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Are you an American early career researcher interested in doing a year of mentored research in China?

The China Medical Board Postdoctoral Research Fellowship provides outstanding opportunities for American early career researchers (completed MD, PhD, or similar stage) to lead mentored research projects at UNC partner sites in Nanjing, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong. We provide postdoctoral fellows with a Fogarty-like package of support, infrastructure, and mentorship (e.g., example here). Our goal is to develop the next generation of American medical research leaders focused on China.

The Program

This postdoctoral fellowship is open to the following individuals: US citizens or permanent residents; completed a doctoral degree or equivalent degree in a relevant field (e.g., M.D., Ph.D., DDS, PharmD, DVM) or are currently enrolled in a doctoral program (completed qualifying exams or equivalent); able to spend 11-12 months at the research site in China (potential to extend to two years); some knowledge of Mandarin (for Guangzhou and Nanjing sites). Applicants identify mentors in China and the United States, develop a brief research proposal and articulate a career development plan. The program is similar to NIH Fogarty International Center postdoctoral fellowships in terms of application, mentorship, support, and expectations.

Frequently Asked Questions UNC Project China Mentors Ongoing Research Studies Resources


Potential applicants should email with administrative questions and with scientific, mentorship, or other inquiries. This is a rolling application and should include the following components: NIH biosketch (details here) for the applicant, the main US mentor, and the main Chinese mentor; statement of career goals (maximum 800 words); mentorship and training plan (maximum 300 words); research plan for the project (including title, abstract, background, aims, methods, and significance; maximum 1500 words); letters of recommendation from a current mentor/supervisor and the proposed US/China mentors.

Send a single PDF file to Rolling applications, no deadline.

Infectious diseases fellow Dr. Katherine Li and UNC Project-China research assistant, Ye Liu, at the annual capacity building conference in Guangzhou, China in October 2023. Source: SESH, CC-BY

Why do research in China?

There are many reasons why China provides unique and compelling research opportunities. First, COVID-19 has demonstrated the need for global health research that crosses boundaries. Second, there is a need to cultivate global health leaders from the US who have a deep knowledge of China. Third, China has large numbers of people with many relatively rare diseases, providing a strong platform for clinical research. Fourth, fewer global health programs focus on China, leaving a gap in collaboration, while UNC is one of the leading institutes doing global health research in China. Fifth, many Chinese trainees are eager to learn in the US, providing a rationale for bidirectional exchange.

Next generation of research leaders

UNC Project-China has organized exceptional training opportunities for many medical students, infectious diseases fellows, postdoctoral fellows, residents, and other medical trainees. One of our previous trainees, Dr. Tom Fitzpatrick, noted, “The mentorship I’ve received at UNC Project – China shaped my decision to become a physician-scientist. This program not only taught me how to run my own research but also introduced me to an amazing team of collaborators from around the world.” Our trainees have obtained research and fellowship positions at top-ranked programs and published first-author manuscripts in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, Nature Medicine, and PLoS Medicine. Our trainees have gone on to receive NIH Career Development Awards (K grants), R01 grants, and cooperative (U) grants. Our clinical trainees have secured tenure-track faculty positions in the United States; several are included in our current mentor list.

Why UNC Project-China?

Our team has worked on collaborative infectious diseases research since Professor Myron (Mike) Cohen and Professor Gail Henderson first visited Guangzhou in 1979 with their daughter. George Hatem (马海德), the first foreign member of the Chinese Communist Party, was a graduate of the University of North Carolina. In addition to the history, several important aspects differentiate our UNC program:

  • Pay-it-forward culture. We strongly believe in the power of pay-it-forward. We cannot pay back our mentors; we can only pay-it-forward by providing exceptional mentorship to others. This is outlined in the WHO/TDR research mentorship guide that our team helped to develop.
  • Participatory research. Our team leads cutting-edge participatory research that uses the wisdom of crowds to design intervention, engage communities, and reach consensus. Mentees on our team have led crowdsourcing open calls, designathons, co-creation groups, and related participatory events.
  • WHO collaborations. Our team has developed systematic reviews to inform WHO guidelines and co-led the development of several participatory research guidelines. Trainees have played key roles in the development of guides on crowdsourcing, public engagement, and social innovation.
  • Social innovation. UNC Project-China is a research hub within the Social Innovation in Health Initiative (SIHI). Several of our postdoctoral fellows have had an opportunity to also be a part of the SIHI Fellowship.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. US-China relationships are often uncertain. How can I know for sure that I should do a year of research in China?

COVID-19 did not allow clinical trainees to do research in China, but our research was sustained during this period. Our team has hosted over 20 postdoctoral fellows in China over the past sixteen years. None of our research studies focus on sensitive topics, and we are fortunate to focus on scientific areas that are strategic priorities in both the United States and China. We have an extensive risk mitigation plan and work closely with Chinese counterparts to make sure that mentees have productive research stints.

2. Is there support for trainees across cultural, social, and sexual differences?
Our mentees have included disabled people, sexual minorities, people living with HIV, and many others. We strongly believe that there is strength in diversity. We are committed to making a productive local research environment for a broad diversity of trainees.

3. I have personal or professional obligations which require returning to the United States at times throughout the year. Is this possible with the fellowship?
Yes, we understand that clinical fellows and other trainees will have personal and professional obligations to return to the United States. We will work with you to develop a plan that aligns with your home training and the CMB goals.

4. I’m currently based at an institution other than UNC. If I receive this fellowship, what does that mean for my institutional affiliation?
There are two options for non-UNC fellows. One pathway is to remain at your home institution. We would organize support for your stipend and fringe benefits as a subaward to your home institution. The second pathway is for you to become a UNC fellow and receive your stipend and fringe benefits directly from UNC Chapel Hill.

5. Does the fellowship include dedicated time and funding support to improve Mandarin language skills while conducting research?
For fellows who wish to incorporate formal Mandarin language training into their overall plan for the year, we are delighted to provide protected time and potentially funding (depending on the scope). At the same time, this would need to synergize with research goals.

6. What can I expect in terms of salary support and research funding with this fellowship?
The salary support uses an NIH postgraduate payscale, similar to Fogarty fellowship programs. See more details of this payscale here:

UNC Project-China Mentors

myron Cohen headshot-China-MentorsMyron S. Cohen, MD
Associate Vice Chancellor of Global Health at UNC Chapel Hill, Co-Chair of the HIV Prevention Trials Network, and Professor of Medicine, Microbiology, Immunology, and Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina. Interests: He has a special interest in monoclonal antibodies, HIV treatment as prevention, and STD/HIV control. Email:

brian-hall-china-mentorBrian Hall, PhD
Professor of Global Public Health at NYU Shanghai, and Associated Professor of Global Public Health at New York University. Interests: His research focuses on mental health interventions, resilience, and community-engaged research. Email:


arlene-sena-china-mentorsArlene Sena, MPH, MD
Professor of Medicine, PI of the STD Training Grant at UNC, and PI of several syphilis genomics research studies. Interests: She has a special interest in syphilis, genomics, translation research, and mentorship. Email:


Sylvia_Sean_China-MentorSean Sylvia, MS, PhD
Associate Professor of Health Policy Management at the Gillings School of Global Public Health and PI of the Digital Health Economics and Policy Lab. Interests: His research focuses on behavioral economics, standardized patients, artificial intelligence, and digital health. Email:

wieming-tang-China-MentorWeiming Tang, MS, PhD
Associate Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at UNC Chapel Hill, Co-Director of UNC Project-China, and Co-Director of the UNC-CMB Training Program. Interests: His research focuses on social epidemiology, crowdsourcing and related participatory methods, and network-based interventions. Email:

Tucker_J_china-mentorJoseph D. Tucker, MD, PhD, AM
Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Director of UNC Project-China, and Director of the UNC-South China STD Research Training Center. Interests: He is an infectious diseases physician and social scientist with a special interest in mentorship, HIV, and crowdsourcing. Email:

heping-zheng-china-mentorHeping Zheng, PhD
Senior advisor to the Dermatology Hospital of Southern Medical University. Interests: He has a special interest in antimicrobial resistance, gonorrhea, and immunology. Email:


Bin-Yang-China-MentorBin Yang, MBBS, MSc, PhD
Chief of the Dermatology Hospital of Southern Medical University. Interests: She focuses on dermatology, clinical trials, and postdoctoral mentorship. Email:



Ligang-Yang-China-MentorLigang Yang, MBBS, MSc
STD Clinic Director at the Dermatology Hospital of Southern Medical University and former WHO Western Pacific Regional Advisor. Interests: He is interested in clinical STD research, community-engaged research, and MSM service delivery. Email:


Cheng-Weng-china-mentorCheng Wang, MS, PhD
Vice President of Dermatology Hospital of Southern Medical University and Co-Director of the UNC-South China STD Research Training Center. Interests: He has a special interest in doxycycline post-exposure prophylaxis, STI self-care, and pragmatic trials. Email:

William-Wong-China-MentorWilliam Wong, MBBS, MD, MA, MPH
Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Family Medicine and Primary Care at Hong Kong University. Interests: He has special interests in hepatitis, primary care, and decentralized STD testing. Email:


Dan-Wu-China-MentorDan Wu, MS, PhD
Professor at Nanjing Medical University in the Social Medicine and Health Education Department, Assistant Professor at LSHTM, and Research Director at SESH Global. Interests: Her research focuses on HPV vaccination, pay-it-forward, and co-creation methods. Email:


Ongoing Research Studies 


Study/PI Description of Study or Training Potential for Fellow Involvement
NIAID R01AI158826 (Tucker) Clinical trial at 12 sites in six cities among MSM and transgender men Secondary analyses of RCT data; related studies using the same cohort of men
NIAID R25AI170379 (Tucker) Training program focused on building capacity for youth HIV research Videoconferences and capacity building workshops focused on HIV, youth research, implementation science, and other topics
NIAID K24AI143471 (Tucker) Mentorship focused on HIV research in China; participatory methods such as crowdsourcing Research pilot project on doxycycline post-exposure prophylaxis among MSM in China
Gilead (Sherer/Tang) HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis among at-risk MSM in Guangzhou, China Additional biological or behavioral research on MSM
National Science Foundation of China (Zhou) Antimicrobial resistance and crowdsourcing in China Organizing public engagement activities focused on antimicrobial resistance in China
National Key Research and Development Program (2022YFC2304904, Tang) Network-based study combining data from open access digital sources, behavioral data, and biological data among MSM in China Additional network-based interventions focused on MSM in this unique cohort
Guangzhou Municipal Science and Technology Bureau Program (Tang) Optimizing HIV testing and surveillance among MSM in Guangzhou, China Contributing to study designing, quantitative study or qualitative study
TDR social innovation contracts (Tucker/Tang) Build capacity for social innovation research in LMICs Contributing to capability-building training for early career research in the SIHI network

MSM: men who have sex with men / BMGF: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation


SESH Global – Our UNC Project-China website
Social Innovation in Health – Larger network of social innovation supported by WHO/TDR; SESH Global is the SIHI Hub in China
University of Michigan CMB Postdoctoral Research Fellows
Yale CMB Program