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I am a fresh mathematics Ph.D who has begun a three year postdoc at University X. I applied for an NSF postdoctoral grant last year with University Y (with Y not equal to X) and did not get it. This year I want to re-apply. I like where I am and so I am planning to apply for the NSF with a mentor at University X. I have two questions.

  1. Are there examples of a postdoc at an institution being awarded an NSF grant to stay at that institution (before their postdoc runs out)?

  2. Are there any particular pitfalls I could find in applying at an institution that is already planning on paying me for three years? That is, if the NSF funds me then the job market "lost" a job in the sense that my postdoc position won't be replaced by my institution.

  • my postdoc position won't be replaced by my institution — Why not? – JeffE Sep 24 '13 at 13:46
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    You should clarify what you mean by "NSF grant." Do you mean MSPRF (there are other ways for postdocs to be supported by NSF grants). – Ben Webster Sep 24 '13 at 20:36
  • @Ben Webster: Yes I meant the MSPRF. – tkr Sep 24 '13 at 21:17
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Are there examples of a postdoc at an institution being awarded an NSF grant to stay at that institution (before their postdoc runs out)?

Yes, it does happen.

Are there any particular pitfalls I could find in applying at an institution that is already planning on paying me for three years? That is, if the NSF funds me then the job market "lost" a job in the sense that my postdoc position won't be replaced by my institution.

Assuming you are talking about the MSPRF program, it can be combined with your postdoc at University X. One common pattern is to use the NSF postdoc half-time for the remaining two years of your current postdoc (to reduce teaching) and then full-time for one more year after that. This is called the Research Instructorship option in the MSPRF instructions.

Combining NSF postdocs with university postdocs is very common in mathematics, so you shouldn't worry that it will be viewed as strange or problematic. The only case I'm aware of in which the job market clearly "loses a job" is that if you are offered an NSF postdoc and do not accept it, then the position disappears for that year (there is no waiting list of backup candidates). So if you decide it's not what you want before the awards are made, you should withdraw your application.

  • I'm curious; can you name any actual examples? I know from the solicitation that that this is possible, but can't think of any instances where it happened, and it's not easy to extract the info from the NSF website. My sense is it's much less common than people already in graduate school getting the graduate fellowships. – Ben Webster Sep 24 '13 at 20:38
  • I am curious about examples too. Everything Anonymous Mathematician wrote gels with what I know, just that the usual pattern is someone (a graduating student) is awarded the grant and then the host institution kicks in an extra year worth of funding along the way to make a three year postdoc. – tkr Sep 24 '13 at 21:19
  • @BenWebster: I just checked the first ten of the recent awards listed on the MSPRF web page (it's not clear to me how they are ordered) and compared them with the math genealogy site. Seven started their NSF postdocs the year they graduated, and three a year later. According to the online CVs of those three, Dean Baskin was at Northwestern already and has stayed there, Steven Sivek was at Harvard and stayed another year before continuing the fellowship at Princeton, and Noah Giansiracusa was at Zurich and moved to Berkeley to take up the NSF fellowship. – Anonymous Mathematician Sep 25 '13 at 2:47
  • That's a small sample size, but useful to know. – Ben Webster Sep 25 '13 at 19:19
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    Here are some other examples of friends of mine who spent a year as a postdoc, then got the NSF postdoc to continue at the same place [details not guaranteed]: Spencer Dowdall (UIUC), Ben Linowitz (Michigan), Keerthi Madapusi Pera (Harvard), Johanna Mangahas (Brown), Brent Werness (U. Washington). These are all from the last two years. – Tom Church Sep 26 '13 at 3:49

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