Bright blue graphic with geomatric color shapes on right

Microsoft Research PhD Fellowship

Region: Global

For eligible students at universities globally pursuing research aligned to Microsoft Research areas of focus.

Australia & New Zealand

For the purposes of this fellowship, for the purposes of this fellowship, nominees must attend a university in Australia, New Zealand, Melanesia, Micronesia, or Polynesia.

2023 Program timeline

April 12, 2023 | Call for proposals opens
May 10, 2023 | Call for proposals closes
September 2023 | Notifications sent to recipients
October 12, 2023 | 2023 Microsoft Research Global PhD Fellows are announced

2023 PhD Fellowship 4-step timeline

The 2022 PhD fellowship recipients have been announced.

    • Tuition and fees will be covered for two academic years (2022–23 and 2023–24).
    • A $42,000 USD stipend will be provided to help with living expenses while in school for two academic years (2022-23 and 2023-24). The stipend is not expected to cover all living expenses; it can be used for expenses including, but not limited to, childcare, conference fees and travel, research equipment, meals, rent, etc.
    • Opportunities will be provided to build relationships with research teams at Microsoft and receive mentorship.
    • Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Fellows should support this mission and embrace opportunities to foster diverse and inclusive cultures within their communities.
    • Students must be enrolled at a university in Australia, New Zealand, Melanesia, Micronesia, or Polynesia.
    • Proposed research must be closely related to the general areas of research carried out by Microsoft Research lab members or those within an applied research group in other parts of Microsoft.
      • Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning: Despite machine learning’s stream of successful applications, many further problems remain to be solved. Whether it is doing reinforcement learning in complex environments, democratizing models by making them easier to train and more accessible, ensuring ML systems work for everyone in a robust manner or using them with highly structured data, we seek to further advance our understanding of how knowledge is acquired, represented and used. We are interested in many areas of machine learning, including but not limited to Deep Learning, Reinforcement Learning, Natural Language Processing, as well as ML application domains such as Biology, Medicine, and Environmental Sustainability.
      • Race & Technology: Race and technology are closely intertwined, shaping identities, human interaction, cultural production and local and global power relations. We are interested in understanding the consequences and implications of technology’s relationship with race/ethnicity, how it shapes everyday life, and the ways that we can build more equitable and inclusive technological futures.
      • Health & Life Sciences: The application of advanced computational methods to health and life sciences data has opened a new frontier in bioscience. We’re interested in exploring how these ML and AI-based methods can unlock new insights in areas related to clinical medicine, drug discovery, and fundamental biology, with the ultimate goal of improving quality of life for everyone.
      • Economics & computational social sciences: Economics and Computational Social Science is the place where Economics and other social science like Psychology, Sociology, Political Science, Communication, and Education meet computational ideas and methods. Computation can connect with these fields in many ways from the theoretical (using formal concepts from computer science to shed light on problems) to the applied (using computers to do things on a scale or with a level of control that is otherwise not possible).
      • Sociotechnical systems: Sociotechnical systems researchers are working towards building conceptual tools for understanding how societies shape and are shaped by technologies, so they can make more informed strategic choices at all stages of product cycles. Areas of focus within this space include sociotechnical systems, building sociotechnical systems through community engagement, challenges of scale, and trustworthy data. 
      • Mixed reality: Research in augmented reality, virtual reality and the “metaverse” offer us visions of how we may work, play and communicate in the future. We are exploring the blending of the virtual and the real world to leverage the best aspects of both while supporting the diversity of entry points and modalities of our customers.
      • Data platforms: Research in this area focuses on all aspects of large-scale cloud and edge data platforms and services including resource management, storage, caching, query processing, query optimization, security, and privacy. Examples of projects that we are pursuing include reducing the total cost of ownership of systems using techniques such as auto-tuning, query optimization and processing, approximate query processing, applying machine learning to improve system components, and exploiting modern hardware trends to push the envelope of performance, reliability, and cost.
      • Security, privacy, & cryptography: Security, privacy, and cryptography research focuses on building trust in the hardware, software, networks, and services that billions of people use every day for communication, commerce, and storage.
      • Systems and networking​: Our systems and networking teams are inventing new technologies for next-generation infrastructures and platforms for sensors, devices, edge, and the cloud. We are focused on basic and applied research in all areas related to networked systems, mobile computing, sensing, and Internet of Things. Researchers build proof-of-concept systems, engage with academia, publish scientific papers, release software for the research community, and transfer cutting-edge technologies to Microsoft’s product groups.
      • Human-computer interaction: As computing becomes more ubiquitous and new form of computing also appear, challenges on how humans interact with computers and devices keep growing. This field looks into new systems, devices, and paradigms that enable everyone to participate in the new lives that technology opens. We are interested in all forms of Augmented Devices, to Human-AI, to accessibility, to everything in between.
    • Students must be in their second year of their PhD program between August 2022 and July 2023.
    • The recipient must remain an active, full-time student in a PhD program during the academic year(s) of the award or forfeit the award. Fellowships are not available for extension. If you require time away for family or medical leave, this will be accommodated. If you are unsure if a particular need for time away will affect the award, you can contact Microsoft Research Fellowships at msfellow@microsoft.com.
    • Payment of the award, as described above, will be made directly to the university and dispersed according to the university’s policies. Microsoft will have discretion as to how any remaining funds will be used if the student is no longer qualified to receive funding (e.g. if the student unenrolls from the program, graduates, or transfers to a different university).
    • Funding is for use only during the recipient’s time in the PhD program; it cannot be used for support in a role past graduation, such as a postdoc or faculty position. Those interested in receiving this fellowship will need to confirm their PhD program starting month and year, as well as their expected graduation month and year.
    • A recipient of the Microsoft Research PhD Fellowship subject to disciplinary proceedings for inappropriate behavior, including but not limited to discrimination, harassment (including sexual harassment), or plagiarism will forfeit their funding.
    • A recipient of the Microsoft Research PhD Fellowship may not receive another fellowship from another technology company during the same academic period. Fellows accepting multiple fellowships may 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.
  • Proposals and letters of recommendation for the Microsoft Research PhD Fellowship were accepted through Tuesday, June 7, 2022 at 7:00 PM UTC. 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
    • Research category (from those noted above)
    • Thesis proposal or research statement title
    • Month and year entered the PhD program and expected graduation date (you must be entering your second year or beyond sometime between August 2022 – July 2023)
    • URL to your professional website (optional, but strongly recommended; you are encouraged to make certain it is up-to-date)
    • 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 two 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 June 7, 2022. 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  msfellow@microsoft.com.

  • Eligibility questions

    Are international students (those who are not citizens of Australia) eligible?

    Yes, if you are a full-time international student attending a school in Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, New Caledonia, Melanesia, Micronesia, or Polynesia and meet the eligibility requirements.

    What if I’m a student attending a university outside Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, New Caledonia, Melanesia, Micronesia, or Polynesia?

    If you are a student attending a school outside these countries, you are ineligible for this fellowship. Please refer to the other program pages by region to see if you’re eligible.

    What if I am not starting my second year in a PhD program in academic year 2022–2023?

    Students must be in their second year in a PhD program between August 2022 and July 2023 in order to submit a proposal for this award.

    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).



    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 whether my research fits into these research categories? Where is the appropriate place to describe how they relate to my work (whether it’s methodologically or theoretically)?

    • Your choice of research category you submit under 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?

    Your work should be of interest to Microsoft Research lab members or those within an applied research group in other parts of Microsoft; it should align to one of the ten research categories above. It is important for your work to be related enough that we will be able to review it and have interest in supporting it.


    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 two-page research statement, or should they contain distinctively different content?

    The one-page research statement and the two-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 2 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.


    Review process

    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 two-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 early October 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.


    Award details

    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 msfellow@microsoft.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 msfellow@microsoft.com.