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 in the early Fall of every year, and the specific deadline for the current cycle is September 9, 2023.

See the 2023 Rose Fellow job posting for full details.

How do I apply?

Applications must be submitted through the AcademicJobsOnline portal

See the 2023 Rose Fellow job posting for full details.

What materials go into an application?

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. Interested applicants should submit a CV; cover letter or letter of interest that incorporates a personal statement; two-page research statement; 1-2 page statement of contribution to diversity, equity, and inclusion; and contact information for 3 references.

Applicants are encouraged to treat their cover letter much like a personal statement, explaining in several pages a bit about their professional background, why they are interested in joining the Cornell Lab community, how they see themselves contributing, and where they hope this experience takes them professionally.

Applicants are encouraged to use their research statement primarily to outline their forward-looking proposed plans for scholarly work as a Cornell Rose Postdoc, not primarily as a summary of their dissertation work or other past accomplishments and skills.

For background and suggestions on preparing a statement of contribution to diversity, equity, and inclusion, please see the Cornell University statement supporting diverse communities.

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.

What is the process for letters of recommendation?

We ask that applicants provide contact information for three people who can potentially write letters of recommendation. Those individuals do not need to supply a letter at the time of application, as we reach out to those contacts to ask for letters only on the set of finalists. We let the finalists know in advance so that they can inform their recommenders that this request will be forthcoming. In general we ask that applicants not use as recommenders members of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology faculty or staff.

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.

What is the policy related to remote work locations?

At present these Rose Fellow appointments are intended for individuals who will work primarily on-site at the Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York, not including any necessary fieldwork periods spent elsewhere.

When do you anticipate the final decisions to be made?

We strive to make final offers of these postdoctoral positions by December of each year, after several rounds of review and online interviews of a cohort of finalists. At each step in this process, we notify all applicants of their status, including those who are not progressing into the later review rounds.

How competitive is the selection process?

We typically receive about 50-70 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 formally completed all requirements for your Ph.D. before actually starting here in any postdoctoral position. We understand that in some cases it may then take substantial time for some Universities to formally award a Ph.D. diploma, and in those circumstances, we would work with you to obtain alternative documentation of your Ph.D. completion, pending your actual degree diploma.

I applied last year; can I apply again?

 Yes. We welcome repeat applications from strong candidates and this has been a successful strategy in the past. We recommend consulting with your intended Lab sponsor for their advice.

What about formatting details?

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 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.

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Golden-cheeked Warbler by Bryan Calk/Macaulay Library