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Early-Career Research Fellowship 

The application period for 2019 Early-Career Fellowships closed on February 20, 2019. The application period for 2020 will open in December 2019. Sign-up for e-updates to receive notifications relating to Gulf Research Program fellowships.

The Gulf Research Program’s Early-Career Research Fellowship supports emerging scientific leaders as they take risks on research ideas not yet tested, pursue unique collaborations, and build a network of colleagues who share their interest in improving offshore energy system safety and the well-being of coastal communities and ecosystems.

Because the early years of a researcher’s career are a critical time, the relatively unrestricted funds and mentoring this fellowship provides help recipients navigate this period with independence, flexibility, and a built-in support network. Get to know the work of our current and past Early-Career Research Fellows.

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What are the benefits of the fellowship?

An award of $76,000 is paid to each fellow’s institution in the form of a two-year grant. Potential fellows must ensure compliance with their institution’s requirements for applications for external funding. Funds cannot be used on institutional overhead or indirect charges. Detailed information can be found in the Early-Career Research Fellowship sample grant agreement for public and private institutions.

Research funding
$75,000 is available for the fellow to use for research-related expenses, including equipment purchases, professional travel, professional development courses, trainee support, salary, or any other costs directly related to the fellow’s research. The use of these funds for any other expenses requires pre-approval from the Gulf Research Program.

Mentor honorarium
The remaining $1,000 of the award serves as an honorarium for a mentor. Applicants must identify a senior-level researcher at their affiliated institution willing to serve as a career mentor.

Additional funding
All fellows will attend a required orientation in Washington, D.C., in September 2019 and the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference in February 2020. Travel expenses for these events will be covered by the Gulf Research Program; they are in addition to the $76,000 fellowship award.

Am I eligible?

Applicants must, at the time of application:

  • Hold a fully independent position as an investigator, faculty member, clinician scientist, or scientific team lead in industry or academia. Applicants must not receive tenure before September 1, 2019 if in a tenure track position. A postdoc is not considered a fully independent position.
  • Be early-career scientists who have received their eligible degree within the past 10 years (on or after September 1, 2009).
  • Hold an eligible degree (PhD, ScD, EngD, MD, DrPH, or DVM) in the social and behavioral sciences, health sciences and medicine, engineering and physical sciences, earth and life sciences, or interdisciplinary scientific fields relevant to a Gulf Research Program initiative.
  • Be affiliated with a non-federal U.S. institution that has a valid tax ID number.
  • Not be currently employed by the U.S. federal government. Full-time, paid, permanent federal employees are not eligible for the fellowship.
  • Have applied to the Early-Career Research Fellowship fewer than two times.
Fellows are selected based on a set of review criteria. Factors that contribute to an applicant’s likelihood for success include:
  • A strong scientific and technical background and superior scholarship.
  • Experience or demonstrated willingness to work in an interdisciplinary field or participate in interdisciplinary collaborations.
  • Effective verbal and written communication to both scientific and non-scientific audiences.
  • The initiative, creativity, organization, and interpersonal skills needed to help ensure projects, teams, or individuals accomplish their goals and achieve successful outcomes, whether small or large.
  • Experience or achievements outside of research such as community and civic engagement.
  • Membership in one or more groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the applicant’s scientific discipline.
  • Affiliation with primarily undergraduate or minority-serving institutions.
How do I apply? 

The application period for 2019 Early-Career Fellowships closed on February 20, 2019. The application period for 2020 will open in December 2019.

Key Dates

December 3, 2018: Applications open
February 20, 2019 5:00 pm ET: Application deadline
March-May 2019: Review of written applications & selection of fellows
June 2019: All applicants notified of funding decisions

September 1, 2019: Fellowships begin
September 4-5, 2019: Required fellowship orientation in Washington, D.C.
February 2020: Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference
September 30, 2020: Progress reports due
August 31, 2021: End of fellowship
September 30, 2021: Final reports due

Required application materials:

  • Your resume or CV (up to 5 pages).
  • A series of personal essays that respond to the following prompts:
    • Explain your research using language a non-scientist will understand. (500 words)
    • Describe a time, outside of your research, when you ensured a project or team accomplished its goal or achieved a successful outcome. Include the lessons you learned. (500 words)
    • Describe your career goals and challenges. How will the mentoring provided by the fellowship help address them? What is your strategy to be a productive mentee? (500 words)
  • A research summary (up to 3 pages, including any figures, tables, and references) that describes your research, why it is important, and how it is relevant to a Gulf Research Program initiative. A budget is not required.
    • Note: the Early-Career Research Fellowship funds people, not projects. Your research plan should include information about your research portfolio as a whole, not a specific project.
  • Two letters of recommendation. Your mentor may not submit one of these letters. We encourage applicants to choose references who know you well and can provide reviewers with insights about your experience, skills, and abilities beyond what can already be gleaned from your resume/CV.
  • A statement (up to 1,000 words) from your selected mentor.
    • Your selected mentor must be in a senior-level position at your affiliated college, university, research institution, or organization.
    • Do not choose a mentor for a research collaboration. Choose a mentor who is willing and able to meet at least twice a month to provide guidance and advice on professional development and career topics beyond merely promotion and tenure, such as work/life balance, time and project management, teaching and mentorship, committee and other professional service, community engagement and outreach, lab and research management.
    • In their statement, your mentor should address how you, the applicant, will benefit from mentoring. Your mentor should consider your professional development holistically, beyond research productivity alone, and identify areas for improvement or potential growth. (1,000 words)
    • If you are unable to find a mentor at your affiliated organization, the mentor honorarium will be waived and you will be asked to answer an additional question justifying your selection of an external mentor.
All application materials, including the letters of recommendation and mentor statement, must be submitted through our online application system by February 20, 2019, at 5:00 PM ET. If you have difficulties submitting materials through our online application system, contact us at

References and mentor
Once you have created an account and started an application, you can enter the contact information for your two references and mentor. The system will generate an email to the references and mentor with instructions for logging in and uploading letters of recommendation or the mentor statement, as applicable. We encourage applicants to complete this task as soon as possible because final applications cannot be submitted until all reference letters and the mentor statement have been completed. Incomplete or late applications will not be considered.

Can I re-apply?

If you previously applied for an Early-Career Research Fellowship and were not selected as a fellow, you may be eligible to reapply.

Beginning in the 2019 application cycle, applicants may only submit a maximum of two applications to the Early-Career Fellowship program. For example:
  • If you applied to the Early-Career Research Fellowship in both 2017 and 2018, you have already exceeded the maximum number of allowed applications and are ineligible to reapply.
  • If you first applied to the fellowship in 2018, you may submit one more application.
  • If 2019 is your first year applying to the Early-Career Research Fellowship, you may submit one more application after 2019.
Once you reach the maximum number of allowed submissions, any subsequent applications will be returned without review.

Please note that resubmitted applications must contain significant revisions. Applications that are resubmitted without significant revisions will be returned without review.

If you previously applied for an Early-Career Research Fellowship and were selected as a fellow, you are not eligible to re-apply. This includes applicants who were accepted into the fellowship program but did not go on to complete that fellowship.

How are fellows selected?

Once the application deadline has passed, all applications are reviewed by at least three reviewers. Before submitting an application, we encourage you to familiarize yourself with the
review criteria and the fellowship grant agreement (sample for public and private institutions).

In addition to reviewer comments, the Gulf Research Program will be considering how applicants fit into our overall goals as well as balancing fellows across scientific disciplines and institutional affiliations. Up to twenty fellows will be chosen in 2019. All applicants will be notified of final funding decisions in June 2019.


Review the Early-Career Research Fellowship FAQs. Still have questions? Contact