For the last few months, I’ve been very focused on trying to submit successful fellowship applications. My main targets are ones that are big in computer science & computer engineering: Microsoft Research, Facebook( not done yet), NSF, NDSEG (not done yet), … etc.

It has been quite exhausting, to say the least. Writing a fellowship application that mandates a personal statement is a mentally taxing experience because you are being forced to constantly sell yourself at every point along the way. I’ve always found this a little difficult because I’m the type of person who tends to avoid overestimating my ability to force myself to keep working. A bit of mental trickery, if you would; as such, I’ll often downplay praise or avoid the spotlight to avoid a growing ego. The goal of the statements isn’t to encourage that sentiment, of course, but to make you create a three-dimensional version of yourself from your written word. But that’s certainly difficult for me because I hate to sound like I’m bragging while understanding that, yes, you must sell yourself or be doomed to go home hat in hand.

The research statements are quite easy since I’ve been working at this for a while and generally have a good grasp of what it is I’m trying to accomplish, what I can do in ‘x’ amount of time, and why the problem is worth solving (hint: all research problems are worth solving with the right marketing campaign).

So far, I’ve done:

  • Microsoft Research
  • Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship

In that order. The MSR one was a good preparation for the GRFP since it forced me to get a research plan draft done very early that was in excess of the GRFP requirements (5 pages versus 2 pages). So most of my work went into advertising myself in the research statement :D.

Qualcomm was a little different. This fellowship is only open to certain universities that Qualcomm gets a lot of work from. WINLAB, certainly, does a lot of work with them on the Communications front; Dr. Lu in our solid state department works on hardware with them. The research proposal required a team component, so I worked with Xianyi Gao in my lab and produced a research plan on crowdsourcing that I’m hoping will appeal to the team over there given that Qualcomm had a high profile purchase of a crowdsourcing platform last year. The work is fairly novel and would answer some interesting questions so fingers crossed to at least be a finalist!

The next fellowship coming up is the Ford Foundation. This is certainly a prestigious fellowship as well, but their mission statement is about increasing diversity in higher education. From what I’ve seen of previous winners, not many were caucasians studying computer science topics like I am. 😀 I am not dissuaded, however, since my commitment to increasing diversity is what matters and I am actually proactive in this area. I have to spin a nice story with the research plan and make it more human and relatable, which is actually a great thing to be doing anyway! Really looking forward to this. 🙂