What is the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship? 

The Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship (IDF) provides a unique opportunity for outstanding mid-career 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. There is a list of potential host centers and institutes; and any center or institute at the University of Minnesota is eligible to participate even, as long as the director of the center/institute is willing to write the applicant a letter of endorsement. Applicants should check with mentors and directors early to ensure a good match.


The nomination window is currently closed. The call for 2025-26 nominations will open September 2024.


$25,000 stipend, academic year tuition at the general graduate rate for up to 14 credits per semester, and subsidized health insurance through the Graduate Assistant Health Plan for up to one calendar year.


  • PhD students in good standing with their program at the University of Minnesota
  • Have an intended graduation term of no earlier than Spring 2026
  • Able to demonstrate that they are making timely degree progress
  • Students who previously received an IDF or Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (DDF) from the Graduate School are NOT eligible


Program Nomination required. Please reach out to your Director of Graduate Studies or Graduate Program Coordinator for nomination procedure and internal deadlines.

For Program Nomination, log in to the electronic nomination form.


PhD students will communicate with a host center or institute as well as their graduate program for nomination. PhD students forward the following documents to their graduate program for nomination (Programs can set internal deadline):

  • Completed Nominee Application Form
  • IRB/IACUC Documentation, details on Nominee Application Form
  • Research proposal, see details below
  • Letter of Support (2-page maximum) from Advisor and/or Co-Advisor, see details below

Per the request of a PhD student, Host Center(s) or Institute(s) will forward the following document to the PhD student’s graduate program to include in the nomination packet:

  • Letter of Endorsement from the Host Center or Institute Director
  • Letter of Support (1-page maximum) from a Faculty Mentor(s) affiliated with the Host Center or Institute, see details below

All application materials are forwarded to the student’s graduate program for submission to the electronic nomination form. The graduate program will upload a single PDF of the application materials in the following order:

  1. Nominee's application form
  2. IRB/IACUC documentation
  3. Nominee's research proposal
  4. Letter of support from advisor/co-advisor
  5. Letter of endorsement from host center or institute
  6. Letter of support from faculty mentor in host center or institute

Required PDF title format: Nominee Last Name, First Name - Program

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 Office of Graduate Fellowships and Awards.


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Required elements

  1. A working title for proposed research
  2. A 100-word abstract of the proposed research in terms that are jargon-free and accessible to a non-specialist
  3. Two-page maximum (including abstract), single-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font, one-inch margins. Proposals that exceed these requirements will not be considered for review.
  4. Specialized terms must be defined. Faculty review committee is made up of non-specialists.

Appendix Page

Key references, diagrams, or pictures may be included, but are not required, on a single additional appendix page (no formatting requirements).

Expectations of content

  • Describe how your research is interdisciplinary and the fields/disciplines you are merging together.
  • Describe the innovativeness of your interdisciplinary research project.
  • Describe how the partnership with your chosen center/institute is essential to your interdisciplinary research project.
  • Describe the potential significance, contribution, and impact(s) that your interdisciplinary research will have on your field.

Evaluation Rubric

You may find this rubric to be helpful as it will be used by the Faculty Review Committee to evaluate IDF applications.


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Expectations of Content

  • One letter, 2-page maximum (can be co-authored).
  • Describe how the nominee’s research intersects disciplines not currently represented in their primary field of study; and the potential for the nominee to make a significant contribution to their field, such as the impact that the interdisciplinary research project could have on the primary field of study.
  • Describe the importance of interdisciplinary training for the success of the nominee’s research.

You may find this rubric to be helpful as it will be used by the Faculty Review Committee to evaluate IDF applications.


Expectations of Content

  • One letter, 1-page maximum (can be co-authored if there are two mentors).
  • Describe how your mentorship and collaboration within the center/institute will support the nominee in their interdisciplinary research project.
  • Describe the innovativeness of the nominee’s research and why it is a good fit for your area (e.g. Will this project build on an existing project or will it explore a new direction?).

You may find this rubric to be helpful as it will be used by the Faculty Review Committee to evaluate IDF applications.


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What is the recommended timeline to contact a host center/institute?

  • The Graduate School Fellowships Office recommends contacting center/institute directors and potential mentors early to ensure the best match.
  • Recommended deadline of October 13, 2023 to provide any requested materials to the center/institute director and faculty mentor to be considered for a letter of endorsement.
  • Internal deadlines to the graduate program and/or center/institute for nomination may vary. It is recommended to check with your graduate program and center/institute for internal deadlines in case you need to submit materials prior to October 13 for consideration as a nominee or if a center/institute has a later deadline.
  • The Graduate School deadline (November 10, 2023 at 5:00pm CST) is the date/time by which a complete electronic program nomination, including all letters of support, must be submitted.

What are the review and selection considerations?

​​​​​​An interdepartmental faculty committee reviews all nominations and selects award recipients. This rubric is used in review and for discussion.

Is there a limit to the number of nominations a program can submit?

No, the Graduate School does not set a limit. However, each program may submit only one nomination per student.

May I apply to more than one center/institute?

No. However, you may explore endorsement options with more than one center/institute.

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

Is there a limit to the number of applicants a center/institute may endorse?

No, the Graduate School does not set a limit. However, each center/institute may choose to limit the number of applications they endorse.

The center I want to work with is a small center within a larger one and each center has a director. Which Center Director should I ask for a letter of endorsement?

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

Are there limitations or restrictions with regard to the discipline of the center/institute Director and Faculty Mentor who support my nomination?

No, there are no limitations, restrictions, or requirements. However, the purpose of the IDF is to provide an opportunity to work with faculty from diverse fields so a strong application will include a Faculty Mentor from outside the nominee’s program.

Can my faculty advisor also serve as my faculty mentor?

No, this is not recommended because this does not align with the IDF purpose and therefore your application will not be as competitive.

What does it mean for a prospective Mentor to be “affiliated” with a center/institute?

Centers/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/institute, e.g. they may serve as a Principal Investigator (or member of a research team) on a research project administered by the center/institute; or they may participate in the center’s educational programming; or they may participate in partnerships with community collaborators.

Prospective IDF applicants should check with their designated center/institute to determine if their faculty mentor is considered to be affiliated with the center/institute.

I plan to graduate at the end of the spring semester of the year for which I hope to be awarded an IDF. Am I still eligible?

No, the IDF is not to be used during the final year of study. PhD candidates who seek funding for their final year of study should apply for the Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship.

I am in a joint degree program that combines a first-professional degree and a PhD degree. Am I eligible to apply for an IDF?

Yes, you are eligible to apply. However, if you receive an IDF, you will be required to register in the college of your PhD program during the fall and spring semesters in which you hold the IDF.

I am a full-time employee at the University and I am also pursuing a PhD. Am I eligible for an IDF?

No, full-time employees within the University system who are also enrolled in a PhD program are not eligible to apply for the IDF.

What are some of the characteristics of successful IDF nominations?

Please review this rubric, which will be used by the Faculty Review Committee to evaluate nominations and select recipients.

Successful nominations clearly demonstrate interdisciplinary research and avoid jargon; demonstrate importance of partnership with the Center/Institute; articulates a significance and contribution of their research to their primary field; and have strong support letters from Faculty Advisor and Faculty Mentor.

The documents in this archive may help in preparing your own application for internal or external funding opportunities. The proposals within the archive are only accessible after students have been set up with permission by the Grad School Fellowships Office. To request permission to access the archive, review and complete this confidentiality agreement. Once submitted, your access will be updated within 1-2 business days.

Where can I get help with writing my research proposal?

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