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**We will be hosting a CIFellows 2021 Informational Webinar on Thursday, April 15th at 2:30PM ET. There will be an introduction by NSF, a presentation of the program, concluding with a Q&A session. Please register here for the webinarThe webinar will be recorded and posted here after the event.**

**The application cycle will be open for submissions in Mid-April. You will then have three weeks to submit your application. Please start putting together your application materials**

Program Overview

The Computing Research Association (CRA) and the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) are pleased to announce a new Computing Innovation Fellows (CIFellows) cohort for 2021. As before, this program seeks to aid recent and soon-to-be PhD computing graduates whose job search was hampered by the continued disruption COVID-19 has had on academic job hiring practices and the economy. 

The goal of this program is to create career growth opportunities by fostering the skills and talents of CIFellows to support maintaining the computing research pipeline. Computing research is defined as any area included under the National Science Foundation (NSF) Computing and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate. This effort takes inspiration from CRA/CCC’s NSF-funded Computing Innovation Fellows Programs with cohorts starting 2009, 2010, and 2011 and CRA’s Best Practices Memo on Computer Science Postdocs and the Computing Innovation Fellows 2020 Project.

With funding by the National Science Foundation, the CIFellows 2021 program will offer two-year postdoctoral opportunities in computing, with cohort activities to support career development and community building.  


The Computing Innovation Fellows Program is open to researchers whose work falls under the umbrella of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Computing and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate. This includes PhD graduates who are planning a career in academia either as a research scientist or in a faculty position. Mentors must be at a US academic institution. Applicants must meet the following criteria to be eligible to apply: 

  • Must complete their PhD at a US institution OR be a US citizen/permanent resident. We will not be helping secure any visas for applicants.
  • Applicants must complete or plan to complete their PhD between 1/1/20 – 12/31/21


A central goal of the CRA is to foster a diverse computing research field by engaging and retaining individuals from different backgrounds. This often involves people from groups of historically underrepresented individuals in computing including, but not limited to, women, minorities, people with disabilities, veterans, LGBTQ+, low socioeconomic, rural, etc. CRA strongly encourages applications demonstrating such diversity. In addition, we strongly encourage submissions from individuals whose work is intended to broaden participation in computing, including students and faculty at Minority Serving Institutions and in non-PhD granting programs. 

Award Details 

Awards will be for two years as a postdoctoral researcher. These subawards from the CRA to the Host Institution will cover an annual salary  of $75,000, fringe, and indirect (capped at 35%). CIFellowships can begin in September, 2021 or January, 2022.

Finding a Mentor/CIFellow

We encourage community members to use their networks to find potential matches. To help with this process, we have created an Opportunity Board for the CIFellows 2021 application cycle.

Application Guidelines:

Applicants must submit the following:

  • Research Proposal – A 1-page statement of research objectives/goals for the duration of the two year Fellowship, including Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts as defined in the NSF PAPPG. Broader Impacts might include addressing the changing world due to COVID-19, broadening participation, and/or pedagogical considerations. References may be included on a second page. 
  • Fellowship Plan – A 1-page statement that describes the research skills and experiences the candidate plans to gain during the fellowship and how these will advance their career objectives.  These might include, e.g., authoring a research proposal; improving technical presentation techniques; conference attendance; managing and motivating a (student) research team; or teaching. This plan should be written in collaboration with the proposed Mentor. It should explain how the CIFellow and Mentor will work together to achieve what is planned, particularly if not co-located.
  • Mentoring Plan – A 1-page document, written in conjunction with the CIFellow, that outlines how the Mentor will work with the CIFellow to achieve their goals. We encourage the CIFellow and the Mentor to consider the following strategies, based on best practices, when developing the Mentoring Plan:
    • Fellow and Mentor create a formal Individualized Development Plan (IDP) at the beginning of the Fellowship period (Fuhrmann et al., 2011).
    • Fellow and Mentor meet regularly (at least quarterly) to discuss progress towards the IDP and make appropriate adjustments.
    • Fellow has the opportunity to supervise or co-supervise other students.
    • Fellow is guided to developing their own research agenda, including proposal writing.
    • Fellow is encouraged to network with new research communities, as defined by Fellow and Mentor.
  • Academic CV, two pages maximum.
  • Letter of recommendation from current research supervisor.
  • Additional letter of recommendation.
  • Letter of support from proposed Mentor – This letter must indicate a lack of funding for support of the applicant and complement the Fellowship Plan.
  • Application information checklist – items will include diversity information; the PhD (university, advisor, date of defense); current professional information (university, current position, advisor); and Fellowship information (Mentor name, host institution, location where CIFellow will live and work during the Fellowship, proposal title and preferred start date).


Applicants may apply twice, with two different Mentors. Each application should be separate. One award per applicant and one award per Mentor will be awarded. 

Evaluation Criteria

  • Applicants will be evaluated on their track record of research accomplishment, and on the merits of their Research Proposal.
  • Applicants will be evaluated on the merits of their Fellowship Plan, in conjunction with the Mentor’s letter and the Mentoring Plan.
  • Attention will be paid to diversity. Fellowships will be awarded to span the research areas of CISE (on your application, you will select from these research areas, which CISE programs fall under).  Preference will be given to US citizens and permanent residents.
  • No more than two Fellowships will be awarded to candidates whose PhDs were/will be awarded from a single university.
  • No more than two Fellowships will be awarded to candidates whose mentors are at a specific university.

 What does it mean to “complete” the PhD degree?

“Complete” for these purposes means when the applicant has met all of the PhD degree requirements, including submission of the final thesis. It is not necessary to have the diploma in hand.

May non-US citizens apply?

Yes. Preference will be given in the selection process to US citizens and permanent residents, but applicants must complete (or anticipate completing) the PhD degree or first postdoctoral position during the window of 1/1/20 – 12/31/21 and their PhD must be from a US institution. We will not be helping with visas.

How will the recommendation letters be evaluated?

The recommendation letters should explain how and why the applicant deserves to be awarded a CIFellowship. We are particularly interested not only in promising researchers and educators, but also in people who are committed to establishing a career in advanced research and/or higher education.

Why can I apply with two separate mentors? How will this work?

Mentorship is a key part of the CIFellows experience. The Selection Committee realizes that different researchers view mentorship differently and want to provide each applicant with the best possible opportunity to do impactful research and be well mentored during their Fellowship. Encourage your proposed mentor to look at the FAQs For Mentors. In addition, one of the goals of the CIFellows Program is to maximize the number of institutions that participate, either by producing CIFellows or hosting them. Each Fellow / Mentor application will be evaluated separately. Please note that you will submit two applications, one for each Mentor. Presumably your letters of recommendation from current research supervisor and an additional person will be the same. Please let them know that they will be asked to submit the letter twice.

Is it OK if my Mentor is not from a CS department?

Yes, that is OK. It is not necessary for a Mentor to be in a CS department. However, applications will be assessed in part on how well they might advance, broadly, fields under the CISE umbrella.

I would like to apply to work with a Mentor at my current PhD institution. Is that OK?

Yes, that is OK. Realize however, that a CIFellowship is intended to be a career growth opportunity, not a time to continue doing what you are already doing. If you choose to stay at your current institution, think about the potential mentorship arrangements that could enhance your career growth during your CIFellowship.

Why is there a selection restriction of at most two CIFellows from or mentored by a single university (Max 2 rule)?

A goal of the CIFellowship program is to maximize the number of institutions that participate, either by producing CIFellows or hosting them. As such, the Selection Committee will work to ensure that no more than two Fellowships are awarded to any institution and that no more than two CIFellows come from any institution. Further, no Mentor will be selected for multiple CIFellows.

Are there any limits on how many proposals come from candidates associated with a single university?


What is expected in the Optional Additional Information section of the application?

Nothing is expected here, but this is where you can share information that is relevant to your application, such as, circumstances of your job search or necessary arrangements due to the pandemic.

Can my proposed Mentor be my PhD or current research advisor?

No, as the Fellowship is to be a career growth experience, your mentor cannot be someone whom you’ve worked this closely with previously.

Will progress be monitored throughout the CIFellowship?

Yes, CIFellows will be required to submit quarterly reports on their progress.

Are there efforts towards matching mentors with applicants?
Yes, we have created an Opportunity Board for prospective Mentors and CIFellows to find opportunities. This Opportunity Board is provided for you to use, and while it will be monitored by CRA and CCC, we will not be endorsing any posts or making any recommendations. Posts on the Opportunity Board will not be considered during the evaluation of applications.


What should be included in the Mentor Letter?

As proper mentoring is unique for CIFellows, the Mentor Letter will be a key component of the application. It is critical that the CIFellowship be a time for the postdoc researcher to gain independence and to have opportunities to lead in their research endeavors. As such, the Mentor Letter should reference the Fellowship Plan, which should be written collaboratively with the applicant.

What if the CIFellow and I are not co-located? 

There are many situations where remote work is possible, especially in the current times. CRA will manage additional funds that can be applied for use so that the CIFellow can travel to the Mentor’s location, if needed.

Are there any limits on the number of candidates that a single mentor signs up to work with?

There are no limits on the application side, but realize that a Mentor can only be part of one award.

Are there any limits on the number of faculty at one university that can be proposed as mentors in the CIFellows program submissions?


How do I apply to be a Mentor?

We have created an Opportunity Board for prospective Mentors and CIFellows to find opportunities. This Opportunity Board is provided for you to use, and while it will be monitored by CRA and CCC, we will not be endorsing any posts or making any recommendations. Posts on the Opportunity Board will not be considered during the evaluation of applications.

Mentors must be at a U.S. academic institution.

Leadership Team

Andrew Bernat

Andrew Bernat was a founding member and chair of the Computer Science Department at the University of Texas at El Paso (spending 20 years there), NSF Program Director and is currently the Executive Director of the Computing Research Association, whose mission is to strengthen research and education in the computing fields, expand opportunities for women and minorities, and improve public and policymaker understanding of the importance of computing and computing research in our society. In recognition of “… his success in creating arguably the strongest computer science department at a minority-serving institution …”, the Computing Research Association honored him with the 1997 A. Nico Habermann Award and he is a AAAS Fellow. He has some 65 publications and (pre-CRA) over $5,000,000 in external funding.

Elizabeth Bradley

Liz Bradley holds the SB, SM, and PhD degrees from MIT. She has been with the Department of Computer Science at the University of Colorado since 1993 and is currently the Chair of the Computing Research Association’s Computing Community Consortium (CCC). Her research interests include nonlinear dynamics and nonlinear time-series analysis.  She is a member of the external faculty of the Santa Fe Institute and the recipient of a National Young Investigator award, Packard and Radcliffe Fellowships, and the University of Colorado system’s highest teaching award.

Randal Bryant

Randal E. Bryant is the Founders University Professor of Computer Science Emeritus at Carnegie Mellon University.  He served on the faculty at Carnegie Mellon from 1984 to 2020, starting as an Assistant Professor and progressing to the rank of University Professor of Computer Science.  He also held a courtesy appointment in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.  He served as Dean of the School of Computer Science from 2004 to 2014.  Upon his retirement in 2020, he was awarded the SCS Founders Chair, and he remains active in university and professional service, as well as research and writing.

Ken Calvert

Ken Calvert is Gartner Group Professor in Network Engineering at the University of Kentucky, where his research deals with the design and implementation of advanced network protocols and services. From May 2016 through December 2019 he served on assignment at the National Science Foundation as Division Director for Computer and Network Systems in the Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate at the National Science Foundation. Previously he was a faculty member at Georgia Tech and a Member of Technical Staff at Bell Telephone Laboratories in Holmdel, NJ. He is a member of the ACM and a Fellow of the IEEE.

Ann Schwartz Drobnis

Dr. Ann Schwartz Drobnis is the Director of the Computing Community Consortium. Most recently, she was an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow at the National Science Foundation working on education and workforce development issues for the CISE Directorate. Ann spent most of her time working on the CS10K Project, whose goal is to get academically rigorous computer science courses into 10,000 high schools by 2016. This is a much needed effort to create the research and workforce pipeline that our field so desperately needs. Prior to her time at NSF, she taught high school computer science and math at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. She has a passion for broadening participation in computing, as her doctoral research was focused on ways to bring more females into the field.

Ellen Zegura

Ellen Zegura is Regents’ Professor and Fleming Endowed Chair holder in the School of Computer Science at Georgia Tech. She works in two primary areas, computer networking and computing for social good. In computer networking, she is known for her work on the GT-ITM suite of Internet topology tools, which remain in use 20 years after release. In mobile wireless networking, she and colleagues invented the concept of message ferries to facilitate communications in environments where network connectivity is unreliable and/or sparse. Her work in computing and social good includes work in Liberia, with Native Americans in Southern California, and with residents of the Westside of Atlanta. She is a Fellow of the IEEE, a Fellow of the ACM, and an elected member of the Computing Research Association Board (CRA). Since Fall 2014 she has been on the Executive Board of the CRA.

Steering Committee

Cindy Bethel

Cindy L. Bethel, (IEEE and ACM Senior Member) is an Associate Professor in the Computer Science and Engineering Department at Mississippi State University (MSU). She is the Director of the Social, Therapeutic, and Robotic Systems (STaRS) lab and a Research Fellow with the MSU Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems Human Performance Group and the Social Science Research Center. Dr. Bethel is the Chair of an interdisciplinary Robotic Systems Working group, a member of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers, a recipient of the 2014-2015 ASEE New Faculty Research Award for Teaching. She was awarded Fellowships as a NSF/CRA/CCC Computing Innovation Postdoctoral Fellow at Yale University, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and the 2008 IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Graduate Fellowship. She graduated in August 2009 with her Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of South Florida. Her research interests include human-robot interaction, human-computer interaction, robotics, and artificial intelligence.

Anita Jones

Anita Jones is University Professor Emerita at the University of Virginia.  She is a founder of the Computing Community Consortium(CCC).  After the completion of the first Computing Innovation Fellows program, she led a CCC research effort to establish best practices for the support of computer science postdocs.  Jones served as Director of Defense Research and Engineering, overseeing the DoD science and technology program, including its research laboratories and DARPA. She was Vice Chair of the National Science Board and a member of the governing council of theNational Academy of Engineering (NAE).  Jones was awarded the IEEE Founders’ Medal, the Ada Lovelace Award by the Association of Women in Computing, the Arthur M. Bueche Award by the NAE, and the Philip Abelson Award by the AAAS.  The U.S. Navy named a seamount in the North Pacific (51º 25’ N  159º 10’ W) for her.

Stefan Savage

Stefan Savage is a professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of California, San Diego. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Washington and a B.S. in Applied History from Carnegie Mellon University. Savage is a full-time empiricist, whose research interests lie at the intersection of computer security, distributedsystems and networking. He currently serves as co-director of UCSD’s Center for Network Systems (CNS) and for the Center for Evidence based Security Research (CESR). Savage is a MacArthur Fellow, a Sloan Fellow, an ACM Fellow, and is a recipient of the ACM Prize in Computing and the ACM SIGOPS Weiser Award.

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