Application Process

Ready to apply? Learn more about the necessary steps to complete the application process, including information about your research proposal, how to submit your application, the processes for application review, and award notification.

  • After selecting your research opportunity to which you want to apply, contact the NASA advisor or point of contact associated with that opportunity to discuss your research plan.
  • Develop your research plan in collaboration with the prospective NASA advisor.
  • You must submit a research proposal that responds to the goals and objectives described in the research opportunity you selected.
  • Your proposal will be reviewed by the Center to assess its suitability for the research opportunity and, if suitable, will be reviewed by at least three external peer reviewers.

The maximum length for the proposal is 15 pages, including figures and citations; double-spaced; 12-point font; one-inch margins. Important—your proposal may be returned without review if it does not conform to these formatting instructions.

Proposals for the NASA Postdoctoral Research Program begin with a brief abstract, followed by the body of the proposal, which should contain these components:

  • statement of problem,
  • background and relevance to previous work,
  • general methodology, procedures to be followed, and timeline for completion of each step;
  • explanation of new or unusual techniques,
  • expected results and their significance and application, and
  • literature citations, where appropriate.

Proposals for the NASA Postdoctoral Management Program (NPMP) should begin with a statement of purpose for seeking the NPMP appointment, followed by these components:

  • An abstract of goals for NPMP appointment (maximum one page);
  • A description of pre-NPP knowledge, skills, and abilities relevant to the NPMP appointment;
  • An explanation of the relevance of current NPP experience to the NPMP appointment;
  • Expected contributions during the NPMP appointment;
  • Methods or innovations to achieve those goals and contributions; and
  • Career goals beyond the NPMP appointment.

Template for the Research Program (.docx, 20 KB)

Template for the Management Program (.docx, 19 KB)

  • After your proposal is written, you should log into your account in the Zintellect Applicant Portal.
  • Ensure that all the Applicant Information is complete; you are encouraged to complete the optional information as well, though this information will not impact the review process.
  • Click on the Research Proposal link; enter your proposal title, enter a copy of your abstract, then choose your proposal file (in PDF format) and upload it. Your PDF proposal file should include your abstract. You may re-upload your file as often as you need prior to the application deadline. New uploads will replace previously uploaded files. Also, fill out the text boxes regarding data collection activities, computer resources, specialized equipment, or other research needs as required. Once all the information is entered and correct, press the “Save” button at the bottom of the page.
  • Please review the “Applicant Certification and Submission” and check the box to certify that all the submitted information is accurate.
  • Once you certify that all the required information is correct and complete, press the “Submit Application” button at the bottom of the Applicant Certification and Submission page to submit your application to ORAU for review.
  • Please review the Notification Process section below for information on how and when you will be notified regarding the results of the NPP review.

Evaluation Standards for NASA Postdoctoral Program Applications

Reviewers will assess the quality of the application, the likelihood for success, and the contribution of the research to NASA’s mission.

  • Postdoctoral Fellows. Applicants are evaluated on the basis of demonstrated ability as a student and on their potential for making contributions as an independent scientist.
  • Senior Fellows. Applicants are evaluated on the basis of demonstrated ability as a research scientist.

The Review Process

All applications received by the application deadline (March 1, July 1, or November 1) are reviewed by the Center advisor to determine if the proposed science is well-suited to NASA’s mission. The advisor reviews the technical merit of the application to confirm whether the proposed research will support NASA’s missions and goals. The advisor evaluates the application based on these criteria:

  • Are the proposed objectives realistic?
  • Does the proposal reflect innovative thinking?
  • Is the technical work plan sound, and does it incorporate state-of-the-art methods?
  • Can the research be accomplished in the proposed timeframe?
  • Does the proposed research have relevance to NASA’s mission?
  • Do you recommend the proposal for review? If not, explain why.

The application (the proposal, the advisor review, letters of reference, and academic and research record) is reviewed independently by three well-qualified, external reviewers. In cases of significant disagreement, reviewers will meet virtually to discuss the application and come to a consensus.

The external reviewers evaluate the application for a Postdoctoral Fellowship or a Senior Fellowship using the following criteria:

  • Scientific merit of proposed research (40%)
  • References (20%)
  • Academic and research record (20%)
  • Laboratory/Center review (20%)

For applications to the NASA Astrobiology Program, selection priority will be given to applicants whose proposed research is particularly interdisciplinary and that extends the individual’s research beyond its current focus. Similarly, applicants responding to opportunities offered by advisors from one of the NASA Astrobiology Research Coordination (RCN) teams will also be given a higher priority if the proposed research involves collaboration with other RCN teams—as a way of further broadening the scope and impact of the applicant’s research.

The results of the external panel review are then communicated to the respective NASA Center, and the Center decides on the award of fellowships. ORAU will notify applicants of the results of the review. The review results are typically available within two to three months after the application deadline.

Applicants are notified approximately two to three months after the application deadline. Applicants will receive the results of the external peer review to document perceived strengths and weaknesses of the application.

Awardees

An applicant who has been selected by NASA for an NPP award will be notified by ORAU via email. The offer letter, terms of appointment, and supporting materials about the fellowship and Center, local and logistical information will be available for review in the Zintellect application portal. The offer letter and terms of appointment state the conditions of the fellowship award and provide information on appointment start and end dates; stipend; professional and programmatic travel support; relocation assistance, if applicable; conditions, obligations, and responsibilities of the appointment; appointment facility; health insurance; taxability of stipends and other payments. The awardee should log into their Applicant Portal account, review the provided offer letter and terms of appointment, and either accept or decline the offer.

The appointment start date is the first day the Fellow will be at the appointment facility to begin the research or management program. The completion date is the last day the Fellow will be at the appointment facility. The Fellow's anticipated start date at the facility is approved by the NPP advisor and can be amended if necessary. The Fellow's completion date may be amended for early departure, if required, or for appointment renewals.

The Fellow's NPP advisor and NPP Center representative will verify the appointment start date by providing ORAU a Certification of Start Date form on the first day the Fellow reports to the NASA facility to begin the appointment. ORAU must have proof of the Ph.D. or doctorate research degree and all other required ORAU forms or requested documents no later than the official start date of the appointment, as stated on the Certification of Start Date form, before any stipend payment can begin. ORAU uses the verified start date on the Certification of Start Date form as the date to begin the Fellow's stipend, if all completed forms and documents have been received.

ORAU must be notified by the awardee whether the offer is accepted or declined generally within three weeks of receipt of the offer package by the awardee. If an award is not accepted within three weeks of receipt, it will be regarded as declined and may be offered to another applicant.

Pending Offers

At NASA's discretion, an applicant may be notified that their offer is pending, contingent on the results of an upcoming program review cycle or for some other reason. Applicants should be aware that NASA has up to one year to make an offer of an NPP Fellowship.

Non-Award

The NASA Postdoctoral Program is extremely competitive and, as a result, only a small fraction of applicants ever receive offer of a fellowship. Applicants are notified by email from ORAU if NASA declines to make an offer. The applicants are provided the review results so that perceived strengths and weaknesses of the application can be assessed. Applications can be resubmitted by the applicant for consideration in the next application cycle. An applicant may submit a revised version of their previously submitted application at any time before the deadline.