I am currently a graduate student at a large research institution in the United States. As part of a research assistantship I have made significant contributions to an NSF funded research project. The PI and a Senior Person on the project (who just accepted an assistant professor position) are preparing a follow-up grant application where they will both be PI's. They have invited me to participate. As a graduate student is it possible to be a Senior Person on this new project? What does the role entail and what qualifications are necessary?

1 Answer 1


TL;DR: your name can be on the proposal as "other personnel" but not as "senior personnel".

From the NSF Grant Proposal Guide, Definitions of Categories of Personnel:


  1. (co) PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT DIRECTOR (PI/PD) means the individual(s) designated by the proposer, and approved by NSF, who will be responsible for the scientific or technical direction of the project. NSF does not infer any distinction in scientific stature among multiple PIs, whether referred to as PI or co-PI. If more than one, the first one listed will serve as the contact PI, with whom all communications between NSF program officials and the project relating to the scientific, technical, and budgetary aspects of the project should take place. The PI and any identified co-PIs, however, will be jointly responsible for submission of the requisite project reports. The term "Principal Investigator" generally is used in research projects, while the term "Project Director" generally is used in centers, large facilities, and other projects. For purposes of this Guide, PI/co-PI is interchangeable with PD/co-PD.

  2. Faculty Associate (faculty member) -- an individual other than the Principal Investigator(s) considered by the performing institution to be a member of its faculty or who holds an appointment as a faculty member at another institution, and who will participate in the project being supported.


  1. Postdoctoral (Scholar, Fellow, or Other Postdoctoral Position) -- An individual who has received a doctoral degree (or equivalent) and is engaged in a temporary and defined period of mentored advanced training to enhance the professional skills and research independence needed to pursue his or her chosen career path. Postdoctoral scholars not identified under Senior Personnel above should be listed as Other Personnel.

  2. Other Professional -- a person who may or may not hold a doctoral degree or its equivalent, who is considered a professional and is not reported as a Principal Investigator, faculty associate, postdoctoral scholar or student. Examples of persons included in this category are doctoral associates not reported under B1, professional technicians, physicians, veterinarians, system experts, computer programmers and design engineers.

  3. Graduate Student (research assistant) -- a part-time or full-time student working on the project in a research capacity who holds at least a bachelor’s degree and is enrolled in a degree program leading to an advanced degree.

  4. Undergraduate Student -- a student who is enrolled in a degree program (part-time or full-time) leading to a bachelor’s or associate’s degree.

  5. & 6. These categories include persons working on the project in a non-research capacity, such as secretaries, clerk-typists, draftsmen, animal caretakers, electricians and custodial personnel regardless of whether they hold a degree or are involved in degree work.

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