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Find answers to the most common questions about the IBM PhD Fellowship Awards Program

What is the IBM PhD Fellowship Awards Program?

The IBM PhD Fellowship Awards Program is an intensely competitive worldwide program, which honors exceptional PhD students who want to make their mark in promising and disruptive technologies.

What are the eligibility requirements for the IBM PhD Fellowship program?

All nominees
- must be nominated by a doctoral faculty member; students cannot nominate themselves.
- must be enrolled full-time in a PhD program over the two consecutive academic years of the award or forfeit the fellowship.
- must have three years remaining in their program at the time of nomination so the fellowship can be applied to the last two years of study. 
- from U.S. embargoed countries are not eligible for the program.
- receiving a comparable fellowship, internship, or support from another company or institution (exception for academic scholarships) during the IBM PhD Fellowship funding period are ineligible for this award.
- must stay in the same program for the duration of the award —no transferring of departments or schools.

Awardees will be selected based upon
- their potential for research excellence. All awardees will have an IBM mentor for the duration of the award period and are strongly encouraged to intern during the first or second year of their award. If All student visas must align with terms of the internship.
- the degree to which the nominees’ research aligns with IBM focus areas. See the FAQ covering focus areas.
- academic standing, publications, and endorsements from faculty advisors and department heads. receiving a comparable fellowship, internship, or support from another company or institution (excepting in the case of academic scholarships).
Nominating faculty must submit thoroughly developed proposals, remain engaged during the vetting and due diligence process, and use the university domain email address for all correspondence.

Must I be a citizen of the country of application to qualify?

No, however, IBM may solicit local country residency and citizenship information for legal compliance purposes as part of the award process. IBM is a US headquartered company and complies with all applicable laws and regulations.

When is the IBM PhD Fellowship nomination period?

Faculty submit nominations for the annual IBM PhD Fellowship program in the fall of every year, and exact times may vary from year to year. The 2022 application window will run from October 11 through November 5. Notification of nominee status takes place in early spring and are contingent upon the completion of all required documentation and due diligence requirements.

Am I eligible if I hold more than one fellowship/scholarship/internship during the award period?

Students receiving a comparable fellowship, internship, or research funding from another company or institution (does not include academic scholarships) during the same IBM funded academic period may not be eligible for an IBM PhD Fellowship.

Please contact phdfellow@us.ibm.com with any questions.

Where can I get the forms for an IBM PhD Fellowship nomination?

All nominations for the IBM PhD Fellowship must be submitted by faculty electronically over the Web on a standardized form to facilitate an open and uniform competition. The nomination form will be available on the IBM PhD Fellowship Awards Program website until November 5, 2021, at 12:00 midnight United States Eastern Time (GMT-5).

What preparation is necessary before a faculty member fills out an application?

Once access to the application is made, the application must be filled out in one session.

PhD Nominee information

Name, Department, Academic or professional website, phone, university name, country, entry date into the program, expected graduation date, current completed degree, visa status if applicable.  Google Scholar  publications and citations, latest completed degree, career goal (professional researcher, professor, etc.)  Interest in an IBM internship, list of all IBM activities (communities, sponsored collaborations, activities, conferences, courses, internships, presentations, events, promotions, products, services, etc. with which the student has engaged.

Student Curriculum Vitae (CV) — limit three pages, PhD Project or Dissertation Title, and then a 2,000 chars limit description that should be organized into sections: Research Question or Hypothesis, Methodology Summary, and Analysis. Include an answer to, “What would be the impact if this was work was not conducted? Why did the student select this field of study and line of inquiry?

Faculty Advisor Information

Name, University, Department, Title, Professional/Academic Website that ties you to the university, phone, university email, university street address, country. Include an answer to, “There are many Fellowship programs available to students. Tell us what prompted you to nominate this student for the IBM PhD Fellowship Award?”  Evaluation of the student and list of personal attributes, accolades or awards. If possible, provide the name of an IBM Colleague and the manner of acquaintance.

Department Head Information

Name, Dept, email and a short supporting statement that is customized to the student and not a boilerplate recommendation.

University Administrator Information

Names and email of university admins that process donations to the university; also university officials with signator capacity. Privacy and Consent Statements for Faculty and Nominee. Once you gather all of the information, and access the form, follow all of the instructions. You will be allowed to cut and paste text into text fields. Stay away from highly formatted source material, .txt work the best.

What happens after I submit the form?

The application is then put through a rigorous vetting process. You will send and receive information through email that you provide, which must contain a university domain address. If the nominated student is notified that they are being considered for an award, the faculty member must stay engaged to provide all due diligence material and documentation necessary to finalize the award.

Can students submit nominations themselves?

No. Students must be nominated by a faculty member. The nomination form must be prepared and submitted by a faculty member.

Is there a limit to the number of applications that a department may submit?

Faculty should coordinate their nomination(s) with their department chair because there is a limit of three nominations per department. Four nominations are allowed from each university. If four nominations are submitted, it is IBM Global University program’s expectation that two of the four applications are for diversity candidates or underrepresented populations in technology.

What information does a student have to submit?

A student does not submit any nomination or documentation to IBM; only faculty may nominate students. Students are encouraged to provide preparation material to the nominating faculty member. See the list of application contents under the FAQ, “What preparation is necessary before a faculty member fills out an application?”

What are the effective dates of the 2022 PhD Fellowship?

The 2022-2023 IBM PhD Fellowship begins in the fall semester of 2022 and covers the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 academic years. The associated internship may be a summer assignment in 2022 or 2023, or an on-site assignment during the academic year, depending on the arrangements made between the awardee, the IBM mentor, and the faculty advisor.

Can an IBM employee or IBM contractor nominate a PhD student for an IBM PhD Fellowship award?

IBM employees, IBM supplemental employees and IBM contractors may not submit IBM PhD Fellowship nominations.

Can an IBM employee apply for an IBM PhD Fellowship?

IBM PhD Fellowships are not intended for IBM employees. IBM offers education reimbursement and leave programs and employees should work with their managers on eligibility.

What are the focus areas that IBM pays special attention to?

Submit proposals that address accelerating the discovery process in scientific inquiry and impact real issues. Submittals should support one of the subsets of a major category in the following list:

Hybrid Cloud

  • Optimization of incorporating open standards and open source code resulting in the enablement and creation of a seamless hybrid cloud platform that can be deployed anywhere. Proposals can include Platform Enablement and Optimization with an open source component; or use this category for interdisciplinary entries.
  • Flexibility and Scalability. Submittals could propose research that leads to the creation of hybrid cloud platforms enables more flexible, scalable computing, unifying local environments with a virtually limitless pool of computing power and capabilities, making bits, neurons, and qubits available on-demand.
  • Accelerating adoption. Making hybrid cloud adoption easier and safer by enhancing agility through automation. Submittals could address leveraging AI for code to help automate essential tasks like application modernization, vulnerability detection in code, troubleshooting of IT reliability issues, and research focusing on cutting edge technologies in antivirus and other protection mechanisms.
  • Security. Focus on designing for security and compliance in niche areas or across the stack: from the hardware, encryption technologies, the hybrid cloud platform, to the SecDevOps pipeline. Trusted service identity/ identity access management across the stack or address niche areas such as high assurance through Encrypted Container Images. Research covering any and all arrays of software and platforms are encouraged.

Edge Computing

AI advancements in hardware or training models, characterizing and classifying unknown instances, and federated learning. Security topics are highly encouraged: data encryption, storage advancements, unified endpoint management, and firmware or chip-level proposals.

AI Hardware

  • Processing efficiency. The next improvements in devices, architectures, and algorithms Nominations could include research that combines these topics and apply them to Deep Neural Networks far beyond the present architectures of GPUs and CMOS Accelerators.
  • Digital AI Cores. New accelerators for existing semiconductor technologies that use reduced precision to speed computation and decrease power consumption using reduced precision techniques.
  • Analog Cores. Memory-based technology to advance AI at VLSI, analog memory devices and hardware accelerators, mixed precision in-memory computing, hybrid design for AI Software, and other 8-bit breakthroughs.
  • Hetergeneous Integration. AI applications drive the need for a system level optimization of AI Hardware through Heterogeneous Integration of Accelerators, Memory and CPU to enable high-speed/high-bandwidth connectivity components. Proposals can bridge these areas.
  • Machine Intelligence/Neural Networks. Machine Intelligence differs from machine learning. Solving some of AI's greatest challenges using associative reasoning to mimic human intelligence. with brain science.

AI Engineering

  • Optimization. Tools for AI creators to reduce the time they spend training, maintaining, and updating their models. New approaches, strategies, and research to explore advanced problems automatically. Best models for ML and data science pipelines, best architectures for deep learning, and best hyperparameters for AI models and algorithms.
  • Privacy and Security. IT Infrastructure consumption models, privacy assurance, hybrid cloud strategies, storage infrastructures, privacy and security assurance held in the hardware, and progressive hybrid cloud infrastructure including storage optimization.

Neuro Symbolic AI

  • Deep Learning to combine the power of neural networks with symbolic methods to advance AI reasoning effectiveness.
  • Neuro-symbolic AI NLP and QA. Submittals that cover applied challenges posited by neural networks, like symbolic AI, Q&A, probabilistic physics inference models, or new neuro-symbolic technique. New systems for knowledge-based question answering.

Secure, Trusted AI

  • Secure, Trusted AI. Building evaluating, and monitoring for trust. AI is developing diverse approaches for how to achieve fairness, robustness, explainability, accountability, value alignment, and how to integrate them throughout the entire lifecycle of an AI application.
  • Techniques to detect and mitigate bias in datasets and models. Addressing the need for understanding and removing gender stereotypes, as well as citing and/or rating AI services for bias.
  • Robustness, and Privacy. Evaluating and defending machine learning models and applications against adversarial threats and/or conform to required privacy.
  • Explain-ability, Accountability, and/or Transparency. Advancing an AI system to ‘explain itself.’ Exploring the inner workings of an algorithm to provide stakeholders explanations for different purposes and objectives that are tailored to their needs.

Quantum

  • Advanced foundational quantum information science. Exploring and developing new quantum algorithms to reducing error rates to ensure more accurate and reliable results.
  • Quantum hardware. Specialized quantum hardware and systems to scale Quantum volume while also increasing qubit count.
  • Quantum Circuits and Software. Development of quantum circuits and software to explore and develop compelling use cases for this powerful new form of computing.

Is the internship mandatory?

The internship is not mandatory; but, it is encouraged. Many IBM PhD Fellowship interns tell us that the internships help them to understand the industrial research, development environment or consulting services, which helps in making better career decisions. It also broadens their range of technical contacts and strengthens their technical experience.

How are IBM PhD Fellowship recipients selected?

Award recipients will be selected based on their overall potential for research excellence, the degree to which their technical interests align with those of IBM, and their progress to-date, as evidenced by publications and endorsements from their faculty advisor and department head.

Does IBM embrace diversity?

The program seeks to increase the number of under-represented minority students in the referenced science topics of interest by encouraging a diverse applicant pool.

How will I know if my Nominee is awarded an IBM PhD Fellowship?

Award recipients will be finalized in 2Q 2022. Shortly after, all nominees will receive an email informing them of their nomination status. A formal letter of congratulations will be sent to the award winners, but finalization of the award is contingent upon the faculty member engaging with IBM Global University Program to complete all required due diligence documentation.

How do I find out about the use of my personal data?

Information provided in the IBM PhD Fellowship application is used only to vet your application. The faculty member will be given an opportunity to consent to a privacy policy, and all nominees will also be asked to return a consent as well. Privacy is of utmost importance to us and records are retained as applicable to U.S. Tax regulations. To learn more about IBM's data privacy, read IBM's  Privacy statement.. For a particular inquiry please send an email to phdfellow@us.ibm.com phdfellow@us.ibm.com

What are the award payment documentation requirements for IBM PhD Fellowship Awardees?

Please note, because IBM PhD Fellowship awards to students are governed by US charitable giving rules and regulations, the recipient institutions will be required to provide additional documentation.

How and when are payments made?

The IBM PhD Fellowship payments are sent out to the university no later than the last quarter of the year. The timing of the payment depends heavily on the engagement of the nominator and the university in returning all documentation expeditiously. Awards are payable to the university or foundation, not directly to the student awardee. All nominations must include contact information for a university finance administrator for the department (designated in the nomination form by the faculty advisor) who can confirm details for payment.

What yearly followups occur between the IBM PhD Fellowship program and an awardee?

The IBM PhD Fellowship program may survey, arrange an outcomes call, or engage with the awardees mentor, the awardee, or the faculty for updates. The results and feedback are used to better the program.

As a nominated candidate how do I gain access to the information provided by the faculty?

You may request a copy of the submitted nomination form from the faculty who submitted the nomination.

What if I have more questions?

Address all questions to phdfellow@us.ibm.com.