarded to individuals with a doctorate, other terminal degree, or comparable academic qualifications who have seven or more years of research experience in subject areas, methods or techniques directly relevant to rehabilitation research.

Merit Fellowships

Merit Fellowships ($75,000) are awarded to individuals with advanced professional training or research experience in independent study in appropriate areas that are directly pertinent to disability and rehabilitation, but who are in earlier stages of their research career, with less than the required seven years' experience, or who do not have a doctorate.

Fellows must conduct original research in an area authorized by Section 204 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The fellowships cover a 12-month period, and provide a stipend for research-related expenses. Awards are made to individuals only, not institutions. These fellowships require a full-time commitment (defined as 40 hours per week). The Fellow must work principally on the fellowship research during the year.


Types of Projects

The topics of Switzer research over the last twenty years include, but are not limited to, issues in medical rehabilitation; rehabilitation service financing, delivery, and utilization; vocational rehabilitation, rehabilitation engineering and assistive technology; rehabilitation psychology and psychiatric rehabilitation; disability policy/rights; rehabilitation measurement; and special education.

A few specific examples are described below.

  • Dr. David Braddock,
    Executive Director ofthe Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities and Associate Vice-President for Research, both at the University of Colorado

    Dr. Braddock was a Switzer Distinguished Fellow in 1988-1989 at the midpoint of his career and then again ten years later. Braddock's first study involved the expansion of his analysis of public spending for developmental disabilities to include public spending for mental health services. Braddock took up the topic again in a second Switzer Fellowship, developing a methodology for the analysis of state spending for developmental, mental and physical disabilities. The resulting monograph (Disability at the Dawn of the 21st Century and State of the States) has become the single most important metric to gauge the extent to which the Olmstead Act is being implemented in the states.
  • Dr. Mindy L. Aisen,
    Former Deputy ChiefResearch and Development Officer (CRADO), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

    Dr. Aisen was a Switzer Merit Fellow in 1985-1986. Aisen's Switzer research on the assessment of tremor in multiple sclerosis resulted in published journal articles, primitive assessment devices, and further federal funding. The collaborative relationships that she established during her Switzer research resulted in the establishment of a Fellowship program at MIT and Cornell/Burke Rehabilitation in Rehabilitation Medicine/Rehabilitation Engineering and in a robotics collaborative between the same institutions. For the latter, Aisen and colleagues extended the measurement of tremor to the population of those with head injury. The outgrowth of Aisen's Switzer research has been a significant contribution to the literature that has, and continues to have, a profound effect on clinical treatment.
  • Dr. Alan M. Jette,
    Dean, Sargent College ofHealth and Rehabilitation Sciences, Boston University

    Dr. Jette was a Switzer Distinguished Fellow in 1988-1989. He conducted his fellowship research in the early stages of his career, and the title of his study was "Longitudinal Analyses of Impairments and Disability." Jette’s reports that his Switzer epidemiology study (involving analyses of longitudinal data re: disabilities) was published and prepared him to successfully compete for NIH funding. He states that it was very difficult to secure funding for this topic at the time, and NIDILRR’s willingness to do so was the catalyst for a career in rehabilitation research with a public health emphasis that has been the hallmark of his work since the Switzer Fellowship.


Additional Information

Note: This is one of several NIDILRR grant programs. Congress provides an appropriation for NIDILRR as a whole; see the main entry for NIDILRR, CFDA # 84.133. The amounts listed here are a portion of the NIDILRR appropriation.


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Last Modified: 04/20/2015