Project Director, HEALthy Brain and Child Development (HBCD) Study

Job Summary

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at the National Institutes of Health is seeking exceptional candidates for the position of Project Director, HEALthy Brain and Child Development (HBCD) Study, Division of Extramural Research (DER). NIDA's mission is to lead the nation in bringing the power of science to bear on drug misuse and addiction. This charge has two critical components. The first is the strategic support and conduct of research across a broad range of disciplines. The second is ensuring the rapid and effective dissemination of research results to improve practice and inform policy related to drug misuse and addiction. The Division of Extramural Research manages funding programs in support of drug and addiction research.  The DER Director oversees the execution of approximately $1.28 billion for about 4500 research grants and research training programs. To carry out its mission, the Division has an annual budget of approximately $8 million and a staff of approximately 60 employees. 

The position of HBCD Study Project Director offers a unique and exciting opportunity for scientific and managerial leadership. The HBCD Study is enrolling a large cohort of pregnant people (~7500 participants) from diverse backgrounds and regions of the country.  It comprises 27 research sites, a Study Coordinating Center, and a Data Coordinating Center.  The project will focus on early human development and how it is affected by substance exposure and other environmental, social, and biological factors during pregnancy and after birth. Information will be collected beginning during the second trimester of pregnancy and continuing through early childhood.  It will include anthropometrics (growth measures); medical and family history; biospecimens (samples such as urine and blood); and assessments of social, emotional, and cognitive function. Structural and functional brain imaging and electroencephalography (EEG) will also be used to measure brain development.  Research from this cohort will help us understand normative childhood brain development as well as the long-term impact of pre- and postnatal opioids and other drugs and adverse environmental exposures. 

This is a highly visible and complex program that is being scientifically overseen through NIDA’s Division of Extramural Research (DER).  The HBCD Study is funded as a cooperative agreements, such that NIH continues to play a critical role in its conduct and scientific oversight. The HBCD Study involves multiple NIH Institutes/Centers, national research institutions, and higher echelons of the federal government. Results from this research are expected to lead to the discovery and development of novel prevention and therapeutic strategies and to provide a publicly accessible database for the research community to answer questions on the variables that affect early brain and behavioral development for many years to come. 

As a Science Program Leader, the HBCD Study Project Director reports directly to the Director, DER, sets scientific priorities, makes high-level decisions about the overall program direction, and works closely with the HBCD Study and grants management officials to approve resource allocations for the approximately $50M/year budget. The HBCD Study Project Director also formulates major overall scientific policies as they relate to research across all phases of the HBCD study and advises the highest levels of NIH and NIDA management in major areas of importance in overall policy and program direction. The HBCD Study Project Director collaborates with representatives from multiple NIH Institutes/Centers and consults with stakeholders, including families, educators, professional organizations, services and offices serving pregnant women and children, and other governmental agencies; and serves as a spokesperson for the NIH with the scientific community, press, and public.

Required Qualifications

The National Institute on Drug Abuse seeks candidates who have a commitment to scientific excellence and the energy, enthusiasm, and innovative thinking necessary to lead a dynamic and diverse organization. Applicants must possess an M.D. and/or Ph.D. degree (or equivalent degree) in health or allied sciences relevant to the position from an accredited educational institution, and should have research experience and national renown in a field that is relevant to neurodevelopment, brain imaging, cognitive neuroscience, population studies; and/or drug misuse and addiction. In addition, he/she will possess experience that demonstrates the ability to manage and lead a large and diverse research program having national or international collaborations, scope, and impact. Candidates should have demonstrated effective leadership abilities, and excellent communication skills with the ability to serve as a spokesperson for the Institute and the program, including on sensitive ethical issues related to the goals of the HBCD Study program. The candidate should also have strong program and project management skills for the planning, executing, and assessing of this complex, multifaceted extramural program and initiatives. Experience is also required in the resolution of operational issues and the ability to manage financial and human resources. A track record of industry/academic excellence or public sector experience, and outstanding scientific contributions to research is expected. The successful candidate will demonstrate a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.


The successful candidate for this position will be appointed at a salary commensurate with his/her qualifications.  A recruitment or relocation incentive may be available, and relocation expenses may be paid. Full federal benefits will be provided including leave, health and life insurance, retirement, and savings plan (401k equivalent) will be provided.  

Please read the following guidance on Selective Service requirements.

Equal Employment Opportunity

Selection for this position will be based solely on merit, with no discrimination for non-merit reasons such as race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, political affiliation, marital status, disability, age, or membership or non-membership in an employee organization. The NIH encourages the application and nomination of qualified women, minorities, and individuals with disabilities. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) for federal employees & job applicants.

Standards of Conduct/Financial Disclosure

The NIH inspires public confidence in our science by maintaining high ethical principles. NIH employees are subject to federal government-wide regulations and statutes as well as agency-specific regulations described on the NIH Ethics Website. We encourage you to review this information. The position is subject to a background investigation and requires the incumbent to complete a public financial disclosure report prior to the effective date of the appointment and be approved by the NIH Ethics Office

Foreign Education

Applicants who have completed part or all of their education outside of the U.S. must have their foreign education evaluated by an accredited organization to ensure that the foreign education is equivalent to education received in accredited educational institutions in the U.S. We will only accept the completed foreign education evaluation. For more information on Foreign Education verification, visit the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) website. Verification must be received prior to the effective date of the appointment. 

HHS has a critical preparedness and response mission: HHS protects the American people from health threats, researches emerging diseases, and mobilizes public health programs with domestic and international partners.  In support of this mission, HHS offers its employees the opportunity to volunteer to become Federal Civilian Detailees and contribute their unique skills through voluntary temporary assignments to humanitarian emergencies or Departmental priorities countering new and emerging health, safety, and security threats.

Reasonable Accommodation

NIH provides reasonable accommodations to applicants with disabilities. If you require reasonable accommodation during any part of the application and hiring process, please notify us at The decision on granting reasonable accommodation will be made on a case-by-case basis.