Postdoctoral Fellows FAQ

Postdoctoral Fellows FAQ

Three postdoctoral fellow programs that support outstanding scientists at the Beckman Institute offer a unique opportunity for selected scholars to engage in a three-year fellowship of interdisciplinary research at the Beckman Institute. Here are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions.

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For more information, see the Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellows Application Instructions or email questions to us.

Can I apply even though I have not finished my Ph.D. program?

Yes, but you must have finished your program before you can start a postdoctoral fellow appointment. For example, if you plan to graduate with your Ph.D. on May 15, 2021, and you are selected for our program, you must plan for your start date to be after May 15, 2021, and must bring official documentation to prove that you completed your Ph.D. degree.

Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to apply?

No. You can be a foreign national.

What is a “part-time" or "full-time” faculty member at Beckman?

Beckman faculty members are either full-time, part-time, or affiliate members of the Beckman Institute. Full-time faculty members have private offices and their entire research laboratories and students are at Beckman; part-time faculty members have shared offices and some shared laboratory space at Beckman; and affiliates have no space assigned to them. Look up your potential faculty mentors/collaborators in the Beckman directory and click on their entry to see if they are annotated as “Part-Time” or “Full-Time” under “Status.”

What if I want to work with someone who is not a faculty member at the Beckman Institute?

You are unlikely to be selected as a fellow if your collaboration is not based at the Beckman Institute.

How is my application evaluated?

Applications are evaluated according to a rubric based on the Beckman Institute core values of excellence, collaboration, integrity, transdisciplinarity, exploration, and diversity. For the Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellows and Beckman-Brown Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Fellows Programs, a faculty committee evaluates all applications and recommends a short list to the Beckman Institute director, who makes the final decisions. For the Carle Foundation Hospital-Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellows Program, the evaluation committee comprises a mix of Beckman Institute faculty members and Carle Foundation Hospital personnel.

Can I see an example of a previously successful postdoctoral fellowship application?

No. This is private information that belongs to the applicants.

Because this program allows applicants to be within 10 years of their last degree, does this mean that more senior applicants will generally be higher ranked because they have had more time to publish?

No. The intention of this 10-year time window is to foster a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive Postdoctoral Fellowship Program. While research productivity in terms of publications is one aspect of an application, it is not the only one. The Beckman Institute truly wishes to cultivate a broader pool of promising scholars and innovators who may have worked in industry, taken time away from a research career to raise a family, or tried several different research career paths before applying to our program.

I earned an M.D., not a PhD. Am I eligible for your program?

Yes. There are a variety of degree designations that are generally equivalent to the American doctorate (Ph.D.), or are a terminal degree in a related field (such as the M.D.), and all of these are acceptable.

I was in a Ph.D. program and completed all my coursework and qualifying exams but did not finish my dissertation. Therefore I am “ABD” (All But Dissertation). Am I eligible for your program?

No. You cannot be a “postdoc” without being a “doc” first.

How many “broader impact” activities should I have in my research and development plan?

It really depends on the nature of your research and what makes sense for you personally. A general rule of thumb is that you should plan for at least one activity per year.

What are some specific examples of “broader impacts” that I could put in my research and development plan?

There are many specific opportunities at the Beckman Institute, the University of Illinois, and the local community of Champaign and Urbana. Of course, you would not do these activities in isolation, but in collaboration with your Beckman Institute faculty mentors/collaborators. You should talk with them as you develop your plan. Here are a few examples:

  • Organize and host a demonstration booth or lab tour at the biennial Beckman Institute Open House.
  • Organize and host a demonstration at the Urbana Farmer’s Market.
  • Organize and host a new kind of journal club at Beckman.
  • Organize and host a series of workshops at Beckman for a broader audience.
  • Be a speaker as part of the public Chambana Science Café, or to local civic or community groups, or to local K-12 elementary, middle, and high schools.
  • Be a teacher as part of a team-taught course at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute chapter at the University of Illinois.
  • Mentor undergraduate or graduate students.
  • Collaborate with authors of speculative fiction, filmmakers, and artists to develop science-informed art, or artistically informed science and technology. (We would be delighted if you would like to donate such pieces of art to the Beckman Institute’s collection!)
  • Develop an exhibit for the Beckman exhibit space, or the Krannert Art Museum, or the Spurlock Museum.
  • Be a judge for the Science Olympiad competition.
  • Be a helper for a variety of K-12 student clubs at our local public schools that need scientific or technical expertise, such as FIRST Lego Robotics or Future City.

Who contacts my references, those who will write my letters of recommendation to this program?

You do! You should talk with your four references and ensure that they are able and willing to write a letter of reference for you. Please have your references email their letters directly to us as PDF attachments by the deadline stated in this year’s call. The only reason that we ask you to tell us the names of your letter-writers is that if we don’t hear from them, we will contact you to tell you that we are missing their letters.

I have been accepted both to the Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellows Program and another postdoctoral fellows program. Can I accept both?

No. The intention is that each program requires complete immersion and you are not allowed to “double-dip” by holding two fellowships simultaneously. Therefore, you will have to choose to accept one program and decline the other.

The website says this is a three-year program. If I am accepted as a postdoctoral fellow and start my program, can I quit early?

Yes.

The website says this is a three-year program. Let’s say I apply and get accepted and start my first year. But then I decide to start a family during my second year. Can I take a break from the program and start it up again later?

Yes. A postdoctoral research associate may be eligible for family and medical leave, provided they meet eligibility requirements. If not, then a postdoctoral research associate may be eligible to take a leave of absence without pay. This leave of absence must be supported by the unit executive director, the dean, Illinois Human Resources, and the chancellor.

Do I get vacation and sick leave?

Yes. You are hired as a university employee: a postdoctoral research associate. Full-time postdoctoral research associates receive 24 vacation days and 12 cumulative and 13 non-cumulative sick leave days per appointment year. Both vacation leave and sick leave are non-compensable upon separation. In other words, when your fellowship is done, you do not get a payout of unused leave.

The website says this is a three-year program. Can I extend it to be four or five years?

No. We only allocate enough funding for each postdoctoral fellow to be fully supported for three years.

The website says this is a three-year program. If I am accepted as a postdoctoral fellow and do my three years, can I apply to be a postdoctoral fellow again?

No. That is not the spirit of this program. We want to support new people. Also, the University of Illinois policy is that you can only be a postdoctoral research associate or postdoctoral fellow for five years maximum at our institution.