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Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship

What is the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship? 

The Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship (IDF) provides a unique opportunity for outstanding Ph.D. students who are engaged in interdisciplinary research to study with faculty at one of the University’s interdisciplinary research centers or institutes during the fellowship year. Applicants designate the host center or institute they believe is the best match with their planned dissertation topic, contingent upon endorsement by the host center or institute. Applicants should check with mentors and directors early to ensure a good match. All application materials are forwarded to the student’s graduate program for submission to the Graduate School.

The award includes a stipend of $25,000 for the academic year (September-May), tuition for up to 14 graduate credits each semester (fall & spring), and subsidized health insurance through the Graduate Assistant Health Plan. Summer health insurance will be provided if the Fellow remains eligible.

The review will be conducted by a University-wide faculty committee. Selection of recipients will be based on the following criteria:

  • Interdisciplinary nature of the research project (selection will favor research that integrates disciplines not currently represented in the student's graduate program)
  • Innovativeness of the proposed research
  • How affiliation with the host center/institute will benefit the student
  • Willingness and ability of the center/institute and its faculty to host the student during the fellowship year
  • Student's independence, originality, and the comparative strength of the academic record
  • Potential contribution of the research to the field
  • Strength of the supporting letters

Who Is Eligible? 

To be considered for an Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship (IDF), students must meet the following criteria:

  • Ph.D. student in good standing with their program at the University of Minnesota
  • Have an intended graduation term of no earlier than spring 2022*
  • Able to demonstrate that they are making timely degree progress

Students who have received an Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship (IDF) or a Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (DDF) from the Graduate School in the past are not eligible.

*Students who are not qualified for the IDF fellowship due to their intended graduation term should instead apply for the Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship.

The deadline for program nominations is noon (CST), Friday, November 15, 2019.

Further Information

For more information about internal review and nomination procedures, please contact your Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) or designated program support staff. If you have additional questions, contact the Graduate School Fellowship Office.

How to Apply

  • List of centers & institutes
  • Check with directors and potential mentors early to ensure the best match
  • Obtain a letter of endorsement from the director of the center/institute
  • Find a faculty mentor affiliated with the center/institute who will work closely with you during the fellowship year
  • Provide any application materials the center/institute requires to the center/institute by October 21, 2019, to be considered for a letter of endorsement
  • Your graduate program will need all required documentation, including letters, well in advance of the Graduate School deadline (noon (CST), Friday, November 15, 2019), in order to complete its online nomination
  • Contact your graduate program to determine the program's internal deadline
  • Provide letter instructions to your letter writers and endorsement instructions to the center/institute director, including graduate program contact information, and your program's internal deadline for submission
  • You will need:
    • A letter of endorsement from the director of the center/institute
    • Mentor letter(s) from faculty affiliated with the center/institute
    • A letter from your advisor (co-advisors may co-author one letter)

Application Materials

Each nomination is submitted by program staff, and must include all of the following:

The Electronic Nomination Form must be completed by a designated program staff authorized to work with graduate student records and/or the Director of Graduate Studies.

The nominee must complete the Nominee Application, and provide the completed form to the nominating program.

The nominee must provide a two-page (maximum) curriculum vitae to the program. Formatting requirements: 12-point Times New Roman font and one-inch margins.

  • Educational information is already provided on the Nominee Application form, and therefore should not be duplicated on the curriculum vitae.
  • The focus should be on relevant employment or experience, publications, presentations, academic accomplishments, honors, and awards.

The nominee must provide a research proposal to the program, consisting of the following elements:

  • A working title for proposed research.
  • A 100-word abstract of the proposed research in terms that are jargon-free and accessible to the non-specialist.
  • Research Proposal: Maximum two-pages (including abstract), single-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font, one-inch margins. (Proposals that exceed these requirements may result in return of the nomination without review.) Key references, diagrams, or pictures may be included (but are not required) on a single additional appendix page (no formatting requirements).

The research proposal should describe the student's interdisciplinary research or scholarly project. Additional points the student should address include:

  • What fields will you combine and how will you integrate them?
  • Describe the innovativeness of your project. Will this project build on an existing collaboration(s), or will you explore new, innovative directions and collaborations?
  • Explain why residence at the designated center/institute is essential in developing your interdisciplinary research.
  • Describe the potential significance and contribution of your research to your field and to other fields; who will benefit from your research and how will they benefit?

Specialized terminology must be defined; faculty reviewers are drawn from many different fields across the University.

To be eligible for program nomination, the student must obtain a Letter of Endorsement from a host center or institute.

Centers/institutes may have internal review procedures in place to determine whom they will support.  Potential applicants should provide any requested application materials to the center/institute by October 21, 2019, to be considered for endorsement.

When requesting endorsement, the applicant should provide the director with this information regarding letter requirements:

    • Center/institute directors will complete a Letter of Endorsement for each student they wish to support. The letter is submitted to the student’s program by a deadline determined by the program, but prior to the November 15, 2019.
    • The following three questions are included on the form:

What synergies may result from hosting this particular student?

    • How will the student benefit from an affiliation with the center/institute?
    • How will the center/institute benefit from the student’s participation?

What resources will the center/institute commit to the student?

    • Centers/institutes are encouraged to provide $2,500 for activities related to the student’s professional development.
    • Possible resources may include: study space; mentoring and professional development opportunities; and financial support, such as funds for student travel to a professional conference.

Why is your center/institute an appropriate host site for this student’s research?

    • Information provided might include: the mix of disciplines represented among center/institute faculty related to the student’s interests; the diversity of faculty research interests and methodologies; regular events that feature faculty members’ work; and opportunities for students to feature their work.

To be eligible for nomination, the student must find a faculty mentor affiliated with the host center/institute who will agree to mentor the student during the fellowship year. More than one mentor may work with the student during the fellowship year.

At least one letter of support is required from a mentor. If there are two mentors, the second mentor may write a letter of support, but a second letter is not required.

When requesting a letter, the applicant should provide letter writer(s) with this information regarding letter requirements, addressing the following (maximum 1 page):

  • How long you have known the student and in what context.
  • The innovativeness of the student's project.
      • Will this project build on an existing project or collaboration(s), or will the project explore new, innovative directions and collaborations?
      • What fields will the student's project combine?
      • How will the student combine them?
  • The potential for the student to make a significant contribution to his/her field and to other fields.
  • How your collaboration with the student will contribute to his/her scholarly development and research.

Only one advisor letter should be provided. The letter can be from one advisor or one co-advisor, or it may be co-authored by co-advisors.

When requesting a letter, the applicant should provide letter writer(s) with this information regarding letter requirements, addressing the following (maximum 2 pages): 

  • The independence, originality, and overall academic quality of the student.
  • The potential for the student to make a significant contribution to his/her field.
  • The interdisciplinary nature of the research.
  • How the research will integrate disciplines not currently represented in the student’s graduate program.
  • How affiliation with the host center/institute will benefit the student.

For more information about obtaining an unofficial transcript, visit One Stop.    

If the research involves human or animal subjects, IRB/IACUC approval is required.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Any center or institute at the University of Minnesota is eligible to participate, as long as the director of the center/institute is willing to write the applicant a letter of endorsement.
  • Please refer to the Centers & Institutes List, maintained by the Office of the Provost.

The Graduate School does not set a limit.  However, each center/institute may choose to limit the number of applications it will endorse.

Check with the director of the primary (larger) center to determine who should provide the letter of endorsement.

  • You may explore research options with more than one center or institute. 
  • If more than one center or institute agrees to support your application, you will need to decide which host center or institute is the best match for your interdisciplinary research, because your program may only submit one nomination per student.

No. However, programs may only submit one nomination per student.

  • The internal deadline of October 21, 2019 is provided to ensure that centers/institutes will have sufficient time to write letters of endorsement for all nominees they wish to support. 
  • If your center or institute has given you a later deadline, please check with them to understand how the deadline relates to their internal process and requirements (if any), and to ensure it will allow your program to meet the Graduate School deadline of noon, November 15, 2019.
  • The Graduate School deadline (noon, November 15, 2019) is the date by which a complete electronic program nomination, including all letters of support, must be submitted to the Office of Interdisciplinary Initiatives.

The Graduate School does not place any restrictions. However, the purpose of the fellowship is to provide an opportunity to work with faculty from diverse fields, so a strong application will include faculty from outside the nominee's program.

If your advisor is also your mentor, your application will not be as competitive, given the purpose of the fellowship.

Centers and institutes identify the faculty who are affiliated with them and what “affiliation” means.  In general, faculty mentors should be engaged in the intellectual life of the center or institute—for example, they may serve as a Principal Investigator (or member of a research team) on a research project administered by the center or institute; or they may participate in the center’s educational programming, if the center offers an academic program; or they may participate in partnerships with community collaborators.  Prospective IDF applicants should check with their designated center or institute to determine if their faculty mentor is considered to be affiliated with the center/institute.

No, full-time employees at the University (or elsewhere) who are also enrolled in a Ph.D. program are not eligible for the IDF. Fellowship recipients may hold up to a 25-percent time graduate assistantship or other job not exceeding 10 hours per week. They may receive supplemental support up to the value of a 25-percent graduate assistantship from any source in each semester and are expected to devote substantial time to their research and coursework during the Fellowship year.

No, the IDF should not be used during the final year of study. Ph.D. candidates seeking funding for their final year of study should instead apply for the Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship

No; however, if you apply for the IDF and receive it, you may defer your NSF Fellowship for the year in which you hold the IDF and use your NSF in the subsequent year. The IDF may not be deferred.

If the college of my first professional degree requires me to register in that college for one or both semesters of the academic year, how will this affect my IDF?

You need to register in the college of your Ph.D. program during the fall and spring semesters in which you hold the IDF. 

Student Writing Support in the Center for Writing offers individual consultations and online resources to help graduate students develop and revise their research proposals.

Successful nominations exhibit the following characteristics:

  • The proposed research is clearly interdisciplinary in nature. (The nominee’s research proposal effectively explains what makes the research interdisciplinary.)
  • The research is innovative.
  • The research integrates disciplines not currently represented in the student’s graduate program.
  • The importance/potential impact of the research is clear.
  • The research proposal is well developed. Ideas are well-thought out and are clearly and sufficiently explained.
  • The research proposal is well written. The research proposal does not contain jargon, is well composed, and can be understood by the non-specialist.
  • Support letters are strong.
  • The student’s academic record is strong.

Please provide documentation with your application showing that you have started your request (1-2 pages). As soon as you receive your IRB/IACUC approval, submit it to gsfellow@umn.edu.  If you are awarded an Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship, funding will be contingent upon proof of IRB/IACUC approval.

Please provide the email or letter from IRB or IACUC with your application stating that approval is not required for your project. 

Please provide the approval page (1-2 pages) of the IRB/IACUC documentation that your advisor has obtained.