So You’re Saying 50 Fellowship Applications is Enough?

Dear Dora: Are 50 fellowship applications is Enough?Dear Dora,

How many fellowship applications do most people submit when starting their postdoc?

- Dom, grad student

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Dear Dom,

This is an interesting and relevant question particularly as the tough job market is channeling more PhD’s towards the postdoctoral track. According the NSF and the National Postdoctoral Association, there were 89,000 postdoctoral fellows in the United States in 2008, and the percentage of PhD’s going into postdoctoral positions is increasing* (see references at the end).

Some students do not need to apply for postdoctoral fellowships because their PI’s have funding for them. Others are not so fortunate, and they need to go through the bureaucracy and secure their own funding. On the flip side, the process of applying for postdoctoral funding gives students experience in grant writing, which is valued highly in academia. Since there are only limited numbers of agencies that grant postdoctoral fellowships in each field, most students only submit one or two applications.

So, where do you find postdoctoral opportunities? I listed a few online resources below, but your thesis advisor is probably the best person to talk to. He or she could recommend other groups whose research could compliment your experience, as well as places to apply for postdoctoral fellowships.

For more information and to connect with other postdocs, visit the National Postdoctoral Association.  If you are looking for a postdoctoral position, you will find listings on postdocjobs.com and findapostdoc.com.

Of course, universities’ job bulletins and your field’s professional association are also excellent places to find postdoctoral listings.  To find fellowships, check out the NIH, NSF and phds.org.  For fellowships in the Social Sciences and Humanities, UC Berkeley has a nice list of opportunities.

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*References:

www.nationalpostdoc.org/policy/what-is-a-postdoc

www.nsf.gov/statistics/issuebrf/sib99310.pdf

www.cpst.org/Future.pdf


Dora Farkas, Ph.D. is the author “The Smart Way to Your Ph.D.:200 Secrets from 100 Graduates,” and the founder of PhDNet, an online community for graduate students and PhDs. You will find links to her book, monthly newsletters, and discussion board on her site. Send your questions to DearDora@benchfly.com and keep an eye out for them in an upcoming issue!

Stay tuned for the next Dear Dora in two weeks!  In the meantime, check a few of Dora’s recent posts:

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Submit your questions to Dora at DearDora@benchfly.com, or use the comment box below!

 

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3 comments so far. Join The Discussion

  1. chrisb

    wrote on February 4, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Agreed – in the main, you are going to find that the number of fellowships you CAN apply for, or that it would be WORTHWHILE to apply for, are going to be dictated by factors like your field of study as well as demographics. For example, as an expatriate Brit, there were only a handful of fellowships that I was eligible for.

    I would add the need to discuss this with your postdoctoral advisor, not necessarily just your thesis advisor (although they may be one and the same); many people switch fields when transitioning from doctoral to postdoc work, and your thesis advisor may not be in the best position to help you. Your new PI, however, will be much more familiar with the field, and can identify non-profit/charitable fellowships from relevant foundations, as well as federal sources.

    Chris – former NPA Board member

  2. chrisb

    wrote on February 4, 2011 at 9:23 am

    A couple of other things: firstly, once you have put yourself through the ringer and applied for one, why not apply for more? In the main, information required for fellowship applications is either similar or overlapping, so putting in new applications to other funding sources is much less taxing, and with a little wordsmithing you can make research aims viable for several different groups.

    Also, a word of caution when considering NRSAs. The 'revise-and-resubmit' option is now on the table for those below the payline, and so A2 revisions are feasible – which may sound nice that you have a couple of revisions to get funding, but realize that by the time A2 is complete, you have been a postdoc for 2 years at least, by which point you have other decisions to consider. I would simply suggest that some thought go into deciding whether or not an NRSA is appropriate.

    chrisb – former NPA Board member

  3. chrisb

    wrote on February 4, 2011 at 10:24 am

    A couple of other points I would add:

    Firstly, once you have put yourself through the ringer and applied for one – why not apply for more? Relatively speaking, it doesn't cost you as much, as a lot of the submission information is similar or overlapping between funders. With some good wordsmithing, fellowship applications on the same project can be re-used for several different sources of support. Sometimes you will be asked to declare what else you have applied for, note.

    Second, a word of caution about NRSAs. With the addition of 'revise-and-resubmit' to NRSA applications that fall below the payline, you now have up to an A2 revision to get funding. Sounds good? Well, just remember that by the time you reach A2, you have most likely been a postdoc for a couple of years already, and you now have other decisions that need to be made, just as your NRSA support is starting. While it may not necessarily be bad, it may be limiting.

    Chris

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