If you were nominated by the office of the department chair at your university, then you should have received an email from Microsoft Research PhD Fellowship on July 9, 2021. Please check your junk email folder if you do not see it in your inbox. The email will contain a private link to submit your proposal.
If you are a nominee, the below outlines the information necessary to submit your proposal in our submission portal.
You will be asked to answer the below questions in a form:
- Your name, email, country, university, and department
- Primary and secondary areas of research (from those noted in the Our research menu in the top navigation of this site)
- Thesis proposal or research statement title
- Month and year entered the PhD program and expected graduation date (nominee must be in their third year of their PhD program in August/September 2021 and vetted by the university)
- Indicate as to whether or not you are a doctoral student who identifies as part of a community that is underrepresented in the field of computing which include those who self-identify as a woman, African American, Black, Hispanic, Latinx, Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, Indigenous Peoples, LGBTQI+, active or veteran service member, and/or person with a disability – if two or three students are nominated, then at least one nominee should help us increase the opportunities for students who identify as part of a community that is underrepresented in the field of computing, and if four are nominated, then at least two nominees should help us increase the opportunities for students who identify as part of a community that is underrepresented in the field of computing
- URL to your professional website (optional, but strongly recommended; you are encouraged to make certain it is up-to-date)
- Approximate cost of tuition and fees for one academic year
- One to three academic conferences you are most likely to attend
- Self-assessment of the Statement of Good Standing: “I declare I have never been disciplined for inappropriate behavior, including, but not limited to discrimination, harassment (including sexual harassment), or plagiarism. If I am selected to receive funding under Microsoft’s Fellowship program, during my funding time period, I agree to inform Microsoft should I be subjected to disciplinary proceedings for inappropriate behavior, including but not limited to discrimination, harassment (including sexual harassment), or plagiarism which would result in forfeiture of funding under Microsoft’s Fellowship program.”
You will be asked to upload 3 documents:
Your curriculum vitae, thesis statement, and one-page summary will be uploaded separately. Accepted formats are docx, doc, and pdf. Email or hard-copy submissions will not be considered. Name the individual files using the convention indicated below. Include your first name and last name as part of your file name each separated by an underscore (e.g. Jane_Smith_cv.docx).
- Curriculum vitae – file name: cv
- Thesis proposal or research statement (short and concise is recommended—no more than five pages including references with font no smaller than 10-point) – file name: thesis
- One-page summary (including references with font no smaller than 10-point) of the above thesis proposal or research statement with the first paragraph describing the desired impact your research will have in the field and in society, and why it is important to you – file name: summary
You will be asked to request 3 letters of recommendation via the submission portal:
- Add the contact information (name, affiliation, email) and send the email request through the submission portal to your three recommenders as soon as possible so they have ample time to provide a letter. Their deadline is the same as your proposal deadline on August 6, 2021. They should be established researchers familiar with your research (at least one of which must be from your primary academic advisor/supervisor and only one letter can be from a current Microsoft employee). Once you send the request through the submission portal, they will receive a private link to upload a letter of recommendation for you. Please note that you and your recommenders may need to check your junk folders in order to find emails from our portal. As reference, here is a list of the various system email addresses you can add to allowed emails.
Microsoft cannot assume responsibility for the confidentiality of information submitted in the proposals. Therefore, proposals should not contain information that is confidential, restricted, or sensitive. Microsoft reserves the right to make public the information on those proposals that receive awards, except those portions containing budgetary or personally identifiable information.
Incomplete proposals will not be considered.
Due to the volume of submissions, Microsoft cannot provide individual feedback on proposals.
For questions regarding proposals, contact Microsoft Research Fellowships at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are international students (those who are not citizens of Canada or the United States) eligible?
Yes, if you are a full-time international student attending a school in Canada or the United States and meet the eligibility requirements.
What if I’m a student attending a university outside Canada and the United States?
If you are a student attending a school outside Canada and the United States, you are ineligible for this fellowship.
What if I am not starting my third year in a PhD program in academic year 2021–2022?
Students must be in their third year in a PhD program in August/September 2021 in order to submit a proposal for this award.
How should I determine if I will be in my third year of my PhD program in August/September 2021? Do you consider master’s degrees when calculating eligibility?
We find that universities calculate this differently which is why we require the designated person from the department chair’s office to attest that the student will be considered a third year PhD student in August/September 2021. We kindly leave this to you and your university to determine.
Do I have to be nominated by my university or can I nominate myself?
To be considered for the award, you must be nominated by your department within your university. If you are nominated, you will be contacted to submit a proposal.
Can Microsoft employees or their families be nominated to submit a proposal?
Current interns may be nominated. With the exception of interns, employees and directors of Microsoft Corporation, and its subsidiaries and affiliates are not eligible, nor are persons involved in the execution or administration of this fellowship, or the family members of each above (parents, children, siblings, spouse/domestic partners, or individuals residing in the same household).
Who is meant to submit the nomination? Does it have to be the Chair of the department or can it be my advisor?
The Department Chair’s office can designate any staff other than the student to submit the nomination (professor, administrator, graduate officer, etc.). The nomination simply needs to be a coordinated effort with the Department Chair’s office. This is to ensure there are no more than four nominations from each department and the Department Chair’s office is aware of those nominations being submitted.
Does the Department Chair have to submit a letter through the online tool as well in support of my nomination?
No, we do not require a letter from the Department Chair.
Does whether or not a student’s research is already being funded impact their eligibility for nomination and/or receiving the award?
Not from our perspective. However, should the student be chosen for both a Microsoft Research PhD Fellowship and a fellowship from another technology company or institution during the same academic period, they will be asked to choose.
Areas of research
You specify very broad focus areas of research. Are there any proposals or projects that you are more interested in than others or is it up to us to choose? Is it mostly software solutions or is there any hardware interest?
There are plenty of both hardware and software projects currently in Microsoft Research. The reason the areas of research are broad is that Microsoft Research is very broad, and there are a number of people reviewing the fellowship proposals across a wide range of areas. Look at the work people in Microsoft Research are doing by clicking on the areas noted in the Our research menu in the top navigation of this site which will give you some idea of the focus areas within the broad areas to guide your focus area choice. In the end, propose the work you are interested in doing.
How do areas of interest factor into fellowship proposal evaluations? Are there areas of interest that Microsoft Research is more focused on this year?
It depends on the individuals involved in reviewing the proposal, and it is hard to say what is going to be of more interest. The trends of the industry are probably going to be reflected in what is interesting in general. Guiding question: Imagine you succeed. Tell us how someone’s life changes as a result.
How do I determine my primary and secondary areas of research? Where is the appropriate place to describe how they relate to my work (whether it’s methodologically or theoretically)?
- Your choices of primary and secondary areas of research help us choose who reviews your proposal.
- Pick areas that align with conferences/journals where you would publish.
- The one-pager is the appropriate place to describe how research areas relate to your research.
How do I choose which to pick for my area of research if my research is very interdisciplinary?
Microsoft Research is interdisciplinary, so it is something we understand. What you choose as an area of research is a “soft” preference and will simply help us better route your proposal. Utilize the primary and secondary areas of research option to help capture and communicate your area of research the best you can.
Here are some suggestions and guiding questions to help you choose a research area:
- Imagine you succeed. Tell us how someone’s life changes as a result.
- Do you have a home conference? Are there one or two conferences you go to in a more specific area?
- Is there a set of faculty/professors you know in a specific area?
- Who do you want to be reading your proposal?
- Who would you want to network with? What area of research are they in?
- Who would be most excited about my topic? What area of research are they in?
How related does my work need to be to the research at Microsoft?
Your work should be of interest to Microsoft Research lab members or those within an applied research group in other parts of Microsoft; however, it doesn’t need to directly line up with an existing project or topic. It is important for your work to be related enough that we will be able to review it and have interest in supporting it. Microsoft Research is large, interdisciplinary, and covers a broad area — use the Our research menu in the top navigation of this site as a guideline for the areas we cover. When in doubt, we suggest you browse the webpages of Microsoft Research lab members and those within an applied research group in other parts of Microsoft who look like they may be related to your area and see if they have papers in the similar topics or publish in conferences you publish in and/or attend. If you find one or more such people that share these connections with you, then you can feel confident that your work is related enough to submit a proposal.
Thesis proposal or research statement
Are there specific pieces of information I am required to include in my research statement (i.e. research aims, timelines, deliverables) or are you looking for more of a narrative, descriptive format of a student’s plan for their doctoral research?
Your research statement should be more of a narrative format. Timelines and deliverables are not necessary. We want to see what you are interested in, where your work is going, and how you would use this fellowship to further your research and contribute to the academic community.
What sort of balance is expected between what we have done, what we are doing, and what we are planning on doing?
When reviewing a proposal, we are looking for more of a future plan. Your research papers tell us what you have done, use the research statement to tell us where you are going.
If we have just submitted a paper that is going to guide a lot of direction going forward, would you recommend submitting that as preliminary data or attaching an unpublished paper to the proposal?
If it is relevant, and all co-authors approve of you submitting the unpublished work, we recommend including this in your submission by providing a link in your proposal to the information housed online somewhere like OneDrive (do not add pages to your proposal). Again, all papers should be approved by all-co-authors, for both published and unpublished works.
Should the one-page research statement be a short synopsis of the five-page research statement, or should they contain distinctively different content?
The one-page research statement and the five-page research statement should not contain different content; one should be a shorter version of the other. The purpose of the shorter version is to help us triage where proposals go to get reviewed, and its first paragraph should describe the desired impact your research will make on the field and society.
Should I be aware of formatting criteria while writing my research statement?
Your research statement should be no more than 5 pages including references with font no smaller than 10-point. The one-page summary of the aforementioned thesis proposal or research statement should also include references.
Letters of recommendation
My undergrad was in a different field so the research was very different from what I am doing now. Who should write my letters of recommendation?
Given you have three letters, it would be good to include a letter from one person who can speak about your current research and one person who has known you longer, even if it may not be in your current research area. The longer-term perspective is definitely important and valuable. The value of a letter is evaluating how you work, how you collaborate with people, and what your process is as a researcher. This transcends what your particular topic is. Keep in mind that one letter doesn’t have to address all things; across all three letters, we want to get a full picture of who you are over a longer term, but also insight into your recent work.
Are you more interested in learning about technical and research specific aspects of my work, or are other things, such as outreach/other university activities of interest as well?
The purpose of a letter of recommendation is to provide us with the bigger picture of what you are doing, how you work as a researcher, how you learn, how you approach projects, and how you collaborate with others. The letter will also provide us with insight from people who have been working with you and observing you for some amount of time.
It was suggested that letters of recommendation come from established researchers. Is this limited to faculty members or would the inclusion of collaborators be acceptable as well?
At least one recommendation needs to come from an advisor/supervisor, but letters of recommendation from collaborators are allowed. We are looking for people who can speak to you, your work as a researcher, and your character.
For the letters of recommendation, is it a system where you list the people and your system will ask those people?
Those you provided as recommenders in our system will be sent an auto-generated email with instructions to upload their letters of recommendation.
Who will review the proposals?
Proposals will be reviewed by Microsoft Research lab members and researchers within an applied research group in other parts of Microsoft whose expertise covers a wide range of disciplines.
What are you looking for when you review my proposal?
We look at how cutting edge your research is as well as the significance and impact of the research. We carefully read through your five-page thesis proposal or research statement, three letters of recommendation, and your CV to try to gauge this.
When will I know the outcome of the review process?
Nominees will be contacted by the end of September regarding the outcome of their submission. Due to the volume of submissions, Microsoft cannot provide individual feedback on proposals.
How many proposals were there last year?
There were over 600 proposals submitted last year.
If selected, when will my fellowship begin?
Persons awarded a fellowship in October will receive their financial awards by September of the following year. Tuition and fees are covered from the fall term through the end of the spring term. Microsoft sends payment directly to the university, who will disperse funds according to their guidelines. This award will be provided as an unrestricted gift with no terms and restrictions applied to it. No portion of these funds should be applied to overhead or other indirect costs.
Are there any tax implications for me if I receive this fellowship?
The tax implications for your tuition and fees and stipend are based on the policy at your university and applicable tax laws.
Will intellectual property be an issue if I am awarded a fellowship?
The Microsoft Research PhD Fellowship is not subject to any intellectual property (IP) restrictions unless and until the fellowship recipient also accepts an internship. If you accept an internship, you will be subject to the same restrictions as any other Microsoft intern.
Is an internship included as part of the award?
No. If a fellow is interested, applying for an internship at Microsoft is strongly encouraged, but not guaranteed or required.
Can I simultaneously receive other fellowships?
If you accept a Microsoft Research PhD Fellowship, you may not receive another fellowship from another technology company or institution during the same academic period. Fellows accepting multiple fellowships will become ineligible to receive continued funding from Microsoft. Microsoft will at its sole discretion consider a joint fellowship with a government or non-profit organization. Please contact email@example.com for consideration. You may not hold more than one student award at a time from Microsoft Research.
Is childcare an approved use of my stipend?
Absolutely! There is no limit to the amount of your stipend that can be used for childcare.
For questions not found above, contact Microsoft Research Fellowships at firstname.lastname@example.org.