Fellowship Resources for International and Undocumented Students

We are pleased to share some fellowship resources for international and undocumented students. The first PDF document is a list of scholarships that do not require proof of US citizenship. Though most of the opportunities are for undergraduate students, there are a few graduate student prospects as well. The second list summarizes funding for international students.

Scholarships Don’t Require Proof of US Citizenship
Selected Funding Sources Open to Non-US Citizens

The following are opportunities that look promising for graduate students:

American Association for University Women – International Fellowships
Full-time study or research to women who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Both graduate and postgraduate study at accredited institutions are supported. Deadline: December 1.

Asian Development Bank (ADB) – Japan Scholarship Program
Citizens of ADB’s developing member countries to pursue postgraduate studies in economics, management, science and technology, and other development-related fields at participating academic institutions in the Asian and Pacific Region. The ADB-JSP provides full scholarships for one to two years.

Association for Women in Science Educational Foundation
Female students enrolled in a behavioral, life, physical, or social science or engineering program leading to a Ph.D. degree. Graduate fellowships in the amount of $1,000 are awarded each year. Deadline: January

Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Graduate Fellowship Program
Designed to engage graduate science, engineering, medical, veterinary, business, and law students in the analysis that informs the creation of science and technology policy and to familiarize them with the interactions of science, technology, and government.

Environmental Research and Education Foundation
This scholarship recognizes excellence in Ph.D. or post-doctoral environmental research and education. Deadline: August 1.

International Dissertation Field Research Fellowships
Up to 50 fellowships to support social scientists and humanists conducting dissertation field research in all areas and regions of the world.

King Faisal Foundation Scholarship
Funding opportunity for Muslim students in Medicine, Engineering, and sciences (Physics, Chemistry, and Geology) to study at an accredited European or North American university.

Smithsonian Fellowships
Unless noted otherwise, all Smithsonian fellowships (graduate, pre-doctoral, post-doctoral, senior) opportunities are open to non-US citizens. Deadlines vary.

Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowship
Candidates for the doctoral degree at a graduate school within the United States are eligible. Deadline: November 1.

“Stayin’ Alive, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Stress”

From the Badges series…

Stayin’ Alive, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Stress
A Primer

By Adam Feinman

I recently returned from a major scientific conference with 30,000 attendees of all stages of academic life. I tweet with people in all fields and specialties. There seem to be two things that are common between all of them. They are all extremely passionate about their work, and many are not handling the pressure and stress of academia well.

Stress and pressure, particularly peer-pressure, are insidious forces. They infect every department in every school. They are present in every walk of professional and academic life. And the higher up the food chain you go, the bigger the stakes.

Stress-related mental health problems (MHPs) presenting as early as the school years are more common than you think. Whatever you think the fraction of the population has one, doubling that fraction is probably more realistic. You may even have one yourself and not realize it.

Now here’s the $64,000 question: if there is potential for graduate or professional programs to crush my life, then why am I doing this to myself???

Alas, we all have to answer this question for ourselves. But the answer is out there, waiting for you to discover it. It’s certainly possible that the answer is to take a break, it’s very common.

For myself, I knew going into graduate school that designing medical devices was what I wanted to do with my life. The fact that it’s stressful doesn’t change that. You may well find that your goals also have not changed, and you can take strength in that. Sometimes. If you’re going to stick with it, you need to answer this question so you can feel good with it. Talk about it with people who know you well and are encouraging, don’t let the cynicism of the jaded poison you.

At this conference, and through other venues, many people have been opening up to me about their experiences, how they are rebuilding themselves, and why they choose to carry on. There is a huge amount of variety in the paths that led to people having problems, and frankly, the stories are inspiring. I will get around to posting some interviews soon, but for now, this is what I have.

Grossly speaking, I feel like there are two paths to MHPs in graduate school. The first is combining the normal, albeit intense, work-related stress of school with life’s curveballs. The second is living with very high work-related stress for long enough without respite. (If you don’t agree with this assessment, email or tweet me, and maybe our discussion will lead to further refinement and interesting blog posts.)

Unfortunately, there is probably nothing we can do to avoid the first kind. Life does not leave us alone, no matter how hard we try. The second kind may not always be avoidable, but some of the tools that can prevent the second kind overlap with the tools that allow people to cope with (and sometimes heal from) MHPs.

There are lots and lots of articles out there on the Internet that I’ve seen over the years, and I’ve personally found most of them to be garbage. But based on what I’ve seen and what others have told me (particularly at this year’s conference), I have some ideas to share, and some encouragement. (Stories will have to wait for futures posts. They are inspiring enough that they deserve full interviews.) A lot of the things I’m going to say will sound like I’m repeating psycho-babble, but give it a chance, think it over, read it again.

It is very easy to deny that a problem exists. Often, MHPs don’t manifest any physical symptoms. Behavior and emotions are affected; productivity and socializing are stunted. But it could feel like just a little bit. And all your friends are also doing that too, right?

Recognizing an MHP and living with it require first and foremost that one be honest with themselves. MHPs are not shameful, and they can teach more about yourself then you might have ever thought possible. But first, you have to admit it exists. You only stand to gain by this admission, and to lose much by denying it. (You can’t really self-diagnose, but admitting that you need help is the first step to getting it.)

The second, and much more difficult, thing to do is to accept it as part of who you are for the time being. We tend to refer to some MHPs as “emotional baggage”. The term has acquired some strong negative connotations, but the analogy illustrates my point here perfectly. The MHP will not evaporate just because you’d rather not have it. Attempting to fight with an MHP is like trying to amputate yourself. Accepting it as part of who you are is like wearing a heavy backpack. It’s heavy, and it affects your life. It limits what you can do and what you can’t. But it frees your hands and your mind to think about other things and to accomplish.

The third, and arguably most difficult point, is to be yourself. This is important to prevention as well. Stress and MHPs are not all of who you are. There likely are other activities you enjoy besides your work. Be it exercise, music, socializing, or other activities, doing things that make you feel good and break up your week will help you feel like yourself. You have to be pretty careful here though. You may enjoy lots of things, but graduate and professional programs require a lot of time. Think carefully about which activities speak most strongly to the person you were before you started on this career path and the person you currently are. Latch onto those few hobbies and never let go.

An additional element to maintaining mental health or living with MHPs is support. Not everybody likes to share their problems with others, but the value of support cannot be understated. Some of your friends will likely understand what you are going through. But finding counseling or group support can be a tremendously useful tool, both in helping you understand what you are going through and in learning how to stop worrying and love the stress.

I don’t have any interviews yet, but for now, here is a link to a tweep’s posts of feelings and advice about MHPs.



I’m an engineer and a scientist, so most of the stories I have to draw on come from those fields. If you are reading this and have a different spin (professional school, humanities, etc.), have stories to share, or have topics you would like to hear about, follow me on Twitter (@AMFeinman) or email me at feinman@usc.edu, I would love to hear your experiences!

Guest Blogger Panthea Heydari Introduces “The NeuroPerson” Series

The NeuroPerson:
A Quest of Science and Society

by Panthea Heydari

Graduate school, especially for scientists, is often considered a bubble from the real world. We student scientists are supposed to be blissfully ignorant to the life beyond our lab benches and outside the confines of mountains of highlighted Pubmed papers. We talk in scientific jargon and balk at the idea of press releases that do not include the full methods section of our carefully dissected experimental paradigms. But this is not really the mantra of the University of Southern California…of the USC Graduate School. USC prides itself on producing not only productive scientists but also well-rounded persons. In today’s age, that well roundedness is the golden ticket to Charlie’s Chocolate Factory where grants are free flowing, papers accepted, and science glamorized at the level of celebrity (which, for the record, I think it should be!).

Let’s talk about the theme and dichotomy of being a graduate student (and in my case, scientist) and a “person”. What does this mean? Is it some esoteric abstraction of wanting to live a complicated and deep life? In reality, should I forsake the day-to-day hubbub of Los Angeles and only be concerned with my own type of science, with no regard to my peers or to who decides on my funding?

Where do I draw that line between mad scientist and productive member of society?

At the risk of sounding like our forlorn great-grandparents, times are different and things are a-changing. The days of walking uphill both ways to school may have changed with the advent of the Culver City Expo Line but our generations of scientists (and graduate students) have challenges that fundamentally question our myopic points of view. Is our particular research really the only thing worth funding? Should there be a hierarchy of science? Does our home department, type of degree, or lab location matter? Are we so separate that from the public in our ability to pick up a Western Blot technique or analyze functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) data?

The nature of our economy and the demands of society have (and should) force student scientists to become more integral members of the community at large. We cannot continue with science being an abstract notion for the elite few—instead, we need it to be more collaborative. Here, there is a shift and fundamental need to still live as a person while we continue as a graduate student. Today, scientists find themselves at an exciting crossroads where interdepartmental programs are becoming more prevalent, where cross collaborations are promoted, and where the view of the scientist drudging along in a lab without a sense of the world at large is diminishing.

There is a need for integration of other disciplines, of social interaction at conferences, of talking the talk and expressing science to the public.  For example, take the Brain and Creativity Institute at USC, which, among many of their projects, investigates the relationship between music and the brain using neuroscience methods. Or the mind-blurring number rows upon rows upon rows of posters at the Society for Neuroscience Conference where Alzheimer’s disease Amyloid-Beta plaque analysis is presented alongside cognitive representations of the self and testosterone replacement levels in mice. Or the sold-out TedX Brain Conference at CalTech where neuroscientists, psychologists, and researchers parlayed their life’s work in 15 minutes. These are all examples of community involvement in science and scientists walking the line as a member of society.

I propose a blog to address these notions of the graduate student scientist versus the person. How do I work towards going to a collaborative conference to promote my work when I cannot fully fit into the bubble of one specific department? What does it mean to be a woman in science and should that even matter? How do I appropriately promote my science to the public, when for years I have been part of the science nerds that, by social norms, are the awkward kids that play with volcanoes and lack in social skills?  Where do I go for resources on how to be a “productive member of a society”?

I welcome you to my blog for The Graduate School, “The NeuroPerson”, and hope that in my attempt to become a “neuroscientist + person,” you start to question your own “person-dom” as well.

Send me your thoughts here!


From the “Badges” Series: “New Research — Getting Started”

From the “Badges” series…

New Research: Getting started
By Adam Feinman 

There are three questions I want to briefly address about being a new graduate student:

  1. How do you choose an advisor/lab?

  2. How do you develop original ideas or projects?

  3. In particular, how do you develop a dissertation?

Each of these questions could be a book in and of themselves, so I’m just going to throw out some ideas and a story.

Choosing an advisor is an extremely personal process, and there are many factors to consider. In my opinion though, the most important factor is making sure you can have a positive relationship with your advisor. I mean, competence and success are crucial as well, but those are necessary conditions. Once you get past that, being able to click with someone should be a deciding factor. This inherently makes this choice extremely personal and difficult to give advice about. No advisor or lab group is perfect, but you need to feel like you belong. “Impostor syndrome” is a well-characterized phenomenon, and it can kill your career. Better to avoid it by feeling good about the people you work with. (See in my previous post why I don’t think unfamiliar research is a bad thing.)

Once you select an advisor and have an idea of research areas you are interested in, the next major hurdle in the process is actually identifying research questions that haven’t been addressed yet. This is challenging in the best of circumstances. Therefore, the path to good research questions always begins with the infamous literature search.

The girth of academic literature can be an overwhelming ocean to brave, but fear not. There are often lots of good web resources that explain simply the concepts you need to know to get started, and every lab has at least some people (hopefully, but not necessarily, including your advisor) who can and will field your questions.

While the Internet and Google Scholar have simplified the search process significantly, you do need to jump in and start reading at some point. Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve developed or heard over the last few years:

  • You need to have a list of keywords. They should include more general words, but there is a trade-off between specificity and the number of things that will come up in your search.

  • Never read a paper without reading the abstract first! Abstracts will tell you a lot about a project. Often, you don’t even need to read the paper. Sometimes the abstract will tell you the paper is irrelevant to you, and occasionally, the abstract will give you all the information you need.

  • Use citations and references. Every paper has a list of references, and those papers’ abstracts are worth browsing. Also, when you search Google Scholar, below the link to the paper is a “cited by” link that displays all the papers that cited the one you’re looking at as a reference.

  • Search dynamically. Keep updating your keyword list, and don’t stop reading papers just because you have a project going.

Once you get the hang of it, the trick will be selecting a Ph.D.-size chunk of research. In the sciences, this is usually much smaller than you think initially. That was Ryan’s experience.

“Once I got through my literature search, I thought that I had some good projects lined up. But as I began to design the first experiment, it became apparent that just the first project could be a dissertation. Over the course of my graduate work, my advisor and I have changed the shape of my dissertation and narrowed the focus many times before it became manageable. But I’m really happy now with how it’s shaping up.”

I’ve found this to be fairly characteristic of grad school research. Don’t feel bad about progress to graduation being a dynamic process with some degree of flux. Your dissertation only has to be fixed when you turn it in!

I’m an engineer and a scientist, so most of the stories I have to draw on come from those fields. If you are reading this and have a different spin (professional school, humanities, etc.), please email me at feinman@usc.edu, I would love to hear your experiences! Anonymity will be protected.

New Research: Unfamiliar Territory

From the series, Badges: Trials and Tribulations on the Road to Graduate/Professional School Success, by Adam Feinman

New Research: 
Unfamiliar Territory
By Adam Feinman 

We all enter graduate programs with an idea of what we are looking to get out of it. Some may wish to make a change in the world; others may be looking to better their employment opportunities. Perhaps there is a historical era of fascination, or a physiological question unanswered. For some of us, however, that goal (or set of goals) may not be as well-defined. One may be aware of their skills or areas of interest but unsure of how they intend to apply them. Even if one has plans in mind upon entry, for various reasons students sometimes end up with an advisor whose research focus is out of their comfort zone.

One thing is assured: if you are going to do research in graduate school, even if you have done research previously, you’re going to have to traverse uncharted waters.

This can be particularly scary if you aren’t well-equipped to do the research in labs who do work you care about. Even nice graduate advisors have notoriously high expectations of their graduate students. Laura is a young lady I met who is doing some clinical training now to boost her academic CV after a prestigious postdoctoral position. She recalled to me that when she was first meeting with her graduate advisor, he told her flat-out that he considered it a reasonable expectation for Ph.D. students to design, execute, write, and defend in three years (regardless of former research training).

It is extremely easy to allow oneself to get caught up in frustrating things like this, but knowing what you stand to gain can help.

Firstly, I think that sometimes it’s good to have a balance when starting research between what you know and what you don’t. If you always do projects that are close to home, your CV will end up looking very narrow. You’ll also run out of topics quickly, and even the projects you do will be minor contributions to your field. Keep an open mind, and always be ready to either learn something new or pull in a collaborator who knows what they’re doing. Or both!

I’d also say that it’s really important in an academic career (and in life in general) to avoid stagnation. We have to keep our minds sharp, especially when you’re in a competitive field.

I wish I had thought of this quote myself, and I can’t remember who said it, but here it is: “Be a jack of all trades and master of one.”

I’m an engineer and a scientist, so most of the stories I have to draw on come from those fields. If you are reading this and have a different spin (professional school, humanities, etc.), please email me at feinman@usc.edu, I would love to hear your experiences! Anonymity will be protected.