I am currently a PhD student. I received a postdoc offer from the host institution in my NSF postdoc fellowship application, and later received the NSF offer. My advisor mentioned that I might be able to ask the department to "combine" the offers in some way -- for example, staying for a fourth year. Is this a reasonable request to make to the department chair, or is this asking for too much?

  • 3
    Do you have a reason to doubt the advice from your advisor?
    – Jeroen
    Jan 24 at 11:42
  • Is there a reason you would want to combine the offers, e.g., do you want to stay for 4 years?
    – Kimball
    Jan 24 at 13:19
  • You might get some good advice from the persons at the insitutes you are considering going to. Especially the people you are considering working directly with. Perhaps they have had similar situations previously.
    – Dan
    Jan 24 at 13:28
  • 1
    Please clarify your specific problem or provide additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it's hard to tell exactly what you're asking.
    – Community Bot
    Jan 24 at 14:47

2 Answers 2


Sure, it’s reasonable to ask. In general, combining NSF postdocs with other types of funded postdoc positions is pretty standard and done quite commonly (for example at my department, when I was a department chair, we had a couple such arrangements I think). Departments are generally quite happy trying to make such arrangements work, since an NSF postdoc both saves them money and is evidence of a person with a lot of potential to do good work. (On the other hand, the department will likely have their own considerations and sets of constraints, so of course it’s not guaranteed that they will agree to any suggestion.)

With that being said, it is likely not in your interest from a career advancement perspective to stay as a postdoc in the same department for four years. I’d suggest consulting with your advisor and future postdoc mentor about what sort of arrangement would actually benefit you the most, and then discussing that with the department.

Good luck, and congratulations on the postdoc!

  • 2
    Might be worth pointing out that a NSF grant to an individual person to do a post doc is far more prestigious than working with funds the institution already has.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jan 24 at 19:19
  • @BryanKrause sure, you’re right in a sense but I guess I don’t like the word prestige. What’s more relevant to me is that by competing for and winning this very competitive fellowship, OP has shown themselves to be a person with high potential and promise. An academic department should try to maximize the quality of work being done by its members, not its “prestige” (which is a byproduct of doing good work, not a cause of it).
    – Dan Romik
    Jan 24 at 19:32
  • I meant more for OP rather than the department, and that if in any way they have to choose which funding to use it should be the NSF money to them (I can't quite see a case where there would be pressure otherwise, though; certainly the host institution is going to want the outside funding!). If OP wants to continue in academia they'll want to show employers they not only do good research but also can get it funded, and nothing is better to show that than past successful grants.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jan 24 at 20:30
  • @BryanKrause makes sense, thanks for the clarification.
    – Dan Romik
    Jan 24 at 20:50
  • If there is an "optimal" length for a postdoc, it will heavily depend on the overall field as well as the specific person and environment. Four years might be too long for some kinds of work; it's barely enough to get started in others.
    – Matt
    Jan 24 at 22:21

If I read your question correctly, it seems that you want to know if it is appropriate to ask the department offering you a postdoc to delay its start so that you can first fund through an NSF grant.

Given that interpretation, then yes, you can ask, and I'd guess they would be interested in going along, though the term might need to be negotiated. There are advantages for some departments to delay expenses and, if they are interested in you (seems obvious) then having you around for longer might be good for them.

But, your status might need to change at some point from NSF funded postdoc to university funded postdoc. And, how firm a commitment might be would need negotiation.

You'd also do well to seek a more permanent position all along the path.

But, it is certainly appropriate to explore with the department head (and maybe the dean) what options you have. Good luck.

  • But, you might not be, technically, a postdoc, but an NSF funded visiting scholar for a while. - I don't think you can change the NSF postdoc status. I sort of combined an NSF postdoc with a "visiting assistant professor" position and the NSF postdoc doesn't morph into anything else.
    – Kimball
    Jan 24 at 15:41
  • @Kimball, ah, right. let me patch it up a bit.
    – Buffy
    Jan 24 at 15:49

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