Last night we had a fantastic seminar at the Tufts Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences with an audience of talented doctoral students interested in postdoctoral fellowships. It was interesting to hear from these students that at end of their studies, they are generally expected to secure a position at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and then seek funding to support their postdoctoral research. The problem? NIH positions and funding are becoming more and more competitive. These students were very surprised to hear that there are alternative sources of funding, as well as alternative career paths after a doctorate.
Some alternatives to NIH postdoctoral positions include the Humboldt Research Fellowships in Germany, sponsored by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. These are for young researchers who have finished their doctorate in the past four years. Germany is the European hub for science and technology research, but one of the great perks of these fellowships is that you can spend up to 25% of your fellowship in other parts of Europe. AvH also offers the one-year German Chancellor Fellowship for professionals, which includes 3 months of intensive German language training (I’m an alumni – class of 2003-4).
What I hear often from doctoral students is that they’re burnt-out after the intensity of completing a PhD, and they don’t necessarily want to begin a postdoc immediately after graduation. A professional fellowship is the perfect opportunity for a short-term paid position in something other than research. For example, a recent graduate could pursue a science policy fellowship and spend a year in Washington, DC, or consider a fellowship in K-12 teaching. There are a number of teaching fellowships that support your transition directly into teaching and the simultaneous completion of your Master’s in Education, such as the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation program. The Knowles Science Teaching Foundation also offers teaching fellowships for individuals committed to teaching high school mathematics, physical sciences or biological sciences.
If you’re interested in fellowships whether postdoc or professional, one piece of advice I give to students is to begin looking for them early, ideally a year in advance of when you would like to begin a fellowship. Fellowships that begin in the summer or fall often have application deadlines as early as October of the previous year, and application preparation can be time-consuming. Often you need to secure reference letters and prepare an essay and/or project proposal. You should also allow yourself time to speak to former fellows and make contact with potential host institutions.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. Good luck!
You could spend two months in Hamburg, Germany with German World Cup Football star Jens Lehman! The Dekeyser&Friends Foundation is offering a Sports Coaching Project that provided full-funded Fellows an oportunity to learn coaching and community organizing skills with the goal of organizing a soccer tournament with youth groups from Hamburg. 12 Fellows from all over the world will train the teams for a week and organize and conduct the actual tournament to coincide with the European Championship 2012. The essence of the fellowship is integrative and uniting character of sports.
Everybody between 18-28 can apply disregarding of previous experiences. What counts is your motivation and enthusiasm. Read more.
In the ten months after your return to your home country, you will organize a sports event or youth sport initiative of your own with the support of the Dekeyser&Friends Foundation. Foundation experts will coach, mentor and advise you to get your own project off the ground. Apply now – the deadline is October 23, 2011!
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Environmental conservation leaders from developing countries could spend a year in Germany on an International Climate Protection Fellowship. The fellowship program’s goal is to promote exchange of ideas among the recipients. To do that, Fellows travel around Germany and get to know organisations engaged in the field of climate protection. The fellowship helps them build a network of contacts that they can then draw upon later when they are working around the world as experts in a range of fields.
‘The International Climate Protection Fellowships are primarily intended for people who are already engaged in climate protection,” says Francois Buscot, a member of the selection committee. Read more.
The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation gave away 14 fellowships this year to leaders from Bolivia, Ecuador, Guinea-Bissau, Indonesia, Laos, Nepal, Nigeria, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Uzbekistan and China. Their research covers topics such as the transition from fossil fuels to solar energy in Uzbekistan, the effects of climate and socio-economic factors on dengue fever epidemics in Sri Lanka, or urban planning that reconciles the needs of humans and nature.
Join the crowd
Our step-by-step guide for a competitive fellowship application
1. Create a plan
2. Project proposal ideas
3. Talk to current / former fellows
4. Prepare an effective resumé
5. Find a host institution
6. Write a compelling personal statement
7. Prepare a strong project proposal
8. Get great recommendation letters (P1)
9. Get great recommendation letters (P2)
10. Nail the individual and group interviews