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Fellowships are a funding mechanism to provide research training opportunities to trainees at the undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral levels.  This page explains the implications of how a fellow is appointed, provides agency-specific information of available fellowships, and tips on completing fellowships within KR. Since agency-specific information is continuously being revised, please be sure to review the sponsor websites/terms/solicitations for the most up-to-date information regarding individual fellowships.

Fellowship Appointment vs. Employee Relationship

Fellowships are grants awarded to an individual – either directly or through the institution – in support of academic pursuits.  How the fellow is appointed at the University is largely driven by sponsor regulations.  Some sponsors require the selected candidate to be appointed as a fellow, while others require them to be appointed as an employee, and some sponsors allow the selected candidate to choose.  If appointed as a fellow, the individual is not considered an MSU employee, and therefore they do not receive employee fringe benefits. 

Agency-Specific Information

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

The NASA Fellowship Office of STEM Engagement offers an institutional award that funds graduate students at a level that allows full concentration on academic and research proficiency without the need to seek employment. Announcements, eligibility guidelines and available programs can be found on NASA’s Fellowship Activity website.

The NASA Fellowship Activity is a multiyear award designed to provide three years of support and an optional fourth year of funding for merit-based supplemental experience. Teams with a Fellow in a doctoral program are offered the prospect to expand their research allowing for a possible fourth year of funding. Phase I is the proposal submitted by the PI and/or the Authorizing Official Representative (AOR) on behalf of the Institution’s candidate.  Phase II is only required for the selected Institutions that submitted their proposals using “NASA Fellowship Proposal Submission Office” in Phase I. A proposal application package shall be re-submitted by the AOR from the applicant’s graduate institution. Directions will be sent with Phase II notifications.

The Faculty Advisor and the Institution’s candidate develop the proposal in collaboration with the NASA Technical Adviser in order to assure institutional capability and capacity, ensure relevance to Mission Directorate priorities, and secure NASA’s technical support for use of its unique facilities, content and/or SMEs. The Institution submits the proposal for support of a graduate student. If a NASA Training Grant is awarded, the Faculty Advisor serves as the agreement’s PI.

The NASA Hubble Fellowship Program (NHFP) is a very prestigious fellowship opportunity in astronomy.  MSU will allow NHFP fellows the option of choosing between being appointed as a fellow or as an employee of the University.  This selection must be made and communicated to the OSP Proposal Team at the proposal submission stage.  For more information visit the NHFP Host Institution Employment Policy FAQ webpage.

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

The NIH provides individual training opportunities for undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral levels. Current announcements and more information can be found on the NIH Fellowship website.

NIH fellowships consist of a stipend, institutional allowancetuition and fees (if applicable) and childcare costs (if applicable) for the individual. Current FY22 stipend and institutional allowance rates are available within NOT-OD-23-076. Tuition and fees are provided at 60% of the actual tuition level at MSU, up to $16,000.  For the application package, the budget should include tuition and fees as a total amount (in-state or out-of-state depending on the individual applying), and if funded, NIH will cap the amount to the appropriate level. NIH requires institutions to appoint awardees with a fellowship appointment, therefore when budgeting tuition and fees for NIH fellows, the amount should be calculated based on the tuition rates published on the Controller’s office website.  Also, if awarded, the fellow will have different health insurance options than MSU employees. For additional information on Postdoc Fellow Benefits, see the Faculty Handbook.

Information on how to budget within KR for NIH fellowships is available on the Kuali Research (KR) System Updates and FAQs in Issue 9.

Prior to submission, the fellow must have an eRA Commons ID affiliated to MSU with a PI role. Please contact your OSP Proposal Team to request a user ID.  

NIH F-series Checklist for S2S Proposals (Forms H)

National Science Foundation (NSF)

The National Science Foundation offers Graduate Research Fellowships and Postdoctoral Fellowships.  Announcements, eligibility guidelines and available programs can be found at or NSF’s Find Funding page.  

NSF Graduate Research Fellowships are handled through the Graduate School at MSU.  Interested students can contact the The Distinguished Student Awards Office Honors College for more information and scheduling an appointment with an advisor to get the process started.

Postdoctoral Research Fellowship proposals are submitted by the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP). Typically, these fellowships provide stipend support, and a research and training/fellowship allowance. Fellowships are offered in the following areas: 

  • Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences; Astronomy and Astrophysics;
  • Earth Sciences;
  • Biology;
  • Centers for Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST); and
  • Mathematical Sciences. 

Check the solicitation for specific support levels, and award duration.  Fellowship candidates must be a U.S. citizen or legally admitted permanent resident of the United States and should be early in their careers; typically the researcher must not have held their doctoral degree for more than 18-36 months at the time of award.

Prior to submission, the fellow must have an NSF ID affiliated with MSU.  Please contact your OSP Proposal Team for instructions on how to request a user ID. 

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) offers the Margaret A. Davidson Graduate Fellowship in the national estuarine research reserves.

  • Fellowships are:
    • Awarded to the fellow’s graduate institution via a cooperative agreement
    • Funded for two years.
  • Applicants must be:
    • US citizens
    • Enrolled in/admitted to a full-time graduate program at an accredited US college or university
    • Working towards a masters or doctoral degree
    • At least two years from graduation in their course of study
  • Pending congressional appropriations, fellowships include:
    • $60,000 annually:
      • $34,000 stipend
      • $7,000 for travel
      • $19,000 institutional allowance

US Department of Agriculture (USDA)

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture-Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (NIFA-AFRI) Education and Workforce Development (EWD) provides fellowships in the food and agricultural sciences. These are generally submitted System-to-System (S2S) in Kuali Research (KR).  It is important to read the solicitation very carefully and make sure it is the most up-to-date version on

Tips for applying and working through KR:

  • Assign the correct Funding Opportunity Name/Number and Program Area Code to the NIFA Supplemental Information Form (User Attached Form).
  • Take note of strict budget requirements/limits that are unique to each Program Area Code.
    • Some allow an Institutional Allowance in lieu of Indirect Costs. Budget the Institutional Allowance under the “Other Training/Fellowship Related Expenses” object code in KR and select NO INDIRECT COST for the budget’s F&A Rate Type.
  • Look for hidden submission details in the solicitation, usually under a link titled “Part IV, C,” which must be followed or the proposal will be at risk of being excluded from NIFA review. This information includes:
    • Content format (e.g. page limits, .pdf format, etc.)
    • File name restrictions and requirements (e.g. Facilities document must be called “FacilitiesOtherResources” and in .pdf format)
  • In KR, list the fellow as PI, and the faculty mentor as the Key Person
  • NIFA typically allows fellows to choose if they want to be appointed as a fellow, or as an employee. The decision should be made prior to proposal submission, in order to properly cost the budget

Please note, it can take over a month after the application is retrieved from for USDA to assign an agency proposal number (e.g. 2019-01234).

Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) – Borlaug and Cochran Fellowship Programs are available for the topics of food security, economic growth and training opportunities to agricultural professionals. These applications are generally submitted in the ezFedGrants system, and application and budget requirements are outlined in detail in each solicitation. Indirect costs generally may not exceed 10% of direct costs.

Other Sponsors

MI Sea Grant

The Michigan Sea Grant provides graduate and undergraduate opportunities centering around the Great Lakes.  Funding varies by opportunity and often requires a 50% non-federal match on the total funding request, so it’s important to read the solicitation for details. Indirect cost is typically allowed at our negotiated MTDC rate and should be used unless language in the solicitation says otherwise.

Michigan Space Grant Consortium

The Michigan Space Grant Consortium provides graduate and undergraduate research and fellowship funding in the range of $3,000 to $5,000 each year.  Priority is given to students who focus on aerospace, space science, earth system science and other STEM fields.  More information is available on faculty-led fellowships for undergraduates and graduate fellowships.  Applications are open in the late summer timeframe.

Funding can be used for salary/stipend and fringes, research supplies and services, and domestic travel to mentor-approved conferences, workshops, and research locations.  Foreign travel and the purchase of equipment is prohibited.  No indirect costs are allowed.

Other Sponsors

Some sponsors (Wenner Gren Foundation, Guggenheim Foundation, etc.) offer fellowships directly to the individual, and do not require the funds to be administered through the institution. In these cases, a Proposal Development (PD) document is not required to be routed through OSP. Sometimes awardees are given the option of administering the funds through the institution or receiving the funds directly. If the fellow chooses for MSU to handle the funding on their behalf, please work with OSP to route a PD.

KR Tips

Aside from the agency-specific tips above, here are some general KR tips for fellowships:

  • Remember to choose “Fellowship” as the Activity Type on the Proposal Details suboption (within the Basics option)
  • Know how to add fellows in KR. This is dependent on the requirements of the sponsor and whether the application is S2S or not
    • If the proposal is System-to-System (S2S) and the fellowship is for a grad student, check their access to KR early. You may need to affiliate the student for them to approve the PD as PI or Co-PI, and this process can take up to a week.
    • Pre-doctoral or Postdoctoral fellowships that are not submitted S2S, should list the mentoring faculty member as the PI and the fellow as a Key Person.


How do I budget tuition and fees for an individual who will be appointed as a fellow at MSU?

Fellowships are specific to the individual applying and should be based on their residency (in-state, out-of-state, international) and planned course load. A tool for estimating tuition and fees is MSU’s tuition calculator for the current year, with a 4% increase in out years. 

What can be paid by the Institutional Allowance?

This varies by sponsor; in general, the institutional allowance is intended to defray expenses for the individual fellow, such as:

  • research supplies
  • equipment
  • travel to scientific meetings
  • health insurance - See the Faculty Handbook for additional information on Post-Doc Fellow benefits
  • appropriate administrative costs of training

These funds are paid directly to and administered by the sponsoring institution. Since the institutional allowance is a fixed amount and institutions aren’t required to report the itemization of the expenditures, these funds are less restrictive in nature. That being said, all expenses must be allowable, reasonable, allocable and consistently treated.

Can you budget F&A on fellowships?

F&A on Fellowships:

Except where specifically identified in a program solicitation or other published sponsor guidelines, Facilities and Administrative (F&A) rate should be used in computing a fellowship proposal budget. 

  • For federal funding, the appliable NICRA F&A rate is applied using a Modified Total Direct Cost (MTDC) basis. MTDC basis means that the following items are excluded from the F&A calculation:
    • Equipment, graduate tuition & fees, participant support costs, capital expenditures, charges for patient care, space rental costs for off-site facilities, scholarship stipends, and fellowship stipends as well as the portion of each subaward and subcontract in excess of $25,000 shall be excluded from the total direct costs when determining the applicable basis amount.
  • For non-federal funding, use the sponsor’s specified rate and base or TDC if no base is provided.

More details can be found in the Fall 2019 SPA Newsletter. For questions regarding allowable expenditures for the institutional allowance, please contact the CGA Cash Management Group at the award stage, or your OSP Proposal Team contact at the proposal budgeting stage.

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