After obtaining my masters degree, I spent four years doing other things before returning to pursue my PhD. My advisor has a Dept. of Energy grant which has funded me, but the grant will not be able to fund me for my entire PhD program. I'll probably need another two years worth of funding to finish my degree. I may not be able to get a Teaching Assistantship, as they are limited at my institution. I've also noticed that I don't qualify for some fellowships (like NSF GRFP) because I am not a "traditional" student. What are some other options for students in the latter part of their PhD program (i.e. dissertation)? Particularly, for the field of computational science?

  • 2
    Actually, the NSF graduate research fellowship program does award a small number of fellowships to "non-traditional" students, who either spent a significant time out of school or are undergoing a significant change of field. You still need to apply by the end of your first year in your new program, and you'd have to make a strong case that applied math → computational science is a significant field change (on the order of physics → biology).
    – JeffE
    Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 13:55
  • @JeffE: I know... Unfortunately, computational science is too close to my master degree to justify it.
    – Paul
    Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 14:19

1 Answer 1


In general, you're in a very tough situation. Most of the "big name" fellowships are moving away from funding older students, on the relatively flimsy rationale that they're making a bigger impact by funding less experienced students from the start of their program.

There are a few programs that do support late-term graduate students; these are typically known as dissertation fellowships. Examples include the Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowships, but these also have other restrictions associated with them (for instance, a commitment to a teaching career). Similarly, the Fisher Doctoral Fellowship primarily supports environmental and energy-related research, while the Merck Fellowship Program is for African-American students in biomedical-related fields.

So there are resources available, but they are certainly very limited in scope, and you'll need to make sure you meet all of the qualification criteria. The other problem for you is that these fellowships are typically only one year in duration, so if, as you say, you are two years away from finishing, you will need to find some means to finance one year of study, either through TA's or other sources of funding. In the meanwhile, you should talk with your advisor if there are other resources within the group to help you—at least partially.

  • Thank you, aeismail. I'll look into these opportunities. It's a shame that there isn't more for us :(
    – Paul
    Commented Oct 10, 2012 at 4:55
  • Yes, it is. Funding for graduate study in the US lags way behind many other industrialized nations.
    – aeismail
    Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 17:24

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