Please review this list before contacting the CIFellowships staff.
I don't see my area of interest listed on the application form. What should I do?
Please note that all of the sub-disciplines of computing are not listed here. However, if you have a question about your sub-discipline of interest, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. On the application form, you can write your sub-discipline of interest in your own words, under "Alternate Broad Research Area.”
Does the statement from the Ph.D. advisor or department chair, indicating completion of Ph.D. requirements, have to be directly submitted by them?
No, the Ph.D. advisor or department chair should provide the candidate with a PDF or Word file, which the candidate will upload along with the rest of the required materials using the application form.
What about the Mentor Statements and Recommendation Letters? Do they have to be submitted directly?
Mentor statements: There are two mentor statements required: (1) Mentor Rationale – a one-page document indicating the rationale for this choice of mentor and the expected benefits of working with this mentor, as well as the relationship of the activity to the your career goals. (2) Mentor Endorsement– a one-page document from the proposed mentor indicating a commitment to work with the prospective CIFellow, a mentoring plan, and a summary of the mentor’s prior record of mentoring.
Note that previously we required the mentor endorsement to be submitted separately by the mentor. However, this year, we are requiring that the applicant collect this document from the mentor and include it as part of his/her application submission. There is space on the applicant’s form to upload both the mentor rationale and the mentor endorsement. Note that the application will be incomplete if either the mentor rationale or mentor endorsement is not included.
Recommendation Letters: These will have to be uploaded separately (i.e., directly) by the recommenders. We will contact recommenders at the e-mail addresses provided by the applicants in the application form with instructions. Note that the deadline for receipt of all application materials is May 31, 2011, 5:00 p.m. EDT; an automated e-mail will go out to the applicants’ recommenders shortly after the application is submitted with instructions on how to submit the letter, but it is the applicants’ responsibility to ensure that his/her recommenders have sufficient time to submit their recommendations.
You may provide us with the names and e-mail addresses of your recommenders before you submit an application; we will contact them while you are gathering your other application materials. Please use this form to do so.
Do the Mentor Statements have to be prepared by the mentors? Do they need to be signed?
We are requiring two mentor statements, as described above. The first one, describing the Mentor Rationale, is to be prepared by the CIFellow applicants. The second, the Mentor Endorsement, is to be prepared by the mentor in support of a CIFellow applicant. While the mentor must prepare the endorsement, it does not need to be signed.
Are mentor endorsements required by the application deadline?
Yes. All application materials are due by the deadline listed on the website. Again, this year, we are requiring mentor statements (both the rationale and endorsement, as described above) to be submitted by the applicant at the time he/she files his/her application for the CIFellows Project.
Is there a specific format for the mentors to follow when they draft the mentoring plan (endorsement)? Does the mentor need to use his/her letterhead?
A simple statement in PDF format is fine. Letterhead is of course welcome but not strictly necessary.
Whom should letters of recommendation and mentoring plans (endorsements) address?
Recommendations can be addressed to “The CIFellows Selection Committee.”
Does the two-page limit for the statement of goals and the one-page limit for the research accomplishments include publication references?
Yes, the page limits include all material, including publication references, figures, etc.
How will the letters of recommendation be evaluated? What should the professors who give us references emphasize?
The recommendation letters should explain how and why the applicant deserves to win a CIFellowship. We are particularly interested not only in very promising researchers and educators, but also in people who are very committed to establishing a career in advanced research, higher education, and/or technology innovation.
Is it okay to have a mentor as one of the recommenders?
Does a recommendation from one’s Ph.D. advisor count? Or is the letter from the advisor submitted with the application also considered a recommendation?
Yes, a recommendation from your Ph.D. advisor is just fine.
The application requirements include a single document describing the project (i.e., a two-page statement of goals) while a document each describing the rationale for every mentor. Does that mean one can apply for a single project with different mentors at different organizations? Can one apply for different projects with different mentors?
Your application may contain only one (two-page) statement of goals. But variations in these goals or scholarly activities can be provided in each of the mentor rationale statements as needed.
What if I have two mentors at the same host organization? Do both have to provide an endorsement and do I have to provide a rationale for both?
If you wish them to be considered separately, then yes.
If I would like to collaborate with two faculty members at one institution, is it better to name them as two separate mentors and have them send two separate endorsements, or name only one of them as the official mentor but have him/her describe the collaboration plan in the endorsement?
We leave this decision up to the applicant.
My project is highly multi-disciplinary in nature and would benefit from having multiple mentors who could guide me on different aspects of the work. Can I have multiple mentors at the same time if I am granted a Fellowship?
Having multiple mentors is fine, but you should identify the primary mentor/host institution where you plan to spend the majority of your time. You will be expected to move to/live near the host institution. Furthermore, the Selection Committee will be looking for good interaction between the CIFellow and the mentor. So however you explain your plans, you will want to convey a strong sense of interaction/collaboration on the research or scholarly activity.
Is it of any benefit to list more than one mentor from the same organization?
The honest answer is that we simply don’t know. However, as a general rule, the more flexibility that an applicant gives to the Selection Committee, the better.
Is there any benefit to listing more than one potential mentor in my application?
It is not necessary to list more than one mentor. However, one of the goals of the CIFellows Project is to maximize the number of organizations that participate, either by producing CIFellows or hosting them. If you list multiple mentors from multiple institutions, you will increase your chances by essentially providing the Selection Committee more institutions from which it can choose. This also improves your chances for receiving a CIFellowship.
In addition, as stated elsewhere in this FAQ, we evaluate the quality of an application using the best mentoring plan, so having multiple can be advantageous.
I would like to apply, but I don’t know who might be a good mentor for me.
Go to http://cifellows.org and click on the “Be or Find a Mentor” link. Here you will find a bulletin board where you can browse statements posted by potential mentors. This website offers RSS Feeds of all the profiles posted by potential mentors. You can also follow @CIFellows on Twitter to get mentor updates as they are published. You should contact potentially appropriate mentors to assess mutual fit and interest.
Does a mentor have to be signed up on your website or can I find one on my own, i.e., one who is not signed up?
It is perfectly fine to find your own mentor. The mentor does not need to be signed up on the cifellows.org website. We provide the website simply for convenience to assist in identifying mentor prospects.
One of the mentors I have identified is a faculty member, but not in a computer science department; is that okay?
Yes, that is okay. It is not necessary for the mentor to be in a CS department. However, applications will be assessed in part on how well they might advance, broadly, computing and allied fields.
I’m interested in working with a mentor who is on the teaching faculty at a research university but who does not hold a doctorate him/herself. Is that permissible?
Yes, this could be okay. But we will provide the funds for the Fellowship in the form of a grant to the host institution. Many institutions have requirements that there must be a designated PI for such grants, and furthermore require that the PI be a specific type of faculty member (e.g., on the tenure track). If the host institution is able to designate either you or your mentor as the PI, then what you suggest should be okay. But it might be worth asking your prospective mentor about this issue.
I would like to apply to work with a mentor at my current Ph.D. institution; is that okay?
No. Every CIFellow must have a mentor, and this mentor cannot be at the same organization as the CIFellow’s Ph.D.-granting institution.
I have been contacting professors in my field to be mentors. Some of them have already indicated to work with one applicant. Can they still confirm to be my mentor? Can a mentor be a candidate for multiple applicants?
Yes, a prospective mentor can be a candidate for multiple applicants. In the end, the selection process aims to yield the most appropriate match.
Is it possible to add a mentor after I first submit my application but before the formal application deadline?
Please send e-mail to email@example.com. We will do our best to accommodate you, but we cannot make any guarantees.
If we list more than one mentor, is there a way to indicate an order of preference, or are they all considered equally by the selection committee?
Please list your mentors in your preferred order on the application form. Feel free to express any preferences in the mentor rationales as well.
If I supply three mentors in my application, and if I am awarded a CIFellowship, which one will be my final mentor? Does the sequence in the application form (first mentor, second mentor, third mentor) reflect the preference from the application (i.e., the first choice, second choice, and third choice)?
If all three mentors are equivalent with respect to the overall goals of the CIFellows Project, then indeed we would likely go with the first mentor listed (as we assume the order in which you list the mentors on the application form corresponds to your preferred order; see previous question). However, please note the following carefully:
We select first by the quality of the mentoring plans provided by the prospective mentors, which we take as serious as the mentor statements provided by the applicants. If all mentoring plans for a given applicant are of equal quality, only in that case will we consult the preferred order. We thus encourage applicants to work closely with their potential mentors to develop strong mentoring plans.
In addition, we will be trying hard to get institutional diversity, as well as to limit the numbers of CIFellows going to any one institution.
What is meant by “cross-flow”?
Consider a graph where nodes represent organizations either producing or hosting CIFellows, and edges represent the movement of CIFellows (e.g., an edge from node A to node B represents a Ph.D. who graduated from A becoming a CIFellow at B). The Computing Innovation Fellows Project seeks to identify the most promising new Ph.D.s in computing, while at the same time maximizing the size of this graph (both numbers of nodes and unique edges).
May non-U.S. citizens apply?
Yes. Preference will be given in the selection process for U.S. citizens and permanent residents, but anyone completing the requirements for a Ph.D. from a U.S. institution between May 1, 2010, and August 31, 2011, may apply and will be considered for a CIFellow award.
I am not getting a Ph.D. in a computing-related field; may I still apply?
We welcome applications from new Ph.D.'s for CIFellow activities that will advance computer science, information science, computer engineering, and all computing-allied fields. While this may be done most obviously by applicants with a Ph.D. in computer science, this is not an absolute requirement by any means.
May I indicate more than one sub-discipline in my mentor rationale? My research overlaps with several sub-disciplines. Can I still apply?
I already have a postdoctoral fellowship and I will be funded by the host institution. If I apply for the CIFellowship and I am selected, am I required to give up the existing postdoc offer that I already have? Can I hold the offer I already have and a CIFellowship at the same time?
We have no ability to control your other job prospects. So, no, there is no restriction on other offers (from us; however, it’s conceivable that the host institution might have other policies). Having said that, our goal is to create lots of jobs in computing research, higher education, and technology innovation. Thus, we hope that, whatever happens, more jobs will be created.
There are potential applications of my proposed project to the diagnosis and treatment of human disease. I have heard that, for some types of grants and CIFellowships, NSF explicitly does not fund medical applications. Does that apply here? Should I mention such potential benefits or just stick to the computational and scientific perspective?
It is hard to give definite advice on these types of specific questions without specific detail. However, we intend to encourage any scholarly activity that advances the computing field. Computing research activity for medical applications could certainly do that.
I expect to finish my Ph.D. by August 31, 2011, but what happens if I am late?
Your application materials must include a letter from your department chair or Ph.D. advisor stating that you will have completed all work toward the Ph.D. degree between May 1, 2010, and August 31, 2011. If awarded, the CIFellowship may not begin until all such degree work has been completed. If you do not finish your Ph.D. by the November 1, 2011, deadline for starting your fellowship, you will not be allowed to retain the Fellowship.
What if my expected graduation date is early fall 2011—but certainly before the Nov. 1, 2011, CIFellowship start deadline? Can I still apply?
The requirement for eligibility is that all requirements for the Ph.D. be completed between May 1, 2010, and August 31, 2011. We do not care about the actual graduation date. You must supply a letter from your department chair or advisor certifying that you have already completed or will complete all degree requirements by August 31.
What if I am unable to begin my Fellowship by November 1, 2011?
If you are unable to start your CIFellowship by November 1, 2011, for any reason, you must contact the Computing Community Consortium to obtain permission to retain your Fellowship.
I am still looking for a permanent position, but would like to apply to CIFellows; is that okay?
We encourage you to continue your job search. If you should be awarded a CIFellowship and subsequently find a permanent position, please alert us immediately so that we may re-allocate your Fellowship.
I finished my Ph.D. after May 1, 2010, and started a postdoc shortly thereafter. Am I still eligible to apply to the CIFellows Project?
Yes, you are still eligible to apply. Note that you must still identify at least one mentor, and that mentor must not be at the same institution that granted your Ph.D.
I have found a postdoctoral fellowship position already, but I have not started my appointment yet. The host institution is going to fund me. May I still apply for a CIFellowship?,b />
Yes, there is no restriction on that. Obviously, if you were to receive a CIFellowship, we would hope your current postdoctoral fellowship appointment would go to someone else who is deserving of it.
What will it take to renew a CIFellowship for a second year?
One-year renewals of CIFellowships will be granted pending appropriate research/teaching activity and availability of funding. The process for applying for a renewal will be announced once the funding situation is settled.
Will new CIFellowships be awarded next year?
Perhaps. We are always evaluating the impact of the project and, if appropriate, seeking funding to continue the program. Please stay tuned.
When will I be notified that my application is complete or has been received by the CCC?
You will receive an e-mail upon receipt of both letters of recommendation. Note that applications are manually reviewed for completeness, so there may be a slight delay from when your second recommendation is received to when you receive an e-mail confirmation. In addition, given the volume of submissions expected near the deadline, you may not receive a notification until a day or two after the deadline has passed even if your recommendation letters are submitted on time. Please check with your recommenders to see if they have submitted their letters. Following the deadline, e-mails will also be sent to anyone who submits an application that is deemed incomplete for any reason.
I have already completed the materials for one potential mentor/host organization, and I am working on those for a second and third. I have not yet uploaded any part of my application. Will I be able to add the additional host materials later, or do I need to submit everything all at once?
At this time, we do not have the ability to support adding materials at a later time. You can only submit once, so you should wait to submit until you have all the materials together.
Can the mentor’s institution be a federal agency such as a national lab or NIST?
No. The CIFellows Project is required to adhere to NSF policies. Since the award will be made to the mentor’s institution, individuals employed by Federal agencies or Federally-Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) are not eligible to serve as mentors.
I am a faculty member at a university or a researcher at an industry lab and would like to host a CIFellow; how do I find one?
Go to http://cifellows.org and click on the “Be or Find a Mentor" link. Here you will find a bulletin board where you can post details about your opportunity. Since you won’t know which applicants will be selected, you can agree to mentor more than one applicant. However, at most two CIFellows will be selected to go to any organization. You can also contact colleagues at other universities, as we also recommend that students ask their advisors for assistance in identifying appropriate mentors. Mentors, please note: If you created a profile on our match website last year, we ask that you update it right away—and at least a week before the application deadline—so that prospective CIFellows can find you. If you are no longer available to host a CIFellow, please indicate that, too!
To qualify as a mentor, is it necessary to sign up on the mentors website?
No. The mentors website (located at http://cifellows.org/match) is provided as a convenience to prospective CIFellow applicants. Many new Ph.D.s know only a few potential mentors and so, by signing up, you provide such Ph.D.s with more options.
If I sign up as a mentor, is it possible that the Selection Committee will assign a CIFellow to me even if I don't want to work with that person?
No. Each applicant must name 1-3 prospective mentors, and those mentors must agree to be named. (Those prospective mentors submit one-page endorsements/plans to the applicant to show their willingness to work with him/her; the applicant must submit this endorsement.) If the applicant is selected, he/she will be assigned only to one of the mentors named in the application.
What is expected in the mentoring plan?
Mentors are expected to include the CIFellow in the mentor’s research and/or education activities, as well as ensure an adequate working environment, including computing and networking infrastructure and standard office/lab space. The plan may also indicate access to career counseling; training in the preparation of grant proposals, publications, and presentations; feedback and training in teaching; guidance on effective collaboration techniques; etc. Note that the quality of the mentoring plan is a primary factor in ranking an application. A well-thought-out mentoring plan will thus increase an applicant's chances of receiving a CIFellowship.
If all goes well, it’s possible that my organization might want to hire a CIFellow to a permanent position after the fellowship is complete; is that okay?
Yes! We hope that CIFellowships will be great ways to launch successful academic and industrial lab careers. We expect that hosting a CIFellow may be an excellent way for your organization to find excellent candidates, and possibly from backgrounds and institutions not usually reached by your normal search processes.
The specified indirect cost rate (25%) is below our standard rate; can this be negotiated?
No. For the Computing Innovation Fellows Project, we are seeking to maximize the number of CIFellowships granted. Furthermore, we expect to award no more than two CIFellows to any one organization, and so the overall impact will be limited.
We understand that the CIFellowships are awarded to the new Ph.D.; however, our organization’s policies would not allow a CIFellow to be a PI on a federal award or sub award. What do we do?
In such cases, we will work with your organization’s sponsored projects office (SPO) and seek to designate the host mentor to be the PI; failing that, we will work with your SPO and mentor’s department to identify an appropriate PI.
Who will be the official employer of the CIFellow? Will it be the National Science Foundation, the Computing Research Association/Computing Community Consortium, or the host organization?
The host organization will be the employer. CRA/CCC expects to provide a grant (actually, a NSF subaward) to the host organization to pay the costs of salary, fringe benefits, overhead, etc.
What is meant by “indirect costs at the 25% rate”?
When a new Ph.D. is selected to be a CIFellow, one of the mentors identified in the application is chosen. The CRA/CCC will then provide a grant to the mentor’s organization. This grant is to be used to pay for nearly all of the costs incurred by the CIFellow during his/her CIFellowship. We anticipate that these costs will include:
The last item, (4), is meant to cover a portion of the costs incurred by the host organization, as is standard in all research grants and contracts. (Normally, indirect costs include things like heating, lighting, and other maintenance costs for your office/lab, administrative support for things like payroll, etc.) The amount of item (4) is 25% of the sum of items (1)-(3).
There is no requirement of matching funds by the mentor or the host institution, and except for the fact that 25% might be lower than the actual indirect costs of hosting you, there is no financial burden on the host institution or mentor.
Put another way: when a CIFellow award is made, the CIFellow will receive a salary of $75,000. Separately, the host organization will receive 25% of that amount (=$18,750) for indirect costs. An additional small grant for discretionary expenses and fringe benefits will also be supplied, and the host organization will receive 25% of the value of that award as well.
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