Graduate Fellowships

The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center is now including graduate training in its portfolio by offering one-semester fellowships for graduate students to pursue research with a NESCent Sabbatical Scholar, Postdoctoral Fellow, or Working Group.  To be eligible, a student must have completed one year of their graduate program by the time the NESCent Fellowship commences. The research should be in line with the goals of the NESCent scholar and/or working group and may include integrating datasets, developing databases, performing analyses, programming and software development, etc.  Support will not be provided to collect or generate new data.  When attached to a Working Group, graduate students are expected to be full members of the group.  Ultimately we expect the graduate student to lead and author aspects of the research.  Interested graduate students should consult with the principal investigator of a working group, sabbatical scholar, or postdoctoral fellow before submitting an application through our online proposal system. 

Graduate Fellowship applications will be evaluated on the extent to which they

  • address an important and outstanding evolutionary question,
  • are "risky" endeavors but with a reasonable chance of success,
  • reflect NESCent’s scientific mission to advance research that addresses fundamental questions in evolutionary science by integrating methods, concepts, and data within and across disciplines (For more on the context and a classification of synthesis in evolutionary science please read Linking Big: The Continuing Promise of Evolutionary Synthesis),
  • provide evidence that sufficient data are available to tackle the question,
  • provide evidence that appropriate analytical tools are available or will be developed during the project,
  • generate products that typically fall into three broad categories (but are not restricted to):
    • Synthetic papers and reviews,
    • Databases allowing others to build on your foundation,
    • Software or mathematical tools that solve a major analytical problem,
  • are in line with the goals of the sabbatical scholar and/or working group,
  • allow for full participation in NESCent activities and research,
  • interface with the work of the sabbatical scholar or working group.

NESCent will not support collection of new data or field research, but encourages the mining of public and private databases.  NESCent is committed to making data, databases, software and other products that are developed as part of NESCent activities available to the broader scientific community. Applicants should review the Graduate Student Policy and Data and Software Policy for NESCent.

Before you Apply

All applicants are encouraged to contact Allen Rodrigo, Director of NESCent, or Susan Alberts, Associate Director of Science and Synthesis, for feedback on project ideas.  Proposals are considered two times a year, with deadlines on January 1 (for the fall semester) and July 1 (for the spring semester).   Proposals will be evaluated in terms of both the scientific value of the project and the qualifications of the applicant.  Graduate Fellows will receive one-semester fellowships up to a maximum of $15,500 which will be paid directly to your institution. Please review our Conflict of InterestReporting Requirements, and Data And Software policies before applying. 

Proposal Guidelines

Proposals are to be submitted by the graduate student.  Proposals are short, not to exceed 2 single-spaced (12-pt type) pages. References are not included in the 2-page limit.  Proposals should be organized as follows:

  1. Title (80 characters max)
  2. Name and contact information
  3. Project Summary (250 words max)
  4. Public Summary (250 words max) – written for the public and visible on the NESCent web site
  5. Introduction and Goals – A statement of the outstanding question in evolutionary science being addressed and a concise review of the concept and the literature to place the project in context.
  6. Proposed Activities – This should include a clear statement of any specific data (include citations or urls) and analytical tools that will be required for the project.  The proposal should also include a clear statement on how synthesis will occur and how it will interface with the working group or sabbatical scholar.
  7. Rationale for NESCent support - Why can this activity be most effectively conducted at NESCent?
  8. Collaborations – the Graduate Fellow will work closely with a Working Group, Sabbatical Scholar, or Postdoctoral Fellow. The collaborative arrangement should be clearly described in the proposal.
  9. Proposed Timetable - include start date, month, and year. Those graduate students intending to work with postdoctoral or sabbatical fellows are acquired to reside at NESCent for the supported semester.  Those collaborating with a working group may spend time in various working group member's labs but are still required to spend some time at NESCent interacting with the in-house community.  Please provide specific dates of the time you plan to reside at NESCEnt.
  10. Anticipated IT Needs - Briefly describe any needs for IT support that are important to the success of the proposed project. Please indicate whether development of a database or software will be required. Also, briefly describe your plans to make resulting data and software available; including any conditions that might limit your ability to make these available.
  11. Anticipated Results - include a clear statement of anticipated papers, data and software products, and anticipated public release of data and products.
  12. Short CV of the applicant (2 pages, not included in 2 page limit)
  13. Letter from PhD advisor stating his or her awareness and support of the project (not included in 2 page limit)
  14. Letter from NESCent mentor (e.g. sabbatical scholar, working group PI, or postdoctoral fellow) stating his or her awareness and support of the project (not included in 2 page limit)

Proposal Submission

Proposals will be accepted in digital format only as a single pdf file. Graphics should be embedded directly into the proposal document. Note that proposals should be submitted as a single pdf file including all of the components listed above, including CV and letters. Proposals are submitted electronically. Please login first if you have already created a profile. For technical support, write to

Data, Software and Publication Policy

The open availability of data, software source code, methods, and results is good scientific practice and a key ingredient of synthetic research. NESCent expects that all data and software created through NESCent-sponsored activities be made publicly available no later than one year after the conclusion of the NESCent award, or immediately upon publication of an associated article, whichever comes earlier. For more information please visit our Data, Software and Publication Policy.