Mendenhall Research Fellowship Program

Mendenhall Questions and Answers

Common questions and answers pertaining to the Mendenhall Program and Mendenhall Fellows. For general inquiries, please contact the Mendenhall email box (mendenhall@usgs.gov).

I am interested in a Mendenhall Postdoctoral Fellowship. What should I do?

Visit the Research Opportunities page to view the open Opportunities and access the associated descriptions.  Then, contact the Research Advisor(s) listed and express an interest in the project advertised. Applicants are strongly urged to coordinate the development of their research proposals with the appropriate Research Advisor(s). Please be sure to pay close attention to the application details and deadlines and ensure your complete application package is submitted prior to the closing date and time listed.

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When are new Mendenhall Fellowship Research Opportunities available?

Individual Mendenhall Research Opportunities are opened throughout the year. A larger group of opportunities are available in the fall of every year – from October to January. Visit the Research Opportunities page often to view the current openings.

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How does a Research Advisor open a new Mendenhall Research Opportunity?

Contact the Mendenhall Program (mendenhall@usgs.gov). The Program will supply the Research Advisor with the required paperwork. The Research Advisor will need to draft a Research Opportunity for advertising on the Mendenhall website and complete several Human Resources forms needed to open the position. A hiring waiver and confirmation of funding are also required.

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Is it possible to apply for more than one Mendenhall Fellowship Research Opportunity? Can more than one applicant be accepted into the same position?

Yes. Mendenhall Fellowship applicants are strongly urged to coordinate the development of their research proposals with the appropriate Research Advisor(s). Currently there is no limit on the number of applications an individual can submit. In the event that an applicant ranks highly for more than one Research Opportunity, the USGS retains the right to determine the Opportunity for which a job offer can be made.

On rare occasions, more than one Postdoctoral Fellow can be awarded to a research project.

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Is a PhD required for a Mendenhall Fellowship?

Yes. While a PhD is not required to apply, a PhD must be completed before a new Mendenhall Fellow can start work at a USGS office.

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What is the role of the Research Advisor(s) during the preparation of a Mendenhall Fellowship research proposal?

Mendenhall Fellowship applicants are strongly urged to coordinate the development of their research proposals with the appropriate Research Advisor(s). The role of the Research Advisor(s) is primarily consultative. They can provide assistance in the sharpening up of a proposal but should not be actively involved in writing the proposal. The concepts around which the proposal is built should be generated mostly by the applicant. The Research Advisor(s) should provide equal access to all potential applicants.

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What is a “reasonable” budget for a Mendenhall postdoctoral project?

Mendenhall Fellowship application packages are evaluated based on four criteria. One of these considers whether the proposed budget is commensurate with the level of effort and reasonable with respect to the value of anticipated results. This factor also considers the availability of necessary facilities at the USGS or proposed arrangements for access to required facilities elsewhere. Salary, benefits, and overhead are included with each Mendenhall assignment. The budget request should cover, for each year, anticipated operating expenses for fieldwork, access to specialized equipment, conference travel, publications, and so on. Applicants are expected to communicate the total cost (operating expenses) for a 2-year effort.

The total amount requested by successful applicants varies considerably. To date, the Mendenhall Program has not excluded an applicant from competition on the basis of his/her budget request.

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Can Mendenhall Program research be done jointly with universities or other institutions?

Yes. Each year a number of the advertised Research Opportunities have co-mentors from universities and other institutions. Funding is typically provided by the USGS. However, it's possible to conduct research under this Program with joint funding between the USGS and other sources.

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Are all advertised Research Opportunities filled?

Not necessarily. Sometimes more Opportunities are advertised than expected to be funded to broaden the applicant pool. Available funding determines the number of Research Opportunities that are filled.

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Can a Mendenhall Fellowship be extended if the project does not fit neatly into 2 years?

Mendenhall Fellowships are funded for two full years; funding cannot be extended. However, the appointment can be extended for up to an additional two years if appropriate work and funding are available. Some Mendenhall Fellows have been able to extend their employment with the USGS by obtaining additional funds from other USGS funding sources and from external sources.

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Can aspects of science education be incorporated into a Mendenhall Fellowship research proposal?

Yes. As a part of the final steps toward career preparation, Mendenhall Fellows are encouraged to take part in educational activities as appropriate. Some examples include preparation of relevant Fact Sheets, involvement with educational committees of professional societies, visiting schools as guest scientists, working directly with teachers to enhance science teaching, and organizing a public field trip to the Fellow’s research area. Applicants should understand that the principal focus of projects under the Mendenhall Program is scientific research in the disciplines pertinent to the Research Opportunity.

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What happens after a Mendenhall Fellowship application is submitted (by the deadline)?

Each application for a Mendenhall Fellowship is checked to confirm that all required documents have been submitted, that minimum educational qualifications are met, and that a research proposal has been submitted in the appropriate format. Then the applications are forwarded to a review panel, to the Coordinator of the Mendenhall Program, and to the selecting officials for review.

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Is United States citizenship required to apply for a Mendenhall Fellowship?

No. Anyone can apply for a Research Opportunity; however, Mendenhall Fellowships are U.S. Government positions so the USGS must give preference to U.S. citizens. The hiring of citizens of other nations might be considered in very limited circumstances – if there are NO qualified U.S. citizen applicants, and if the person meets BOTH the appropriations act and immigration laws. Please refer to the Employment of non-citizens webpage on USAJobs for additional details.

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How are Mendenhall Fellowship applications reviewed? What are the criteria used to evaluate them?

All qualified Mendenhall Fellowship applications are reviewed using a two-step process. First, a review panel made up of subject matter experts (scientists) reviews each application using the criteria described below and ranks all applications. The panel forwards its recommendations to the selecting officials (USGS managers), who also review the applications and make final selections, considering the input of the review panel.

Qualified applications are reviewed based on the following criteria:

  1. Technical quality of the research proposal: Considers the scientific merit of the proposed research and the probability of achieving positive results within the 2-year postdoctoral appointment period. This factor is double weighted, making it the most critical aspect.
  2. Relevance and Timeliness: Considers the relevance and timeliness of the proposed research as they relate to the potential advancement of science as well as the advancement of USGS science strategies. Research proposals are expected to be fully responsive to the requirements described in the Research Opportunity.
  3. Research performance and academic record: Considers the quality of graduate research and the publication record of the applicant (promptness of publication of results, quality of publications, and so on) and the graduate and undergraduate grades.
  4. Budget and Facilities: Considers the proposed budget—if it is commensurate with the level of effort and reasonable with respect to the value of anticipated results. Also considers the availability of necessary facilities at the USGS or proposed arrangements for access to required facilities elsewhere.

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When will Mendenhall Fellowship applicants learn about the outcome of their application?

Typically, we complete evaluation of applications and begin to make offers approximately 30-90 days after the application closing date. We let applicants know they were not selected when funding decisions are finalized, and new hires are secured. This often occurs a few months after offers are made.

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Is a Mendenhall Fellow eligible to be a Research Grade (RGE) scientist in the USGS?

No. A Mendenhall Fellow is hired into a Research series, but the time-limited appointment precludes the Fellow from becoming an RGE scientist. Only permanent positions are eligible for RGE.

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Will the Mendenhall Fellowship lead to a permanent position with the USGS?

Not necessarily. Mendenhall Fellows can apply and compete for permanent USGS positions, but tenure as a Mendenhall Fellow does not lead to any preferred status. If a Mendenhall Fellow obtains employment with the Federal Government, the 2-year employment will be added to the length of service.