Godwin Ananaba says it was a chance meeting with a friend that eventually led him to become a researcher in Larry J. Anderson's lab at the Center for Infectious Diseases in Atlanta (part of the Public Health Service's Centers for Disease Control, or CDC). The friend told Ananaba about the Washington, D.C.-based National Research Council's research associateship program, a program widely known to foreign students seeking postdoctoral fellowships but underutilized by, and even unknown to, many American graduate students. Yet despite the program's relative obscurity, NRC awards 300 to 400 fellowships each year and offers a generous stipend.

In 1988 Ananaba, a native of Nigeria, was finishing his doctorate in cell and molecular biology at Atlanta University and trying to plan the next step in his career. On the advice of his friend, he obtained a catalog that listed research opportunities available at United States government agencies and laboratories, among...

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