7 Tips for Applying for the Microsoft Research Ada Lovelace Fellowship
The Microsoft Research Ada Lovelace Fellowship awards 2nd year Ph.D. students in the field of computing who self- identify as underrepresented in the field. This is a three-year fellowship that fully covers tuition and fees for three years and a $42,000 stipend to cover living expenses as wells as conference expenses. Use this link to learn more about the fellowship specifics: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/academic-program/ada-lovelace-fellowship/
I am a 2020 Ada Lovelace Fellow. I am writing these tips based on my personal experience with applying to this fellowship. As a first-year Ph.D. student going into my second year I had no clue how to get started or what to even include. So I hope this helps other students get started.
There are two phases for applying to this fellowship. Phase 1 is the nomination by your department chair and phase 2 is finalizing your research material and recommendation submission.
PHASE 1: Department Nominations
Every department may do this differently. In UC Irvine's Informatics department you are asked to submit your CV and a one-page summary of your research proposal. Before this phase began, I personally notified the chair of the department and my adviser that I was interested in being nominated for this fellowship. Let your adviser and/or the department chair know that you are interested!
TIP 1: WRITE ENOUGH TO BE NOMINATED
In this phase, your research plan doesn’t need to be finalized. You need to convince your department that your work should be nominated to receive the fellowship.
TIP 1.5: BE CONFIDENT IN YOUR WORK and SHOW IMPACT
TIP 2: NOTIFY YOUR RECOMMENDERS NOW
Although you haven’t been nominated you should give them a heads up because between the nomination deadline and the full application deadline there is about a month. This timeframe may not be the greatest for some recommenders not just because of the timeframe, but also because it’s CHI submission season (if you are in the HCI community) and the beginning of a new school year. Notifying recommenders that you may be nominated well in advance is extremely important.
Phase 2: Submit your full research statement
Congratulations you’ve been nominated! Now let’s finalize your application material. Hopefully, you have read through the fellowship requirements multiple times.
TIP 3: READ BIO OF PAST ADA LOVELACE FELLOWS
Ada Lovelace Fellowship - Microsoft Research
A three-year fellowship for second year PhD students enrolled at a university in the United States, Canada, or Mexico…
These bios can give you a sense of what types of research Microsoft Research may be interested in funding. Just because you don’t see it doesn’t necessarily mean they are not interested. This is not the only type of research that they may be interested in funding if your work is unique, has an impact, and/or technology-focused be secure and confident in that.
TIP 4: EXPLORE RESEARCH OF MICROSOFT RESEARCHERS
Many researchers will be reading your application material, so you may want to be aware of the work that is already happening at Microsoft Research. You should explore the research happening at Microsoft (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/). I suggest exploring beyond you research area. Do a keyword search for things related to your research project. Also, many of Microsoft’s researchers publish academic papers. You can find their current work by looking at their recently published paper (Hint: search their name in Google Scholar).
In my experience, I was aware that no Microsoft researchers did work that focused on people with dementia and no Ada Lovelace Fellows were aimming to engage with that community. But, I did know that accessibility was a major research area at MSR and research invovling virtual reality was funded in the past.
TIP 5: RESEARCH PROPOSAL STRUCTURE/ WHAT TO INCLUDE
As an entering second-year student, I wasn’t aware of the structure of a research proposal. This fellowship is not the time to talk about your past research from undergrad to now unless your Ph.D. research trajectory builds on those preliminary results. Here is the structure of my research proposal : Introduction, Background, My Preliminary Research, Proposed Research & Evaluation, Expected Outcomes, Graduate Study Plan, Professional Development, Collaborations, UCI Resources.
TIP 6: SHOW IMPACT, BUT ALSO HIGHLIGHT TECHNOLOGY
Remember Microsoft is a technology company, so it’s important to highlight the creation of technology, the use of technology, designing technology, and the impact of technology, etc. You define what impact means because it doesn’t have to be related to a specific population. If possible, include the use of Microsoft technologies within your research studies. Note: this is not a must, but it does show an awareness of Microsoft products.
TIP 7: CONSULT PAST FELLOWS, YOUR ADVISER, AND MENTORS
Phase 3: Finalist Interview
Once chosen as a finalist I was invited to Microsoft Research for a round of interviews to talk about research and a poster presentation.
Remember: You always have next year. Microsoft Research has many other opportunities to receive funding, including the Microsoft Research Ph.D. Fellowship that is specifically for 3rd year Ph.D. students.