Postdoctoral Competition FAQ

For applicants to the annual Postdoctoral Fellowship competition, the following questions and answers will help you find and contact a sponsor, prepare your application, and know the deadline. See also the Annual Competition page for more information.


  • When is the deadline for applications?
    The application deadline is September 8.

    Application link for 2019


  • How do I apply?
    Please see the Application link for 2019.

  • What materials go into an application?
    The application package consists of a cover letter, CV, two-page research proposal, PDFs of up to three representative publications, and names and contact information for three references. Applicants must have received their Ph.D. before beginning their postdoctoral appointment at Cornell but may apply during the final year of their Ph.D. program. Application materials should be sent as a single PDF file.

    The selection committee is chaired by Dr. Irby Lovette, Fuller Professor of Ornithology and Associate Director for Academic Affairs at the Lab. We look at all application packages. Please use these instructions as a guide, but at the same time, please do not be overly concerned about things like margin or font size, adding an additional page to show a critical figure or longer citation list, etc. If your formatting approach seems reasonable and appropriate to you, it likely will to us too.


  • Who within the Lab can sponsor a postdoc?
    Any appropriate Lab staff member or Cornell faculty can sponsor or cosponsor a postdoc as part of our Lab-wide competitive program. The Lab’s scholarly community includes a broad and collegial mix of Cornell faculty, Lab program directors, scientific staff, and other accomplished experts.

  • Can a faculty member based on the main Cornell campus sponsor a Lab postdoc?
    Yes. In fact, dual sponsorships by a Lab-based mentor and a campus-based mentor may foster useful connections among Cornell’s many areas of intellectual leadership. The only caveat is that the postdoc’s project and activities need to have a close and fundamental connection to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

  • How do I identify a potential sponsor at Cornell?
    You should network with colleagues and professional contacts, browse our websites, and think about whether there are Cornell people whose work is relevant to your own areas of interest. See a list of Cornell Lab faculty researchers.

  • Should I contact a potential sponsor in advance of applying?
    This is recommended but not required. Each individual sponsor has their own personal style of engagement; some people like to correspond extensively with potential applicants in advance, whereas others prefer to review a range of applications after they are formally submitted.

  • My project requires fieldwork away from upstate New York. Is that okay?
    Yes. Fieldwork is an important component of the research programs of many Lab postdocs. At the same time, balance is important: we consider the postdoctoral scholars supported through this program to be a very important part of our Lab community, and that internal engagement is harder to accomplish if the person is away from the Lab for the great majority of their time as a postdoc.

  • When do you anticipate the final decisions to be made?
    We strive to make offers of these postdoctoral positions by December of each year.

  • How competitive is the selection process?
    We typically receive about 50 complete applications for 2–4 available positions.

  • What are the expected start dates for these postdoctoral positions?
    The most common start date for a postdoc selected in the late fall of Year 1 is in August or September of Year 2, but we usually have great flexibility in tailoring start dates in consultation with the awardee.

  • I have not finished my Ph.D. yet; should I apply this year?
    Candidates in their final Ph.D. year are very welcome to apply. However, by Cornell University rules you must have been awarded your Ph.D. before actually starting here in any postdoctoral position.

  • I applied last year; can I apply again?
    Yes. We welcome repeat applications from strong candidates.

Don't miss a thing! Join our email list