I am about to receive my PhD and would like to apply for an NSF postdoctoral fellowship.

I have two questions about the eligibility requirements that I haven't been able to find the answers to online:

  1. I have already secured a postdoctoral position with a mentor. I was offered a postdoctoral position and will start shortly after the fellowship application deadline. The NSF application materials seem designed for people who will start in the Summer or Fall in the year after the application. Does this affect my eligibility for the award?
  2. I will technically receive my PhD after I begin my postdoc. Due to scheduling problems I've had to postpone my official thesis defense until after I begin my postdoc. However, I will have defended by Spring 2015, well before the award would be distributed. Does this affect my eligibility?
  • Can you link to the RFP of the fellowship you want to apply for?
    – Bill Barth
    Sep 8, 2014 at 12:06
  • For (2), a lot of people apply for the MSPRF the fall before they graduate. Most of these people defend their thesis around May or June, well after the announcement of the acceptance. For (1), do you intend to use the NSF grant with the mentor you've lined up, or are you applying for the NSF with a different institution in mind? (Obviously you cannot use the money before it is awarded.) Sep 8, 2014 at 12:15
  • I intend to apply for the grant with the mentor I've lined up. I have some funding through my mentor, but the fellowship would give me much greater independence and flexibility.
    – user21586
    Sep 8, 2014 at 12:25
  • Does this mean that I would have to propose research with someone else in order to be eligible for the award...?
    – user21586
    Sep 8, 2014 at 12:26
  • possible duplicate of NSF grant proposals after earning Ph.D Sep 9, 2014 at 14:29

1 Answer 1


The eligibility requirements are stated in the solicitation. It certainly sounds like you will be eligible. If you defend in spring of 2015, then you can apply in falls of 2014,'15, or '16 to start the following summer (in fall 2017, it will be too late, since you will have had your Ph.D. for two years on Jan 1, 2018, and 2018 would the "year of the award). The only things that can make you ineligible are: losing your US citizenship (presumably easy to avoid), serving as PI on an NSF grant (again, not a huge danger), and being offered the fellowship and turning it down. (I think there is also some general stuff about drugs convictions, etc.)

Taking any kind of job will not make you ineligible, though it's possible it could influence the way your application is looked at (for good or for ill, I can't really say). You can apply with your current job as your site, or with a different one. I don't know many examples of people getting the fellowship after they first graduated, though of course, 2015 will be when you first graduated, so maybe that's not an issue.

Just a general comment: if you have questions about NSF awards, ask the program director. They'll be the ones who actually interpret the rules, so they know better than random people on the internet how they'll be interpreted.

  • Repeating my comment from the earlier question academia.stackexchange.com/q/12936, here are a few people who spent a year as a postdoc, then got the NSF postdoc to continue at the same place (details not guaranteed): Dean Baskin (Northwestern), Spencer Dowdall (UIUC), Ben Linowitz (Michigan), Keerthi Madapusi Pera (Harvard), Johanna Mangahas (Brown), Steven Sivek (Harvard), Brent Werness (U. Washington). These are all from the last two years [as of 2013; there must be more examples now].
    – Tom Church
    Sep 9, 2014 at 1:47
  • @TomChurch I'd completely forgotten about that question (I've voted to close this one as a duplicate). Good point. Sep 9, 2014 at 14:30

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