The Facebook Fellowship Program supports talented PhD students engaged in innovative research in any year of their PhD study. Applications for the 2021 Fellowship cohort opened on August 10, with a close date of October 1.
“Each year, the program gets more and more competitive. Last year, we received around 1,875 applications — double the amount as the year before,” says Sharon Ayalde, Program Manager for the Facebook Fellowship Program. “We’re looking forward to the high quality of applications that we see every year.”
To prepare for this year’s Fellowship applications, we connected with Daricia Wilkinson, 2019 Fellow in UX/Instagram, to discuss the fellowship basics. Wilkinson is a PhD student in the Human-Centered Computing program at Clemson University, advised by Dr. Bart Knijnenburg. Her research interests are at the intersection of people and technology, and she is passionate about solving problems from a user-centered perspective.
Inspired by Wilkinson’s Medium post about how to make a successful PhD fellowship application, this Q&A outlines the most common questions Wilkinson receives about fellowships, research statements, and the application process.
Q: How do fellowships work?
Daricia Wilkinson: If you are an incoming PhD student, you will learn about assistantships from your university (either teaching or research assistantship) that support your tuition and stipend. In contrast, fellowships are a source of external funding that could be offered by a governmental organization or a company. However, not all fellowships are the same. There are some key differences that can help guide you when deciding which fellowships to apply to:
Q: How is the Facebook Fellowship different from others?
DW: First, the Facebook Fellowship is very prestigious. Unlike many other fellowship opportunities, the Facebook Fellowship offers a very generous level of support. Facebook pays your tuition, and you are provided with a very competitive stipend of $42,000, meant for living costs and travel support.
Second, the Fellowship offers incredibly valuable networking opportunities. The Facebook Fellowship Summit, hosted virtually this year, is one of these opportunities. At the summit, Fellows are invited to a paid trip to Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, where they can present their research and meet other Fellows as well as top Facebook researchers.
Third, and it seems not many people know this, the program is open to PhD students from all around the world, with no limit per university.
Q: What kind of research is Facebook interested in supporting?
DW: Research at Facebook is typically grounded in real-world problems. Research teams work on cutting-edge topics with a practical focus, which ultimately means that focus areas could include multiple disciplines. Consider that the Facebook family includes Instagram and WhatsApp (as well as others), which could result in various products within human-computer interaction, computer vision, privacy, or data science. For a more detailed list, I would recommend looking at the list of available fellowships on the Fellowship page.
Q: How do you write a research statement?
DW: Start by taking some time to really think about the topic you are proposing. This would involve reading up on the latest publications but also borrowing from an inspiration to solve real-world problems around you. In your first draft, do not focus on the word limit. Rather, try to effectively communicate the problem and why it matters. Afterward, you could work on reframing and then editing to adhere to the word limit. Generally, I recommend following the structure below:
Paragraph 1: Introduction
Paragraph 2: Body
Paragraph 3: Conclusion
Q: What advice would you provide with regard to the application process?
DW: Having ample time always works in your favor. Therefore, starting to plan earlier rather than later would be in your best interest. However, don’t let this discourage you if you find out about an opportunity close to its deadline. My high-level advice would be the following:
To learn more about Wilkinson’s background, research interests, publications, and speaking experiences, visit her Fellowship profile.