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FAQ: New Frontiers Initiative Graduate Fellowships

These answers to frequently asked questions will aid candidates in preparing their applications for the New Frontiers Initiative Graduate Fellowship.

Q. Can international students who are in the United States on a Visa apply?
A. No. Only U.S. citizens or permanent residents enrolled in a PhD program at an accredited U.S. academic institution may apply.

Q. Are there any requirements beyond being a graduate student, such as year in PhD program?
A. You should be in the second or later year of your program with most of your coursework complete. You need to be on your way to a dissertation topic in order to be competitive for the fellowship program.

Q. I will be starting my PhD program this year. Should I apply?
A. No, you are not far enough along in your program yet.

Q. I didn't take the GRE. Can I still apply?
A. We will accept applications without GRE scores. If you took another comparable test, such as the MCAT, you may provide those scores with your application. Be sure to indicate which test you took.

Q. Do official GRE scores need to be sent?
A. No, just enter the scores in the application form.

Q. How many fellowships are being awarded?
A. The total number will be dependent upon available funding. We expect to award at least four fellowships for the 2021-2022 period.

Q. Can MD/PhD students apply?
A. The limitation on the fellowship relates to the research topic. Clinical topics will not be supported. Basic scientific research is eligible. Preference will be given to applicants pursuing geospatial research topics.

Q. How should my references send you their letters of recommendation?
A. Two references should submit their letters of reference to the form listed by the specified deadline for applications.

Q. I am in my final year of my PhD program. If I graduate early, will I still be eligible?

A. As long as you are a full-time graduate student at an accredited US academic instituton when you apply and when the fellowship starts, you are eligible.

Q.  Once the fellowship is awarded what is required of the fellows?

A.  Fellows will be asked to attend a startup orientation session at the University of Illinois as soon after the announcement of the awards as possible. There will be a showcase event (yet to be scheduled) at which fellows will present the preliminary results of their research.  All travel expenses will be paid outside the fellowship award.  Other than that, fellows are expected to work on their research projects with the assistance of the Blue Waters technical staff.
Q.  Will I be able to upload my application until the last day?
A.  Although this is possible it is highly risky.  Several past applicants missed the final deadline because of technical problems with their applications that were not corrected in time to meet the deadline. You may save and return to edit your application as many times as needed.

Q. Can I get a copy of what the references will be asked to submit so that they can start the letters before I complete my application?
A. Each individual providing a letter of reference is asked to include:

  • his/her department and institution
  • how long they have known the candidate and in what capacity
  • an assessment of the applicant's potential to conduct original research, communicate effectively, and work cooperatively with peers and supervisors
  • an assessment of the potential of the applicant's proposed research to make unique contributions to his/her chosen discipline and the relationships of that work to the application of parallel systems for high-performance computing, data analysis, and/or visualization
  • the broader impacts of supporting the applicant, including his/her leadership potential in the chosen field of graduate work and as a member of the scientific and technical community.

Note that the more specific a letter the references can provide, the better it is for the candidate. If you are the candidate's research supervisor, comment on the originality of his or her proposal, and communicate what role you played in assisting the student with the proposal.

Q. What will be my responsibilities should I win the fellowship?

A. Your major responsibility will be to carry out the research program you propose using the Blue Waters computing system.  You will be expected to participate in a two-day meeting (in person or virtually depending on the status of the COVID pandemic) at the University of Illinois shortly after the award of the fellowship to meet with the Blue Waters technical support staff, and to make a presentation at a Showcase event to be determined at a future date.  All required travel will be paid for by the New Frontiers Initiative.  Fellows also meet virtually once per month to discuss their progress and challenges. All fellows are expected to provide quarterly and final reports on their projects.