Carnegie Mellon University

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Do I have to be an underrepresented minority to apply for this fellowship?
No. The Program is open to all persons who meet the eligibility criteria without regard to race, gender, or ethnicity.

Q: I'm an assistant professor. Can I still apply?
The fellowship is designed to give new scholars an opportunity to become more competitive candidates for tenure-track faculty appointments. It is not a fellowship program for individuals already on the tenure-track to take time out for research with the intention of staying at their current institution. Candidates with tenure-track appointments are not favored in the selection process, unless there is a clear explanation of how an award to the candidate would further the goals of the program.

Q: I will finish my doctorate after July 1, next year. Am I still eligible to apply this fall?
No. You must complete your doctorate on or before July 1 of the year following your application. Potential applicants who expect to complete their doctorate after July 1 should apply the following year.

Q: Does my mentor have to be faculty at Carnegie Mellon University?
Yes, mentors have to be senior faculty members currently employed by Carnegie Mellon University.

Q: How do I find a faculty mentor?
Applicants are encouraged to identify potential faculty mentors through professional contacts in their field. You may also look for an appropriate mentor by reviewing the literature and searching the university website for faculty who are working in your area of interest.

Q: Are untenured professors allowed to be faculty mentors?
The program encourages applicants to select a tenured faculty member as their mentor. However, in some cases untenured professors can be excellent prospective mentors.

Q: What are the expectations of the faculty mentors during the fellowship?
Please see the Mentor guidelines page.

Q: Can I select a retired faculty member to be my faculty mentor?
The program encourages applicants to select an active faculty member as their mentor. However, in some cases retired faculty who are still fully involved in their department and their research program are excellent prospective mentors.

Q: Do I need a letter of support from the department chair?
Yes. Carnegie Mellon's Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty, in concert with your proposed faculty mentor, will request a letter of support from the department chair. You are not responsible for obtaining this letter of support. This separate letter from the Department Head describes the department's level of interest in hiring the applicant into a tenure-track position and/or identify a potential fit with another CMU department, if that is appropriate.

Q: What materials are needed to submit an application?
You are required to submit the following materials:

  • Thesis abstract - one page;
  • Research Proposal - 700-1,000 words (not including references and citations);
  • Education and Background Statement - 500-700 words describing your personal background and contributions to diversity and equal opportunity through your academic career;
  • Curriculum vitae;
  • Writing sample - sample publication or unpublished paper, please limit to 35 pages (not including references and citations).
  • A letter of support from your confirmed mentor, or confirmed mentor contact information.*
  • Reference from your thesis advisor

*You are required to find a mentor who will be willing to provide you with a letter of support, and who will be willing to request a letter of support from their Department Head.

Q: May I apply to both Carnegie Mellon's and the University of California President's Postdoctoral Fellowship programs?
Yes. Applicants may apply to both the University of California and Carnegie Mellon's President's Postdoctoral Fellowship programs with the same application provided they submit separate mentor letters and research proposals.

Q: If I am only applying to the Carnegie Mellon's President's Postdoctoral Fellowship program, do I need to provide information about a University of California mentor?
No. The on-line application may be used to apply to one or both programs. Those applicants who are only applying to Carnegie Mellon's President's Postdoctoral Fellowship program must identify a faculty mentor at Carnegie Mellon, but do not need to identify a faculty mentor at the University of California.

Q: Are there sample applications available for review?
No. There are many variations on successful applications. Applicants are encouraged to consult with their academic advisors about how to submit a competitive application.

Q: Should I send my graduate transcripts along with my online application?
No. The program no longer requires transcripts to be sent with the application. However, the program will request official graduate transcripts if you are selected as a finalist and will not offer you a fellowship until official graduate transcripts are received.

Q: How will I know when my faculty mentor and reference letter(s) have been uploaded to my online application?
You will receive e-mail confirmations from the online application system each time a letter is uploaded to your application. You can check on the status of your application, including the arrival of your mentor and reference letters, by using the username and password you created and returning to the application information page.

Q: What is the application deadline?
The deadline for submitting the online application for CMU is January 31. 

Q: When will the final decisions be announced?
Finalists will be notified and awards announced close to March 31st each year. Please consider restraint when contacting the program office about the selection results. Successful candidates are notified first. Alternates are notified if awardees do not accept or if current fellows do not renew their terms. Additional fellowships are awarded to candidates on the alternate list through June, if resources become available. The program makes every effort to notify all candidates as soon as possible.

Q: What criteria are considered by the selection committees when reviewing applications?
Review committees evaluate applicants in all fields according to their potential for success in an academic career with special consideration given to potential for contributions to the diversity and equal opportunity as described in our evaluation, selection and eligibility criteria.

Q: Should the research proposal focus on expanding on the doctoral work (i.e. turning the dissertation into a book) or should it reflect a new project or direction in research?
In general, selection committees prefer to see a proposal that includes a significant piece of new work. However, in some fields or for some individuals, a proposal to complete or expand upon previous work might be favorably reviewed. In such cases, this should be combined with a plan for making a significant start on a new project.

Q: I'm unable to relocate because of family reasons. Can I still apply?
The program requires that you are in residence and establish a presence at your mentor's campus, school or department. If you wish to propose continuing work where you completed your Ph.D., we recommend that you consider working with different faculty members or a different department if possible. If you wish to stay with your current department or faculty advisors, please explain your situation in your education background statement.