Banner Image

***June 4, 2020 – Important notice to all applicants: the application deadline has been extended by 5 days to Wednesday, June 17, 2020 at 11:59 pm EDT in recognition of the unrest and protests across the nation. If possible, please try to begin your application through Task 2, Academic Information, by the initial deadline of June 12, 2020 at 11:59 pm EDT. ***

Program Overview

The Computing Research Association (CRA) and the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) are pleased to announce a new Computing Innovation Fellows (CIFellows) Program for 2020.  This program recognizes the significant disruption to the academic job search caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic uncertainty. Its targets include recent and soon-to-be PhD graduates in computing whose academic job search was impacted by COVID-19 and aims to provide them with a career-enhancing bridge experience.

The goal of this program is to create career growth opportunities that 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.

With funding by the National Science Foundation, the CIFellows 2020 program will offer 2 year postdoctoral opportunities in computing, with cohort activities to support career development and community building for this group of Fellows. Additional funding is possible.


The Computing Innovation Fellows Program is open to all researchers whose work falls under the umbrella of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Computing and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate, including computing education. This program is open to people who complete their PhD at a US institution OR are a US citizen/permanent resident completing their PhD anywhere. We will not be helping secure any VISAs for applicants. Applicants must complete (or anticipate completing) the PhD degree or a first postdoctoral position during the window of 7/1/2019-12/31/2020. Proposed mentors must be tenured or tenure-track faculty employed at a US academic institution and may not be applicant’s PhD advisor

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 historically underrepresented 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 non-PhD granting programs.


Award Size and Duration

Awards will be for two years as a postdoctoral fellow (“CIFellow”).  These will be subawards from the CRA to the Host Institution to cover annual salary of $75,000, fringe, and indirect (capped at 35%).  CIFellows will have the ability to select September, 2020 or January, 2021 as start date. 

Final Application Guidelines:

 Applicants must submit the following:

  • Research Proposal consisting of
    • 1-page statement of research objectives/goals for the duration of the 2 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. 
    • 1-page statement of the candidate’s plan for achieving those objectives/goals.  Include several milestones, and explain how any external needs, e.g., computing resources or laboratory equipment, will be met. 
  • 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 fellow and mentor will work together to achieve what is planned, particularly if not co-located.
  • 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.
  • Academic CV, 2 pages maximum.
  • Application information checklist – items will include the PhD (university, advisor, date of defense); current professional situation (university, advisor); diversity information; and professional location where fellow will live and work during the fellowship.


Applicants may apply twice, with two different mentors. Each application should be separate. At most one applicant-mentor pair 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, amplified by the mentor’s letter.  
  • Attention will be paid to diversity. Fellowships will be awarded to span the research areas of CISE 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 July 1, 2019 – December 31, 2020 and their PhD must be from a US institution.  We will not be helping with VISAs.

I don’t see my Research Area listed; can I still apply?

If you do not see your Research Area listed, but contend that your research falls under the CISE umbrella, please select Other and indicate how your research falls under CISE in the Optional Additional Information Section of the Application.

What guidance shall I give my letter writers?

Once you begin your application, you will input the contact information for your letter writers (3 Letters: 1 from your current Research Supervisor, 1 from an additional supporter, and 1 from your proposed mentor). The application system will then send your letter writers a link where they can login and submit their letter. Please advise them to look for an email from If you’re applying twice with two separate mentors, please make other letter writers aware they will be receiving two separate email requests to complete.

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.

My research is multidisciplinary. 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 CI Fellowship 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 fellowship.

If I apply with more than one mentor, is there a way to indicate an order of preference?

Yes, please indicate your preference in the Optional Additional Information Section of the application.

Why is there a selection restriction of at most two fellows 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 2 Fellowships are awarded to any institution and that no more than 2 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?


Will there be a CI Fellows 2021 deadline a year from now?

NSF, CRA, and CCC all recognize the importance of early-career research pathways.  Subject to availability of resources, we will continue to prioritize programs like CI Fellows as long as research hiring impacts from COVID-related economic uncertainties continue.  The presence of and/or scale of any future years will depend on availability of resources and community need.

Is there a list of mentors within CRA that we should choose from? Or are we expected to find a mentor from any university/industry prior to the application?

There will not be a matching process between Mentors and Fellows due to time constraints. Fellows will be expected to identify a mentor on their own prior to applying. Mentors must be tenure or tenure-track faculty from an U.S. academic institution.

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 a preferred ordering of mentors, 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 Fellowship?

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

Can I update my application over time, or do I need to work on and submit it all at once?
You can work on your application over time, and then submit once all tasks are completed (indicated on the application Task List with a green check).  It is important that you check for your letters to have been submitted so that you can submit the application.
Are there efforts towards matching mentors with applicants?
CRA and CCC are not supporting any matching efforts for this program.  We are aware of the following community created listing of potential mentors. If there are others that we are made aware of, we will add them here. We do not endorse these or play any role in their creation, accuracy, or maintenance.


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.  It should outline your Mentoring Plan, which when based on these Best Practices, will consider the following:

  1. Fellow and Mentor create an Individualized Development Plan (IDP) at the beginning of the Fellowship period.
  2. Fellow and Mentor meet regularly to discuss progress towards the IDP and make appropriate adjustments.
  3. Fellow has the opportunity to advise or co-advise students.
  4. Fellow is guided to developing their own research agenda, including proposal writing.
  5. Fellow is encouraged to network with new research communities, as defined by Fellow and Mentor.

What if the Fellow 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 Fellow 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 CI Fellows program submissions?


How do I apply to be a mentor?

There will not be a matching process between Mentors and Fellows due to time constraints. Fellows will be expected to identify a mentor on their own prior to applying. Mentors must be tenure or tenure-track from an U.S. academic institution. 

Are there efforts towards matching mentors with applicants?
CRA and CCC are not supporting any matching efforts for this program.  We are aware of the following community created listing of potential mentors. If there are others that we are made aware of, we will add them here. We do not endorse these or play any role in their creation, accuracy, or maintenance.


To whom will the award be made?

Subawards will be made to the institution that provides working space and basic resources to the Fellow. If the Mentor and Fellow are at the same institution, this is straightforward, and the subaward will be to the Mentor. When the Fellow is supervised remotely, the subaward may be issued to the institution where the Fellow remains. The hosting institution must provide suitable space and other basic resources to conduct research; specialized resources, and access to these if remote, must be provided by the Mentor.

Does the Host Institution have to be an academic institution?  




On May 26th CRA and CCC held an informational webinar on the CIFellows program. A video recording of the webinar can be found on the CRA Youtube channel (video embed is below). Slides from the webinar are available here and the text from the Q&A can be viewed here.

CIFellow 2020 Steering Committee

Aruna Balasubramanian

Aruna Balasubramanian is an Assistant Professor at Stony Brook University. She was a CI Fellow, part of the 2011 cohort, and did her Postdoctoral Research at the University of Washington. Aruna works in the areas of mobile systems and networking. She has recently been working on a diverse range of topics including improving Web access in developing regions, improving accessibility, and making mobile applications better with respect to user-facing metrics. Aruna is a recipient of a Mid-Career Faculty Diversity Award at Stony Brook University, the N2Women Rising Stars Award, a VMWare faculty early career award, a Google Research Award, a Best Paper Award at UbiComp, and the Applied Networking Research Prize. Her dissertation won the UMass Outstanding Dissertation Award and was the SIGCOMM Outstanding Dissertation Award runner up. 

Andrew Bernat, ex officio

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 vice-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.

Ann Schwartz Drobnis, ex officio

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.

Mark D. Hill

Mark D. Hill is the John P. Morgridge Professor and Gene M. Amdahl Professor of Computer Sciences and Electrical & Computer Engineering at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he also co-leads the Wisconsin Multifacet project. His research interests include parallel computer system design, memory system design, computer simulation, deterministic replay and transactional memory. He earned a PhD from University of California, Berkeley. He is the CCC Chair, a CRA Board Member, an ACM Fellow, a Fellow of the IEEE, and won the 2019 Eckert-Mauchly Award.

Anita Jones

Anita Jones is University Professor Emerita at the University of Virginia.  She is a founder of the Computing Community Consortia (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 the National 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, distributed systems 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. 

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.

Contact Us